Right on Center

by Richard M. Romney

Managing Editor

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    What does it take to be talented? The hosts of Center Street give a one-word answer: work.

    Everything’s easy for Ivey Lloyd. She’s only 16, and already she’s one of four hosts for the TV show Center Street. She’s appeared on the network series Touched by an Angel. She starred in the family motion picture Rigoletto—when she was just 13. She’s been in seminary videos and Church commercials. She sings. She dances. She plays violin. Not only that, but she’s cute. And she’s nice. Yes, everything’s easy for Ivey.

    Not exactly. “I’ve had so many failures, and a lot of them have been in a row,” Ivey says. “There have been times I’ve come home crying and said, ‘Mom, why didn’t I get this part or why didn’t I make this club or this team? I did my very best, and I didn’t make it.’

    “I tried sewing once. I took a class. There were others who caught on quickly and could make the neatest things. But my projects didn’t turn out.

    “I didn’t go to the same seventh and eighth grade that all the people in my neighborhood and ward did, but I transferred back during my freshman year in high school. I had a hard time fitting in because they were all together and I was all alone.”

    No, things aren’t always easy for Ivey. Even now, on the set of Center Street, Ivey is known as the one with the bad microphone. “No matter what mike it is,” Ivey says, laughing, “when they put it on me it won’t work. It takes a lot of time until they get it right. And sometimes it will ruin an otherwise perfect take. You just have to keep working. You keep working till you get it right.”

    And that is what makes things seem easy for Ivey. Her approach to creativity is the same idea behind Center Street and behind any other worthwhile project: You keep working. You keep working till you get it right.

    Want to watch Center Street? It’s on the Faith and Values channel, on KSL from Salt Lake City and KBYU from Provo, Utah, and also on some local stations in the U.S. Check local listings for dates and times.

    Hosting Creativity

    Ivey can teach you a lot about work, creativity, and discovering your talents. So can the other hosts for Center Street, Abe Mills, Mike Waldvogel, and Tracey Wilson.

    Center Street, in case you haven’t heard, is a half-hour television news magazine produced by the Public Affairs Department of the Church. It focuses on issues and concerns facing teenagers, and promotes values exemplified by youth who put good principles to work.

    Visit the Church’s Motion Picture Studio in Provo, Utah, where Center Street is taped, and immediately you sense it’s a show with creative flair.

    “Take our set, for example. It was designed by five local teenagers,” Mike says. “They suggested things like the lighted tubes filled with bubbles. They planned it all out, then handed their ideas to the construction crew. It came off a lot like they imagined it.”

    And the content of the show? “A lot of teens are doing good things, but the rest of the media seem to say teens are always in trouble,” Tracey explains. “We try to show kids having a good time helping other people. We get a lot of ideas from people who call in.”

    A Melting Pot

    According to Mike, there’s another factor that adds to the program’s creativity—the variety of backgrounds the hosts bring together:

    —Mike was born in San Jose, Costa Rica, then adopted and brought to Utah. He’s grown up in the Church and lived his whole life in Utah. (But by the time you read this, Mike will be serving in the Costa Rica San Jose Mission.) Mike has learned a lot from his brothers and sisters—all seven children in the family are adopted, all from South and Central America. And one sister is deaf.

    —Tracey was born in Colorado, but spent most of her junior high and high school years in Oregon. “Then I came to BYU, then went on a mission to San Diego, California.” Back in school after her mission, “I needed an internship or I wouldn’t be able to graduate in time to teach seminary.” After praying about it, she noticed a poster announcing auditions for Center Street. She tried out, got the job, and she was able to use her work to qualify for graduation.

    “It’s been great to do Center Street and teach seminary (at Mountain View High in Orem, Utah) at the same time, because I have so many experiences I can bring back to the classroom. Also, I’m surrounded by teenagers, so I feel like I am one. It helps me have a good perspective on the show,” Tracey says.

    —Abe was born in St. Louis, Missouri. His parents joined the Church when he was eight. “When I was 15, my dad got transferred to Massachusetts. I went from a seminary class of 18 and a lot of Mormons in my high school to a town where the only Mormons in our high school were me and my brother. In seminary there were only four people.”

    Abe came to BYU as a walk-on football player, then went on a mission to Houston, Texas. He returned to play defensive back for a couple more years, but eventually gave it up to pursue an acting career.

    Ivey was born in Nashville, Tennessee. Her family moved back to Salt Lake City, Utah, when she was eight, to be near her grandparents. A student at East High School, she is the youngest of six children.

    “My main talents are actually dance and violin,” Ivey explains. “Those are the things I’ve studied all my life.” But through hours and hours of lessons and rehearsing, Ivey has learned to sing and act.

    Variety Show

    All that variety comes into play each week as the four hosts present different segments of the show.

    “We ad-lib (speak without a script) a lot, and we have to draw from our own experiences. That’s why it helps to have different viewpoints,” Tracey says. “We introduce a certain story or come back after we have watched it and talk about it. We just did a piece on a girl moving from Utah to South Carolina and the struggles that leaving a comfortable home and family can cause. We talked about, ‘Have you ever moved?’ and we shared experiences. It would be really fake if we didn’t share how we feel.”

