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Empire state of mind: Jamal Edwards


AT 22, he's reportedly worth £6m, owns 100 per cent of his company and can list fellow business mogul Richard Branson as a friend, but for SB.TV founder Jamal Edwards the recipe's simple.

“Self-belief is the main ingredient,” he says.

“I'm a rebel at heart. When people say 'no' I do it anyway because I know I can. That's why self-belief is so important. Of course I get worried when I launch something new. I wonder if it will connect with my audience, but it's important not to dwell on that and go full steam ahead.”

It's this defiant mantra that has seen the media mogul go from a humble fashion shop assistant to the CEO of the UK's leading online youth broadcaster.

Dubbed the 'Simon Cowell of grime music', Jamal founded SB.TV, named after his rapping moniker Smokey Barz, in 2006 as a platform to push the UK grime scene.

The online channel, which also hosts lifestyle interviews and event coverage, now boasts over 130 million YouTube hits, 215,000 channel subscribers and is arguably the place to be if you're an aspiring or established act.

In 2011, the channel was taken to new heights after Jamal's incredible 'rags to riches' journey was featured in a prime-time advert for Google Chrome. Sandwiched between segments of the popular ITV 1 show, The X Factor, the businessman's meteoric rise was documented for all to see. Close to one million people googled ‘Jamal Edwards’ following its airing and the subsequent traffic surge crashed the SB.TV website.

“That has to be one of my career highlights,” the west Londoner, who earlier this year signed a deal with Sony RCA making him CEO of his own music company, Just Jam Records, says.

“The advert was broadcast when [boy band] One Direction performed on The X Factor, which was great. It was all over the TV and that was a big moment for me. At the time Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga were the only ones to have done one, so I was in good company.”

His story is inspirational enough to awaken hope in any pessimist but, according to the astute businessman we’ve only read the first chapter. Jamal is keen to keep evolving, recently adding a fashion and comedy channel to his already impressive portfolio.

“I know I started in music, but I've branched into comedy and fashion now. People will ask, 'What makes you think you're going to do it? And I'll be like, 'why not?' I'll apply the same mentality that I apply to music and replicate it in other areas and hopefully build those as strong as the music channel.”

More recently, he stepped out from behind his beloved SB.TV camera and in front of another when he made his acting debut in online drama, Steffi.

The series, based on best-selling novel The Overnight Fame of Steffi McBride by Andrew Croft, also stars Sugababe Jade Ewen and Jasmine Breinburg, who had a starring role in last year's Olympic opening ceremony.

Taking on the role of Pete, a “laid-back and funny” character, which he describes as “like me in real life”, Jamal plays the love interest of the lead protagonist.

“[The role] is pretty cool. It's not like someone acting like a bad man, it just seemed right.”.

He admits that he was nervous about how his new venture would be received by his army of fans, who are only used to seeing the mogul starring in adverts and cameos in music videos as himself.

“At first I was like, 'What am I doing? But in the end I just did it. As long as I've known myself, I have never given up on opportunities, I just take them. Plus, it's another thing I can tick off my bucket list.”

Calling on the help of his singing star mother Brenda Edwards, who many will remember from the second series of The X Factor in 2005 and currently starring in West End musical We Will Rock You, Jamal learned many valuable tricks of the trade.

“My mum was great. She helped me get the character right. We'd practice minutes before she was due on stage. She'd take my script away and make me recite my lines to her. She also told me to record my lines and play them over and over again.”

Steffi was broadcast on YouTube channel ThisIsDrama on March 15 and a relieved Jamal says he was inundated with positive feedback.

“I had a lot of people say, 'I didn't know you could act.' I haven't had any bad comments yet.”

On how he generally deals with the not-so-nice remarks, he merely points out, “I know for all of the positive feedback I get, if I can't take negative feedback, there's no point in looking at the positive. It's not a perfect world out there.”

Although he hasn't ruled out future acting roles, Jamal says his new-found vocation will not take over from his duties at SB.TV, which he says is and will always be his “main concern”.

“Everything else is just secondary,” he affirms.

He vows to use the popular platform to inspire the younger generation, recently joining forces with Channel 4 to offer a 12-month paid apprenticeship at SB.TV.

Jamal, who recently returned from an “eye-opening” visit to South Africa for Comic Relief, adds: “There are so many young people out there who are finding it hard to find work. Anything I can do to help young people out, I'll do.”

And when all is said and done, what does he want to be remembered for?

“I want them to say 'he always believed in himself'”

To watch episodes of Steffi, visit: Follow @JamalEdwards on Twitter

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