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By Terry Dean
Tyler Milsap may share a first name with a certain African-American media mogul, but it's another well-known entrepreneur that inspired his career path.
The 16-year-old says Oprah Winfrey is one of his role models — no offense to filmmaker Tyler Perry, whom he also looks up to. Milsap, a junior at Oak Park and River Forest High School, is studying broadcasting and one day hopes to follow in Oprah's footsteps. But Milsap is already taking a step in that direction as the host of his own talk show.
The Tyler Milsap Show is filmed at Oak Park and River Forest High School on Wednesdays and shown the following week. It debuted last month and can be seen on local cable Channel 19 and online at video file-sharing site, Vimeo. For Milsap, the show covers topics teens don't always have a chance to talk about publicly.
"There's no other place where students can really share their opinions," he said recently.
The first show debuted on Sept. 28 and dealt with the high school's rules changes, stemming from the modified closed-campus policy. His guest was Cindy Milojevic, OPRF's assistant principal for student activities.
Milsap is a one-man, on-air host but has about 10 classmates who work behind the scenes as producers, directors and camerapersons. The set is in the school's television studio/classroom. Milsap's show also airs in the building on TV monitors. Last Wednesday's show dealt with teen moms. Another recent show dealt with fashion. Milsap says he wants to mix up his topics, balancing the fun with the serious.
On his Facebook page, which includes photos from the show, friends can submit topic ideas — racism was recently submitted. Milsap noted that his TV idol also dealt with a variety of issue.
"My idea is to talk about topics that people don't want to talk about, and also topics that are fun," he said. "[Oprah] had topics that are fun but also topics about real life. There are a lot of topics I want to cover, and it's such a big high school, so I want to bring these out."
Another role model, he says, was former talk show host Montel Williams, who hosted a syndicated show for nearly two decades from 1991 to 2008. Milsap noted that few African-American men were hosting their own talk show at the time.
Milsap said the idea for his show began in early 2010, which is when he became interested in broadcasting.
So far, he's done three shows this fall, airing every other Wednesday. But he hopes to do it weekly and even sees himself doing two shows a week. Milsap said he wants the show to incorporate different formats, like cooking demonstrations and going outside the studio. For the teen mom show, he noted, his staff planned to shoot some footage at the girls' homes.
He wants to keep improving the show — and himself.
"I say 'um' a lot, and I tend to talk fast — that's just me, but I have to slow down."
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