Patrick L. Riley is an independent producer, media personality and writer based in New York City. Until 2012, his primary client was The Oprah Winfrey Show. Riley field-produced entertainment and human-interest story segments for The Oprah Winfrey Show from 1998 until the show wrapped.
How did a gay, African-American man from a religious household in Atlanta build a successful career as a creative who continues to work with The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), The Wendy Williams Show, BET Creative Services, NBC and others?
We met Riley when we spoke at Prudential’s LGBT Financial Experience Symposium last June. Riley gave the opening presentation and was a hard act to follow. After hearing his story, we knew we needed Riley to come on Queer Money to talk about how he blazed a successful career that fueled his core passions.
Below is some of Riley’s career advice.
Work hard, and then work harder
Riley predicted his career success at his high-school graduation in 1988. He told a local news reporter in Savannah GA, who was on-site, that he would someday work for Oprah Winfrey. By his ten-year high school reunion, Riley achieved his dream.
In between, he did the hard work and took the necessary steps to make his dream come true. Riley studied mass communications and broadcast journalism at Morehouse College in Atlanta and studied further at Clark Atlanta University. Riley’s studies were followed by several internships, local news reporting, local news producing. He did everything necessary to get exposure to the entertainment and media industry.
Riley shared that at times the work was hard and didn’t always seem like a perfect fit, but he was constantly preparing for the next opportunity. Even today, as the economy evolves, Riley continues to prepare, promote and educate himself to stay successful.
Riley believes that nothing good comes easy and any core passion is worth the hard work.
Be yourself, even on national television
Riley was born in Tokyo, Japan to a Chief Master Sergeant and is the youngest of three children. He was raised in The Bible Belt and his family had a certain reverence for the traditional, heteronormative form. As a young boy, Riley didn’t always want to catch ball. He wanted to “jump from couch to coffee table with a high kick.”
As he became older, Riley’s family tried to insist that he stop “flouncing around the house, stop dancing like a sissy, stop singing at the top of [his] lungs like a diva.” He eventually learned to keep the peace at home and express himself in high school drama.
By the time Riley was on his own in New York City and working for The Oprah Winfrey Show, he was out to his family and friends though his family didn’t discuss it. Then, in 2005, Riley was presented with an opportunity from Oprah Winfrey herself. He was asked to share his personal story of being gay on a show titled “When I Knew I Was Gay.”
Until the episode aired, Riley was used to friends and family from his hometown calling and expressing their pride after seeing him or his name on The Oprah Winfrey Show. He was an example of the local boy making good. After this episode on which he discussed his life as a gay person, Riley didn’t hear from his family or friends for days.