African American Icons: Quddus Phillipe

Words by: Katie Ferraro How Quddus Philippe Changed My Life

I grew up in a small rural town in Michigan. Life was simple. My brother and I played outside when we were bored, because our TV time was limited. For me growing up was much different than how our STOKED students are growing up, but one thing I can relate to is not having the ability to see the world from a bigger lens.

I think that’s probably why I was so intrigued by celebrity life and would spend the time I did have to watch TV watching Total Request Live (TRL) on MTV back when the channel actually played music videos and discussed music culture. This particular music countdown show was fascinating to me because it gave me a chance to feel connected to a different lifestyle. Celebrities and celebrity life were so surreal to me. They were super human, but this show made these musicians and celebrities feel so much more real and dare I say…human.

However, it wasn’t the celebrities that made the show for me, it was the hosts of the show (VJs). I was specifically drawn to Quddus Philippe. He broke barriers at the ripe age of 20 after becoming the first Canadian VJ hired by MTV. I always remembered him for his boundless energy, his openness, and his unique ability to connect with the guests of the show. Quddus inspired me. I wanted to interview people like he did. He made me want to become a journalist.

Quddus (photo credit - LA Weekly)

Now, fast forward 15 years later. I was in college and had decided on Public Relations as my career, but some how found myself in Los Angeles, interning/assisting an entertainment host who also happens to love music. On a shoot at the House of Blues in Los Angeles, I had the opportunity to meet Quddus, but I was so nervous to meet him that I barely said a word out of fear that I would say something embarrassing. I stayed in my shell and let the opportunity to connect with someone who could have easily become my mentor pass me by.

Another five or so years passed and I found myself in an emotional intelligence training. I walked into the room, looked at the panel of coaches and who do I see? Quddus’ bright, smiling face. I immediately felt his energy and from that moment, I knew I was in the right place. From that moment, I was determined for him to become my coach.


I have so much respect for Quddus. Not for his fame or lifestyle or connections, but his dedication to lifting those up around him. He could have stayed in show business, but he is such a fearless leader that he followed his calling rather than staying comfortable. Quddus is literally changing lives every day by supporting others in finding his purpose.

For me, he has made me realize that life is too short to do anything but boldly pursue my purpose and my dreams. To be open to opposing views and to ask questions to understand the challenges that others face. Most importantly, to love harder than I ever thought possible. These are the values that I strive to pass along to not only to the students in my classes, but to all of the kids we serve at STOKED.

I leave you with this video of Quddus addressing Santa Monica College. It’s a powerful message that I believe everyone should hear.