Photos by Crystal at Picture Studios in Greensboro | Creative Direction by Jasmine Ray for INSIDE Monthly

Every sports fan in the Triad knows that Jaelen “Silky” Gilkey is one of the coolest anchors on local television. What they may not know is that @silky.gilkey is also part of the staff at @mlbbrodotcom, a new media outlet founded by the legendary Rob Parker @robparkermlbbro. Scroll below for excerpts and photos from Jaelen’s exclusive interview with INSIDE Monthly at Picture Studios.

Where were you born and what was your childhood like?

(Jaelen) I was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. 3-1-4 baby, that’s what we do. You can’t tell me. You gotta show me. We moved a lot. My dad played professional baseball, so we moved around the country. We lived in Boston, New York, Atlanta, Phoenix, and St. Louis. I attended maybe eight or nine different schools in my time coming up. I never really met a stranger, and I think that was something that really helped me become so outgoing. Knowing if I just introduce myself to people and go out and just be me, people are gonna like me. I have friends all over the country, all over the world, just because of the fact that we moved so much. During childhood, I had to force myself to introduce myself and make new friends and just kind of reintroduce myself over and over and over again. That’s kind of how I got to where I am now.

Would you rather have barbecue from North Carolina or Missouri?

I think this might be the worst question you could have ever asked. There’s only one answer. Go home St. Louis style. Y’all don’t even do ribs here for real. Y’all chop up some pig butt and call it barbecue.

Were you the most athletic member of your family?

(Jaelen) Nah, not even close. Like I said, my dad played professional ball, Major League Baseball for 12 years. My cousin, she played volleyball at the University of Memphis. Four years. All-conference multiple times. My uncle, who’s her dad, was probably the best athlete out of the family, you know. Coming up in high school, he came across a couple challenges and kind of limited himself. If anybody that knows the original Steve Gilkey from back in the 80s, they know he was THAT deal. Bob Gibson-esque! So, my family’s super athletic. Like, I got some more cousins down the line. I got another cousin, Brandon, who played wide receiver at Notre Dame. And my brother played ball as well in college. I played in college. So, it’s just… We come from a long, strong line of athletes.

Photos by Crystal at Picture Studios in Greensboro | Follow On Instagram @InsideMonthly

Tell us about the journey you took as a baseball player.

(Jaelen) Yeah. So, I started playing baseball. I was probably in third or fourth grade. I played basketball first. That was really my first love. But I was just so naturally gifted at baseball. Never really played, like, T-ball or anything like that. Just kind of jumped out there on the machine and fell in love with the game. Just regular, regular middle school stuff. Played with a lot of great players. And then I got to high school. We moved around a couple of times. But when we settled in St. Louis my junior and senior year, I mean, I take that team and those guys that I have those experiences with and I’ve played with, and I put them up against whoever. We got two guys currently in the major leagues that played on my high school team. And then I ended up going to Central Arizona Junior College. Played a little bit there. Burnt out of there. Got to Miles College. We were in the middle of the desert, man. It was awful. We were five miles from a dairy farm. It was so bad. Every morning you wake up, go lift. Smell like cow manure. It was bad. And so I ended up going to Miles College after that. Then I finished up here at A&T.

What did you like best about your college experience?

(Jaelen) There was no time better in my life than the time I spent at A&T. Those first two stops were great. They helped make me who I am. But when I got to A&T, man, I really felt like I found myself. I found my tribe. I found exactly where I needed to be to become who I was headed to be.

Not only was the journalism department a great help and a great foundational cornerstone for my emerging career, but just the friends that I’ve made. They’ve become family.

And the people that I know that are doing amazing things, whether that be in this field of journalism, whether that be engineering, whether that be entrepreneurial, it didn’t matter. I mean, I know some of the most successful people in my age group. And it’s just so cool to think that we all kind of come from the same place and all got the same start. Just to see everybody branch out and to be successful and to do the things that we’ve been able to do so far excites me about what it is still to come from core group, as well as just the extension of my Aggie family.

Photos by Crystal at Picture Studios in Greensboro | Follow On Instagram @RentMyStudio

How did North Carolina A&T set you up for a sports media career?

(Jaelen) I’ll tell you this, man. I honestly don’t think I took enough advantage of the opportunities there on campus. Anybody that knew me during school or had the opportunity to meet me when I was at A&T, they’ll tell you, like, I was wild. I was out partying, having a good time, always in the mix, right? Not really focused. I had peers that were focused and really had to be my guardrails. There are two people or three people I always like to mention, whether that be Deja Bickham, whether that be Marilyn Parker or Alexis Wainwright. They’re all out doing great things in their respective markets. In this field, in the news industry. And they were really the ones that were like, hey, like, yeah, you’re good at what you’re doing. Yes, like, you know, you have a nice face, but that’s not going to get you where you want to be. You know, you got to actually put the work in and show these employers that you’re not just, you know, an exterior. You’re a complete package, whether that be news, whether that be sports, whether that be producing web articles, whatever it is. Behind the camera, you have to be a total package. And that was something I was kind of lacking until my last semester and a half. Well, my last year and a half, I would say. And then really, Marilyn really just got on me. She was like, hey, you’re kind of wasting everybody’s time here. And you should put the effort in to want to be successful as much as you want to have fun.

