How Did an 11-Year-Old YouTuber Score Interviews With Jay-Z, Nas and Derek Jeter?
Jazlyn Guerra’s other recent subjects also include Denzel Washington and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Last Monday, Daily News courts reporter Noah Goldberg did what he could to ask Jay-Z a question.
The rap megastar had just testified in a trial which has pit him against a fragrance company that claims he reneged on a promise to promote its product. At one point during his testimony, as Goldberg later wrote, Jay-Z became “combative,” calling the company’s work “lazy” and “crappy.” Two nights prior, Z was all smiles, having been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, with tributes from Dave Chappelle and Barack Obama. Marching toward the exit of New York City’s Supreme Court surrounded by a half dozen security officers, however, he seemed more like a dude with 99 problems.
That’s when Goldberg chose to toss his query the Jiggaman’s way.
“What was more fun, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction or this?” Goldberg said, ignoring the procession’s palpable “no comment” energy.
To his credit, Jay-Z took the turn of humor literally in stride. On his way out he gave Goldberg a no-look finger point and said “Nice,” before issuing a restrained version of his iconic laugh.
Goldberg fared better than his colleague, who meekly called out “Any parting words?” as Jay-Z silently increased his distance from the reporter block, but both were severely upstaged by 11-year-old Jazlyn Guerra, who posted her interview with the hitmaker on social media two days later.
“To all the kids that have dreams of being successful like you, what advice can you give them?” the curly-haired stringer asked Jay-Z in a segment for Jazzy’s World TV, her celebrity Q&A TikTok and Instagram pages, which boast respective follower counts of roughly 111,000 and 50,000 users.
“Believe in yourself, even before anyone else believes in you,” Jay-Z responded, visibly amused by Guerra and her microphone. “You’ve gotta have ultimate confidence like you do,” he added, “and just believe in yourself.”
The clip went viral, exponentially boosting Guerra’s following, which she says she’s “feeling really great about” and thinks is “really cool.”
At this point, talking to uber-famous folk is old hat for the young Guerra. Raised — like her most recent subject — in Brooklyn, she’s also interviewed the Queens-bred rapper Nas, who was once the sworn enemy of Jay-Z. In early October she devoted two TikToks to her chat with New York Yankees legend Derek Jeter. Rounding out the most notables’ list of people to appear on Jazzy’s World TV are 50 Cent, NFL MVP Lamar Jackson, NBA MVP and reigning World Champion Giannis Antetokounmpo, New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley, Academy Award winning actor Denzel Washington, and perhaps the most famous member of Congress, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
“I really like being in front of cameras and I always loved learning a lot about people, like, gathering information and asking people questions, and I was very curious,” Guerra says. “That’s kind of how we started.”
Jazzy’s World TV launched a little less than two years ago, and the other half of the “we” she references is her stepfather, Luis “Nino” DeHoyos. A clinical therapist who has a background in the music business, DeHoyos operates as Guerra’s manager.
“She has this charisma and this poise that is just natural,” DeHoyos says. “Most 11-year-olds don’t have that and I saw that in her since she was young.”
He instructs Guerra on how to approach her targets for interviews, works with her on her vocabulary, speech and expressions, and helps her formulate her interview questions. The results are sometimes scary good, with Guerra delivering a full body performance as refined as anything a grizzled field reporter might file. (When setting the stage for her Jay-Z interview, for example, she looks slightly off camera and flawlessly throws her free arm open to acknowledge the setting around her, “New York City.”)
DeHoyos is also the editor of Jazzy’s World TV, embellishing the videos with graphics and clips of the personalities in other settings, like music videos or highlight reels. He calls Guerra “courageous” for being so unafraid to stand in front of a camera and conduct her interviews. “She doesn’t freeze up, it doesn’t bother her,” he says.
Counting Oprah Winfrey as her primary source of inspiration, Guerra says that on her platform she “wanted to ask questions that no adults would ever think of asking.” She’s received no formal training, and instead learns the job by closely scrutinizing the methods of much more experienced on-air talent, with the guidance of her stepdad. In carrying herself on camera, Guerra says she goes with her gut and tries to be as professional as possible. She’s also sixth-grade sweet, profoundly thanking her subjects for asking her how she’s doing and for giving them her time. As Jay-Z observed, she also exudes tremendous confidence, which she models after the characters in the Disney Channel sitcom Raven’s Home, as well as her brothers, one of whom, David, sometimes shows up in the Jazzy’s World TV feed to conduct interviews of his own.
Guerra’s also an aspiring actor and, according to DeHoyos, once recorded six episodes of voiceover work for a PBS cartoon (the role was eventually recast before it went on air). But there are only so many hours in a day, so she’s putting acting on hold for now to focus on her homework and street reporting.
Her favorite interviews so far have been Jay-Z (“because he inspires me to work hard [and] he’s from a similar neighborhood as me and it’s awesome how successful he is”), Ocasio-Cortez (“because she was very respectful [and] she knelt down at eye level with me in order to talk to me and at that moment I felt super-important”) and Lamar Jackson (“because he’s my brothers’ favorite athlete and he played with my brothers”).
She says her ultimate goal with her platform is to “be a host of my own kids’ show, where I get to talk about kid topics with kids.”
“There’s a lot of talk shows that only have adults on there; they don’t really have kids [and] they don’t have kid hosts,” she observes. “I want to change that and I want to let people know that kids also have voices.”
Should Guerra eventually “grow out of the kid topics,” she says, she’ll host a program where she’ll “talk about regular topics” like sports, entertainment and “stuff like that.”
When prodded about how she’s able to score interviews with such high-profile figures, Guerra demurs. “That’s my secret recipe. All I can tell you is that I get the job done and I’m usually there, at the right place, at the right time.”
DeHoyos confirms her lattermost statement about serendipity, but also reveals that he does have connections to some of the interviewees, lining up the talks for Guerra at public events where they appear.
“She works extremely hard,” DeHoyos says. “People don’t realize how hard she works to get these interviews, how much time she puts in, in regards to actually being where she needs to be for particular people, the travel that we do.”
Lest anyone worry DeHoyos is one of those parents looking to live out a life of stardom through their child after falling short of achieving their own dreams, he says Guerra can end her time in front of the camera whenever she wants.
“She likes to do it, so I’m supporting her, but it’s bigger than that,” DeHoyos says. “It’s about building a skill set — public speaking, networking, confidence — that will help [her] be successful in any realm she wants to jump into.”
Noah Goldberg seems to think she’s got the goods to give a career in journalism a go. I tweeted Guerra’s interview with Jay-Z at the courts reporter when it made the rounds on the web. His response?
“She’s better than I am.”
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