The entertainment business can be cutthroat and trying, but producer Rushion McDonald has used his outstanding business acumen to remain a powerful force in the industry for decades. He’s had a close relationship with entertainment mogul Steve Harvey since the ’80s and even helped Harvey land his on-air deal with Radio One. Once The Steve Harvey Morning Show took off, other projects spawned from it, including the Neighborhood Awards.
The award event, which celebrates exemplary leaders in the Black community, started in 2001 and has since moved from Las Vegas to Atlanta. For their second year in the busy city, which harbors much of the morning show’s fan base and is home to their headquarters, the team is set to honor neighborhood heroes by giving them a celebrity-style experience and even mixing in some popular entertainers for the event.
McDonald spoke to rolling out’s Alexis Darnell about the evolution of the Neighborhood Awards, how he helped catapult his longtime friend Harvey into success, and his own brand.
You guys are preparing for the 13th annual Neighborhood Awards. How excited are you about that?
It’s our second year down here. The city welcomed us with open arms after doing it in Las Vegas for six years successfully. But we felt we still needed a destination because only certain people could afford to fly and stay in a hotel the entire weekend. Our headquarters are here [for] The Steve Harvey Morning Show, which is in 76 markets and we have over eight million weekly listeners. But 60 percent of them are in the southeast corner, so it made sense to move the show to Atlanta where within a seven-hour drive radius, you have 2.1 million listeners. It became a mathematical thing.
Why did you feel there was a need to create the event?
To recognize the stars of our community — people who teach our kids, who coach our kids, [and] the people who, when the banks say no, start their own business. You don’t let setbacks stop you from being successful. That’s the emphasis of the Neighborhood Awards.
I know you helped craft the Steve Harvey brand. Did you foresee that it would grow into what it is today?
Well, I’ve been knowing Steve since 1986. I was headlining a comedy club and he was my opening act. I saw his first appearance at “Showtime at the Apollo” and he just blew me away. I loved being behind-the-scenes. And he loved being in front of the camera. I just knew that the success that he’s experiencing now could happen with “Family Feud” because of the success he had on “Showtime at the Apollo.” I knew if he got the opportunity to stand in front of people with his amazing improvisational skills, that it could be a hit, and it’s been amazing.
What does your brand represent?
It represents all the things I’ve done in my career so far. I built Steve’s career without an agent. That means I did all his book deals, all his TV deals, I did all my book deals, all my reality TV show deals, the movie deals we did with Will Packer, and Screen Gems. Now we’re in the development for a TV sitcom version of “Think Like a Man.” So when you look at my career, you’re looking at a person who truly understands all the facets of a business from an entertainment standpoint.
For more information, visit www.neighborhoodawards.com.