When did people first start calling you Silky?

(Jaelen) So my Uncle Steve was Silky Gilkey, starting in the seventies. And no one really called me Silky Gilkey until I got to high school, right? So it was maybe my junior year, and we had a baseball game, and my uncle and my grandmother, they had come to the game. And so I’m up to bat, and a couple of my teammates start hollering out, you know, “Oh, you’re so Silky Gilkey!” I just was like, okay, cool, I like that, I like that.

And then I came up to bat again, and they said “Silky Gilkey!” And then I turned around because they were sitting right on the fence, and my uncle was sitting right there, and he looked, and asked me, “Who said you can have my nickname?”

And I just said, yeah, you know, it’s been taken. It’s over, your run is done. And so it’s been since probably my junior year of high school. People used to kind of try to make fun of my last name, just because it’s uncommon, right? And I had never really met anybody outside my family until I became an adult that had the last name Gilkey. And so people always say things like, “Milky,” anything that rhymed with it, they try to, but once they hit Silky, it stuck. And I ran with it.

Photos by Crystal at Picture Studios in Greensboro | Creative Direction by Jasmine Ray for INSIDE Monthly

All right, which sports anchors do you look up to or admire most?

(Jaelen) Of course, the legends, Stuart Scott, he’s the one that really kind of was my inspiration. His presentation was just so different from everybody else. I love Scott Van Pelt, what he’s doing now, he’s just taking over the game. Also, Greg Amsinger works for the MLB Network. He’s also a St. Louis guy. Bob Costas, Joe Buck, all from St. Louis. So, you know, we have a long and strong history in the sports anchors, sports presentation commentator realm. And of course, it starts all the way back with Joe’s dad, Jack. You know, he and my dad actually had a pretty good relationship. And I think that those are really my kind of core guys that I want to emulate and aspire to be. No, I also forgot Fran Childs. I’m sorry, Fran Childs, also who used to work for MLB Network. He’s one of my favorites as well.

What is one thing that people don’t know about television?

(Jaelen) That we have to do everything and that I don’t have a hairstylist and I don’t have a makeup artist in the studio. And most days, I don’t have a cameraman. The only time I really have a cameraman is if you see me live. Like if I’m live out at one of the football games or somewhere, the many places that I travel and have been, those are the only times I really have a cameraman. If I get you to agree to do a story with me, people are always so surprised that when I just show up with bags hanging off me and gear everywhere, they don’t understand that it’s just me. And I’m going to write the web article and I’m going to put it on the website and I’m going to write the script and I’m going to do all the editing. I’m going to do it all. So I think that’s one thing that people really don’t understand about TV now.

How have you grown since you started at WFMY?

(Jaelen) I think it’s a lot of different ways. Whether that be my storytelling or the actual presentation of just being on air and being comfortable reading the teleprompter. When I first started, I didn’t even read the teleprompter. Like I was just, because I was in a role and I was in a position where they would just kind of let me go off the cuff and that was just what was best for the product. And then, you know, as I continued to grow and go through my reps and get a little bit more smooth with the teleprompter and learning how to run the teleprompter and talk at the same time. And I think those are some of the areas I’ve grown the most in. But I think what I’m most proud of is just my storytelling and the writing that I do when I put together a package. I tell people that I tell a story from someone that’s here in our community because those are the stories that I really care about. Whether that be an athlete somewhere or someone that’s dealing with some type of illness or whatever the story is. If I show up, most likely I want to do it. So I truly care and want to put my heart into that work.

Photos by Crystal at Picture Studios in Greensboro | Follow On Instagram @InsideMonthly

What can you tell us about the platform?

(Jaelen) means everything to me, man. It’s literally, exactly what I want to do just because how much the game has been able to provide for myself and my family and to know the disparity in coverage, whether that be on national platforms or smaller platforms that the black players don’t get. And whether that be Marcus Semien or whether that be Tony Kemp or whether that be Mookie Betts, it never seems like enough. And the game is in a very interesting space right now because they say it’s dying, but everywhere I look, people are interested in what we’re doing with MLB Bro. And I think that’s our number one goal is to reach the fan that isn’t the traditional baseball fan, which is probably, what, white male, 35 and up. We’re trying to reach a younger demographic, a darker demographic, and we want to bring them and attract those people that don’t traditionally love the game or know much about the game to baseball and then give them someone to gravitate towards because I think that’s the number one thing to get black and brown people in the stands is they don’t relate or feel like they connect to the guys on the field. So that’s what we’re trying to be, that connector.

What should people expect to see from you in the future?

(Jaelen) The sky’s the limit. I’ve got lofty goals and I have big dreams that I want to achieve. So I’m not going to put any limits on it. But you should expect to see me anywhere and everywhere that baseball is being played, that sports are, because that’s just truly where my heart is. It doesn’t really matter the sport, honestly. I love all sports. I love athletics. I love the lessons that it teaches young men and women. I love what it can do for you setting yourself up for the professional world. It’s just so many things that sports can and has done for me that I just, it’s just my first love, man. And I don’t think I could ever turn my back on any sport whatsoever.

“But when I got to A&T, man, I really felt like I found myself. I found my tribe. I found exactly where I needed to be to become who I was headed to be.” -Jaelen Gilkey