Chental-Song Bembry is paving a bright future for herself at just 18 years old.
Currently a freshman at Hampton University in Virginia, Bembry has already been honored twice by BET this year for her contribution to her community as the CEO of children’s series Honey Bunch Kids. Not only did she begin writing the books when she was a child herself, but she’s also detailing the next steps for the series–from rewriting it for television to expanding worldwide.
Bembry sat down with THZ recently to tell us how her experience with BET has affirmed her vision, and what she’s working on now.
THZ: How did you first find out that you were receiving an award at the BET Honors?
CSB: I received an email from someone who works at BET, and she emailed me when I was home for Christmas break. She said ‘BET would like to acknowledge you for your community service and your motivational speaking with your series The Honey Bunch Kids.’ I was laying around at home writing, and this email came over, and I was just so excited.
What was your initial reaction?
My initial reaction was going crazy, because BET doesn’t email you every day saying, ‘Hey, be a part of our show!’ That’s really, really exciting. I’m so thankful to God for giving me that opportunity.
What does that mean to you?
Being recognized at the BET Honors was just a sign that what I’m doing is right, what I’m doing is needed in the community and in the world, and that I should continue on the path that I’ve started; continue growing and continue learning.
You were recently honored at Black Girls Rock as well. Tell me about that, and meeting the First Lady.
I was acknowledged again for my community service with Honey Bunch Kids, and it was me and two other girls–Kaya Thomas and Gabrielle Jordan. We’re all just girls in the community who have been doing things to inspire people. It was amazing being there; you had people like Cicely Tyson, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Ava Duvernay, and to top it off, the First Lady shows up. It was just amazing being on the stage with her and to have her acknowledging me; to hear her say my name was an unbelievable blessing.
Is there anyone you were starstruck by at either ceremony?
Yeah, at the BET Honors, I got to meet Usher and that was really, really incredible. The biggest moment for me at Black Girls Rock was meeting the First Lady. Definitely her.
Tell me about Honey Bunch Kids and when it started.
I started writing it when I was ten, and the first book was published when I was thirteen. Now there are three books in the series, and it’s about a group of kids in middle school learning how to become friends and, most importantly, stay friends. It’s a really fun series, very funny, but, at the same time, I explore lessons like becoming friends, empathy, having respect, and self-esteem. While kids are laughing at the story, having a good time reading it, they’re also learning skills that they can go out into the real world and use with their own friends and family. It’s my goal to someday turn the Honey Bunch Kids into an animated series and a global brand. I see the series airing on major children’s networks sometime in the near future.
Was there any personal experience behind the plot for the series?
Yes, a lot of the material that I write about comes from my real life experiences, just going to school. When I was writing the series, I was eleven, and the characters in the book series, they’re the same age. Now that I’m writing the animated series, I decided to make them thirteen, but, for the most part, they’re kids. I would go to school every day and I would interact with my friends, and I would sometimes think, ‘What would the Honey Bunch Kids do in a situation like this?’ And I would take experiences and put them into my writing. I even based some of the characters off of people who had a large influence on me in my life, both good and bad, whether they know it or not.
You mentioned that you’re writing the animated series now. Do you plan on continuing the books?
I’ll definitely continue the books because, while the animated series is running, I see tons of books being published that are based on each episode. So the Honey Bunch Kids will go on and on; I have an idea for two spinoff series with the same characters. I see movies—just a brand that will continue to grow.
Do you have any tangible plans for the animated series that you can talk about? Are you discussing it with anyone to have it made?
I haven’t made any actual deals yet, but I am connected with Nickelodeon. They have some interest in my work, so I’m looking forward to continuing the relationship that I have with them. I participated in the Nickelodeon writing program this year and last year, so they know my name; when it’s finally time to pitch my series, they’ll know who I am and be comfortable with what I have to say.
You’re studying Broadcast Journalism in school now. Are you interested in being a journalist?
What I really want to do is use the education I learn as a journalist, and I want to learn production. I’m looking into an internship while I’m here at Hampton, and I hope to learn the behind-the-scenes of writing and producing so that I can take that and apply it to my own series.
Are there any dream companies that you’d love to work for?
Yeah, I would love to work for BET, Nickelodeon, NBC, and Black Enterprise. It’s actually my goal to start my own production company some day in the future, but before that would happen, those are the companies I’d work for.
What’s your advice for young entrepreneurs now, especially young black women?
My advice would be to find something that you love, something that you care about, and if you stick with it—if you don’t put it down and jump around to different hobbies–you’ll be really satisfied with what the outcome is. You know, I created the Honey Bunch Kids when I was ten, and it used to be just little comic strips of stick figures on pieces of paper on the floor and now, eight years later, I’m looking to put these characters on Nickelodeon someday. So, if you just trust God and listen to Him, and put all your energy into that one thing, you’ll be so satisfied. Don’t give up.
The Black Girls Rock ceremony airs tomorrow night (April 5) on BET at 7 pm (EST).