One on One with John Legend at 6th Annual American Ingenuity Awards


On November 29, 2017 Contributing Writer Joey Love covers the Red Carpet of the Smithsonian Ingenuity Festival. There he meets all of the 2017 Award winners and interviews renowned music artist, John Legend. 

I was privileged to cover the red carpet  for the 6th Annual American Ingenuity Awards at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. Winners are selected by Smithsonian Magazine in recognition of individuals who are transforming American culture in the arts, social change, youth, and the sciences.

This award show is oft-times known as the “Golden Globes of Intellect” due to covering individuals who encourage change and  create a better world.In subsequent years, the Smithsonian received a lot of attention and critical praise for spearheading this initiative.

In most cases, winners are sought-after celebrities in their niche field.

Courtesy of Mark Soriano 

John Legend, for example, is recognized for his prolific contributions to the Performing Arts;  Ava Duvernay, Wrinkle in Time and Selma Director, is recognized for Visual Arts; Jony Ive, chief design officer at Apple, is recognized for Technology; Marley Dias, creator of #1000BlackGirlBooks, is recognized for Youth; Sesame Workshop, creator of the first muppet with autism, is recognized for Social Progress; Dave Malloy, director of Natasha, Pierre &The Great Comet of 1812, is recognized for History; Gary Steinberg, chair of neurosurgery at Stanford is recognized for life sciences; and Natalie Batalha, mission scientist for NASA’s Kepler Mission, is recognized for physical science.

The event started out  lax. I freely walked into the reception room before the Smithsonian crew started rolling out security, camera crew, and the red carpet, itself. I watched performance rehearsals, listened to presenters’ teleprompter lines, and watched B-roll video footage rolling on giant projector screens.

Lesson learned, I must arrive early next year to secure a spot in the front:It almost felt illegal.

When the red carpet finally rolled out, and the backdrop was ironed out, the fun commenced.  Michael Caruso, editor-in-chief of Smithsonian Magazine, first appeared.

Right behind him was the ever adorable 12-year-old Marley Dias. Caruso posed with her and several of the other honorees.

Courtesy of Mark Soriano

Next up, was Sesame Workshop, which included three women (one with an Elmo-designed handbag that I wanted to steal). Following them is the original star of The Great Comet of 1812, Josh Groban. Groban was a special invitee and event presenter. He spoke graciously to each, available,  press member.

David Oyelowo followed behind, with a reserved demeanor. After our short break, in walks superstar John Legend tied at the hip to his supermodel wife Chrissy Teigen.

Courtesy of Mark Soriano

This was the moment, I inched closer to the red carpet and gained entry for a 60 second interview with the man, himself, John Legend.

First, I congratulated him on his win, thanked him for moving the industry forward, and doubled down on congratulating him on his recent pregnancy announcement.

Second, I pondered over the various awards he won in the past 20 years of his career.

I asked, “Which award are you most proud of?”

John Legend answered: “The Academy Award for ‘Glory’ the song I wrote for the movie Selma because it was probably the most meaningful thing  I have done.”

Legend later added on that  “we need to keep fighting” in reference to social change. In recent years, Legend has become an advocacy icon, combating for AIDS awareness, social and health issues, women’s rights, and drug policies.

These efforts are what pulled him into Selma, the 2014 Academy Award-nominated film directed by Ava Duvernay  that illustrated the narrative of  Martin Luther King Jr.’s march for civil rights. This stance against injustice and incivility towards people of different walks of life is precisely what Legend has been supporting for years. With his one Oscar win, he accomplished both a career and a personal goal.

After the interview, I was really hoping for the chance to interview more attendees on their future projects but I didn’t have enough time.

FYI, John Legend was scheduled to perform one of his hits and Dave Malloy’s Tony nominated song an dance team was scheduled to perform at the award show. The red carpet was just the beginning  for the Smithsonian Magazine’s Ingenuity Awards. Bigger and better things was yet to happen later that night

So who do you think will be 2018’s big winners? Comment below your thoughts.

Behind the scenes stuff:

1: Jony Ive snuck in through a side door at the last minute and avoided the red carpet event entirely, despite still being bombarded by event-goers when he reached the lobby.

2: Ava Duvernay never made it to the red carpet event before the reception began. 

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