En route to making history as the first hip-hop entrepreneur to own a television network and be the youngest chairman of one, self-made millionaire Percy Miller (a.k.a. Master P) looks forward to the anticipated summer 2009 launch of Better Black Television (BBTV). Miller received guidance from an advisory board that consists of such influential achievers as Academy Award–winning actor Denzel Washington and 20-year television and film veteran Sal Martino. Miller wants BBTV to serve as a “socially responsible consumer brand” that delivers family-oriented programming. Among other content, the network will include a health and fitness channel.  

Recently Miller spoke with Real Health to discuss his growth as an artist, businessman and social activist.

Real Health: What do you say to people who are skeptical about a hip-hop artist creating a family oriented network?
P Miller: For those who are skeptical about this being successful, I have nothing to say to them because they are not the people I’m trying to target. In life you have to connect with people who have ambition. I’m not perfect, but I’m able to make changes. If you come from an imperfect world, hopefully, you’ll constantly work to better yourself. I really don’t have much to say to someone who isn’t on the same wavelength other than, “Catch up. There are a lot of things out there that you’re missing.” The negative energy people take to focus on stopping someone they could use to better themselves. I think that when you better yourself, you also do the same for your community, your family and your friends. I think [BBTV] is going to have a positive effect on people. Folks will be able to say, “If P is doing this, then I can accomplish something too.”

BBTV will have health and fitness content. Why is that important to offer?
Yes, I have a health and fitness channel. Life is about making money and being successful, but it’s also about being able to be here to enjoy it because you have good health. People don’t realize how important that is. The health part is more important than money. I know a lot of people who have passed from this world and they would have paid billions just to have one more day on this earth. Your body is like a car. If you don’t take care of it, it’s going to break down. Our people’s problem is that they think they don’t have to work out if they’re not a professional athlete. People should take care of their bodies whether they’re a professional athlete or not. Some people look at themselves and say, “Oh I’ve lived my life.” People have to stop saying that; there’s power in words. If you say, “I’m sick”, you send a signal to your body that you’re sick. You are what you believe.

Will BBTV’s health and fitness programming highlight diseases that disproportionately affect the black community, such as HIV/AIDS and diabetes?
We plan to focus on all those diseases, including colon cancer, which is really impacting black men. When you look at these different illnesses, they stem from people not really taking care of their bodies. If you just eat at fast food restaurants all day and don’t drink enough water, you’ll probably have problems down the line; that’s what I’ve learned.

Has there been any personal health issue with yourself or family that created your interest in health?
No, but what did have an impact on my life right now is that I had a chance to witness what happened to Bernie Mac. He was a wonderful brother who wasn’t doing anything wrong, but I knew he had a lot of health issues. It goes to show that it doesn’t matter how much money you have or how successful you are—you need to take care of your health. That sent a message to everybody that it’s not about who you are. Health, fitness and a good diet need to be a part of your life. Too many of us are dying young.

How exactly did you go about improving your health?
By dieting and eating right. I’m an athlete. I’ve played basketball and football and run track. As you get older you still should be taking care of yourself physically. Right now, at 39, I should be as on top of my game as I was when I was 20. I do that by drinking a lot of water, eating a lot of fruits and vegetables and also working out. I run, play basketball and lift weights so I can stay in shape. You want to keep these habits so as you get older you get addicted to being healthy.

Does the state of your health impact your work?
When you look in the mirror and know you look good and you feel good, it sends that message to your brain. People like a compliment, so when someone says you look good that motivates you to go back in the gym and work out. I feel like I’m an Energizer bunny. To be able to do a television channel it requires a lot of hours out of my life. If you don’t have that endurance, you’re in trouble.

What is a socially responsible consumer brand, and why is it important that BBTV be one?
When you look at our culture it’s always about entertainment, but we can have something be entertaining and educational at the same time. When you’re socially responsible, you’re not the only one watching—your kids are watching too. Why not have a network that the whole family can enjoy? People look at our network and think we’re competing with BET, but we’re not. We’re competing with the ABC-TV family. I want to be able to watch a hip-hop music video and not have my kids turn their heads. There are consumers who have kids and they want to be able to enjoy television programming for African Americans, learn something and be entertained at the same time. That’s what BBTV’s goal is and that’s why we feel like we’re creating programming for a previously untapped segment of the African-American market.

You mentioned making change and how we all grow. In what ways have you changed?
The first change I had to make was within myself—my attitude, my education, my health and also in my music. I thought I was a great person. I did a lot for the community, but I didn’t think about what I was saying in my music. I was able to apologize to my fans and the world and the females out there because I have grown up. I don’t want people to think that this is the only route [writing negative lyrics] to take. I want people to feel they can do better than me.

I’m not ashamed of where I come from or what I did, but I can make it better for the next kid. I can make it better for my son. People are human. What you have to do when you get to a certain level is grow up and mature. For me, I feel I need to be more responsible. I want to be responsible for the music I put out, and hopefully I can show kids [a different way]. I looked at my own life and said, “Man, every record I wanted to get on the radio I had to clean it up and it worked. Why didn’t I just clean up everything from the beginning? It wouldn’t have hurt or made me less cool.”