FRANCIS MAXWELL | Host, Actor, Writer + Social Activist | No. 10
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HERE'S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW.
Francis Maxwell is a Scottish-born host, actor, writer, and social activist currently residing in the mecca of the entertainment industry, Los Angeles. I first met Francis when he came into the VICE offices to meet with our Sports team. He was (and still is) working as a host for The Young Turks Network and before our meeting commenced, Francis and I got to talking. After years in broadcasting and hosting, I'm well aware of the "on" button personalities in the industry carry, so I was pleased to see that he could enter a room and a conversation, without touching that switch.
My takeaway was this guy can speak on more than just sports. He had an opinion on everything. Sure, there may have been things we didn't agree on but he never talked AT me, as many talking heads do. He listened, then calmly said his on personal take. That is why he's gone on to talk about more than just sports, jumping into the political realm absolutely effortlessly.
“I WAS A SOCIOLOGY MAJOR IN COLLEGE. I WAS A FOREIGNER. I PLAYED FOOTBALL. I ENJOYED TALKING TO AMERICAN GIRLS. I WAS REALLY CAUGHT UP IN THAT WORLD UNTIL ABOUT MY SENIOR YEAR WHERE I REALLY WAS CONSUMED BY A SOCIOLOGY PROJECT THAT I HAD TO DO THAT LOOKED AT RACE. I STARTED IN MY OWN TIME TO READ THE LIKES OF JAMES BALDWIN and REALLY START TO FIGURE OUT, WHAT MADE THIS COUNTRY THE WAY IT IS. WHY IS IT SO DIFFERENT IN CERTAIN TERMS.
WHY IS RACISM STILL A PROMINENT THING?”
We first saw him intersect sports with politics when NFL player, Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the National Anthem. Of course, this is now a LARGE news story, but at the time, few spoke about the event as passionately and as long as Francis did.
“IT REALLY WAS A COLIN KAEPERNICK TAKING A STANCE AGAINST WHAT HE FELT WAS RACIAL INJUSTICE. IT REALLY INSPIRED ME IN A WAY TO THINK OKAY WHY ARE PEOPLE SO UPSET AT THIS and WHY DO I THINK THAT IT’S SUCH AN INSPIRATIONAL THING TO BE ABLE TO DO THAT IN A COUNTRY THAT LOVES PATRIOTISM MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE. And WHY HE GOT SUCH BACKLASH. THAT MOMENT IN A WAY, STARTED TO REALLY ENCOURAGE ME TO START MAYBE TO SPEAK OUT A LITTLE MORE ON THINGS I FELT.”
He then started speaking out on the harsh realities of the African American communities and racism in this country as a whole. He, of course, is not a Trump fan (as we can see from the picture above) but again, he doesn't talk AT you. He states his opinion and allows viewers to choose their own personal stance, even if it comes with backlash.
"I DEFINITELY DO FACE A LOT OF BACKLASH. I GET A LOT OF MESSAGES OF SUPPORT FROM PEOPLE SPECIFICALLY IN THE AFRICAN AMERICAN COMMUNITY, THEY FEEL LIKE IT’S GOOD TO SEE SOMEONE WHO’S WHITE and SPEAK OUT AGAINST INJUSTICE and REALLY LISTEN TO THE PROBLEMS THAT ARE FACING THEM IN THAT COMMUNITY. BUT IT’S OFTEN USED AS A TERM OF INSULT TO ME, THAT I, I WOULD RATHER LIKE HATE ON MY OWN RACE IN A WAY...IT’S A WEIRD CONVOLUTED DISCUSSION AND I’M HAPPY I CAN EXPRESS IT HERE."
There are many layers to this conversation and to Francis as well. As someone who's listening on the other end as people tell their stories, I believe that he is in a pivotal moment in his life. Stepping into the entertainment industry caused a certain type of change in the way he views validation.
“I WAS MEASURING MYSELF TO OTHER PEOPLE A LOT OF THE TIME. IF SOMEONE ELSE IN A SIMILAR FIELD OR SOMEONE I KNEW WAS DOING WELL, and THEY WERE GETTING MORE LIKES THAN I WAS, or THEIR VIDEOS WERE GETTING BETTER VIEWS, and THEY WERE GETTING CONGRATULATED MORE. THEN I ALMOST FELT LIKE IN ORDER TO VALIDATE MYSELF and TO MAKE MY LIGHT SHINE BRIGHTER, I HAD TO TAKE FROM THEIRS, and BE LIKE. THAT IS AN EXAMPLE OF WHAT I’VE GOT TO ACHIEVE.
I WAS VALIDATING MY PROGRESS FROM OTHER PEOPLE’S WORK.”
Humility also came into his life spending six days in Uganda filming a story for YouTube.
I USED TO BE ONE OF THE ONES WHO WOULD MAKE FUN OF PEOPLE COMING BACK, ‘oh like you’re changed because you went to Africa for five minutes?’ LIKE, YEAH.
I WAS CHANGED WHEN I WENT TO AFRICA FOR SIX DAYS. I CAME BACK WITH MORE OF A BROADER UNDERSTANDING AS TO WHAT I SHOULD START LOOK AT WHEN I FACE PROBLEMS IN MY LIFE.”
It's rare to find people in the industry are willing to do the work and are willing to reach a place of humility, self-awareness and personal growth. It's so easy to search for that validation, as Francis mentioned, through social media currency and constant comparison with one's peers. So this conversation is particularly inspiring as it's been wonderful watching his personal evolution from afar. It will be felt when you listen.
And speaking of:
“LISTENING IS DEFINITELY THE MOST POWERFUL TOOL THAT YOU HAVE.
YOU MAY THINK THAT BEAUTY IS MAYBE THE THING, or BLONDE HAIR, or BLUE EYES, or LEGS, ABS, ANYTHING, CAN GET YOU TO THE POINT IN YOUR LIFE THAT YOU WANNA GET TO. I THINK THAT IT’S LISTENING and I THINK THAT IT’S LISTENING TO WHAT YOU REALLY WANT TO DO and IT’S LISTENING TO OTHERS.”
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I DON'T LIKE CHEATERS BUT HERE'S A QUICK CHEAT-SHEET FOR YOU.
YOUR SUGGESTED TAKEAWAYS + LESSONS:
Understanding the Art of Listening
Moving to Los Angeles from Scotland and the personal and societal transitions encountered
The lessons-learned by playing soccer / setting the record for most red-cards received
Using sport as a point of entry into the entertainment industry
Why he suppressed his inner desires to cover politics
Majoring in Sociology in College and his introduction to Race in America and James Baldwin
How Colin Kaepernick inspired Francis to blend sports + politics in his work
What it means to live in a post-truth / fake news world
Why speaking your truth often comes with a lot of backlash
Why Francis' support for African American communities and racial issues brings about insults on his social media
Why he feels more like an American now (although he still has love for Scotland)
Why it's important to understand your country's history
The difference between listening and speaking your opinion, vs. hearing and speaking your opinion
Why Millennials aren't as bad as everyone makes them out to be (video linked below)
Why we struggle with validation from others and self-validation
The dangers of stereotyping and painting groups of people with a broad brushstroke
The perils of social media
How Francis' trip to Uganda changed his life (video linked below)
What he learned in Uganda + why he chose to capture the most vulnerable moments
Why Los Angeles breeds competition based on social media currency + how to find balance
Francis' major lessons-learned upon entering the entertainment industry; humility
Francis' definition of a modern day man + the events which shaped his definition
Truths, Flaws, and what his younger self would say to him, + more.