    “Just one experience can be enough for an idea to come to life. But when you have three other people who all have different experiences, it’s a lot easier to look at things in new ways,” Mike explains.

    “You just know when something kind of clicks,” Tracey says. “You know when there is inspiration, when you have been blessed with more gifts and power than you would usually have on your own.”

    Just Try

    The Center Street hosts offer these tips about finding your talents:

    “My parents gave me this attitude to try everything,” Abe explains. “I tried out for basketball and didn’t make it. So I said, okay, I’ll wrestle. It was an attitude; if you can’t do this, go for this. There’s something you’re good at; you just have to find it.”

    “A lot of times you don’t want to try something because you’re not very good,” Tracey says. “I was the last person picked on my eighth grade basketball team. But eventually I got the ‘most improved’ award. I learned that the most important competition is with yourself.”

    Choosing the Right

    One of the things Center Street does well is to show young people improving themselves and the world by doing good things.

    “When you see somebody that’s 15 or 16 who is just like you, and they’re helping people in a community center, you see that you can do that too,” Abe says.

    “We have a responsibility to share the gospel that Jesus Christ taught to the world,” Tracey explains. “One way we can do that is by allowing individuals to let their light shine. There are incredible people in the Church and in the world who are great examples of living what the Savior taught. We want people to have inspiring examples to lift their spirits.”

    “God gave us all talents,” Mike says. “On Center Street, we show people that they can do good things with their talents instead of wasting them. We can help them make a choice for good, because they’ve seen other people who are doing good.”

    Heavenly Help

    “The first time we were in a shoot,” Abe says, “it was like, ‘You guys ready to start? Okay, let’s pray. All the cameramen, the sound guys, us, the directors, and the producers all came in and we prayed. We know what we’re there for, and we ask the Lord to help us.”

    Ivey tells about going to St. George, Utah, and Valley of Fire, Nevada, to film on location. “We shot real film rather than video, so we could get the beautiful scenery. But real film is more expensive. The cameramen bought special equipment so they could film in the sun. There was a huge storm. But it had to be sunny. That day was the last time we could film.

    “We prayed and the weather cleared up in time for us to do our shots. We finished our last take and then the clouds came in and it was totally cloudy and snowing. Our director said to remember to thank Heavenly Father for the break in the weather, because it had cleared just long enough for us to do what we had to do.”

    The Power of Persistence

    In searching for talents and developing creativity, the Center Street hosts come back over and over again, just as Ivey has in her life, to the idea of work, work, and work.

    Persistence is the key,” Abe says. “Look at Nephi in the Book of Mormon. So many times he would try something and then go back and try again. Obtaining the brass plates. Solving the problem of his broken bow. That’s what everybody should do—‘I didn’t do well this time because I was so nervous, so I’ll go and do it again and see what happens next time.’”

    “When you’re praying, you have to have faith that Heavenly Father will bless you,” Mike says.

    “And give the Lord credit,” Tracey adds. “The scripture about letting your light shine (Matt. 5:16) ends with, ‘that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.’ It doesn’t say, ‘Do your good works so others will think you are really cool.’”

    On Target

    Of course, the greatest creative challenge for the hosts of Center Street is how to include gospel principles in everything they broadcast. They show people living Christlike lives. They listen to suggestions from viewers, and they listen to each other. They use slogans, like “Remember, when you’re faced with choices, choose the right.” They make Mormonad posters available to non-Church members. They teach the gospel through the examples of service they present. And they remember that the Lord Jesus Christ should be at the center of everything they do. It’s a combination of talent and creativity that keeps them—and can keep anyone—right on center.

    “Hidden” Talents

    Another part of creativity is recognizing what abilities you truly do have. Not all talents involve being able to perform in front of others. For example, remember how Ivey talked about having a tough time fitting in at a new school?

    “There was a girl in one of my classes that I didn’t know at all,” Ivey explains. “One day she said hi to me. I found out her name. We would see each other in the halls. She would ask me how I was doing or help me understand my homework. She was really nice and genuinely interested. She tried to learn a little about me. She invited me to a basketball game. I started going with her friends and integrated into that group. Because of what she did for me, I developed confidence. She had a talent for reaching out.”

    You can also be creative in assessing your own abilities. “Everybody has talents,” Ivey says. “You may not think they are there, but you can find them. It may be you have the skill of being able to get along with people or to serve people. I know some people who work well with children. They have patience, love, and the desire to help. That is such a talent!”

    And there are more talents, many more. Why not take a minute to make a list of abilities that may be hidden within you? Then go to work. Bring them out and use them to bless other people. (See Matt. 25:14–30.)

    Photography by Jed Clark

    The program’s hosts (left to right), Abe Mills, Tracey Wilson, Mike Waldvogel, and Ivey Lloyd, know a lot about cheering for each other’s success. Now they’re cheering for Mike as a missionary.

    There’s a lot more work behind the scenes than most people realize, and a lot more people besides the hosts are involved in producing what you see on TV.

    Both cast and crew retain a vivid memory of filming in the red rock country of southern Nevada and Utah. But the most vivid memory of the trip is how the Lord answered their prayers.