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Vernon Wiggins takes his degree to the stage, the screen and beyond

By Michael Feder

For many, there comes a time when the dreams, hopes and goals of youth are put away. It’s only natural, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with it.

Then there are people like Vernon Wiggins. As a self-made music manager, viral musician, film producer, actor and philanthropist, Wiggins has lived up to every aspiration he had growing up in the small town of Washington, Louisiana — and then some. 

Meet Phoenixes like Vernon. Make connections, build relationships and be part of a growing community. 

 

 

Starting off

“I was born on June 6, 1984, and there will never be another like me.” 

It’s easy to hear Wiggins’ infectious self-confidence over the phone, but his beginnings were actually humble. He grew up the fourth of five children in a town whose population today is 742. His mother worked as a nurse, his father was a mechanic, and both were committed to the success of their children.

Wiggins accordingly worked hard to keep up his grades at school, but it was easy to get off track. Asked when he started really taking academics seriously, Wiggins answers with a laugh, “Whenever I started slipping a little bit.”

A teacher named Johnny Johnson recognized Wiggins’ potential and stepped in. “[Mr. Johnson] said, ‘This is not you. You’ve got to focus on the books,’” Wiggins recalls. “After that talk with him, I noticed that my grades started to go back up. And I never looked back.”

Though Wiggins was able to get back on track, his high school’s exit exam posed a major obstacle. Even with good grades, he needed to pass all five parts of the exam to graduate. Time and again, Wiggins sat down to take the exam but struggled with the science section. 

 

Finally, he was down to his last chance if he wanted to walk with his high school class and not wait until summer to graduate. He studied “religiously,” he says. He even stayed away from his friends, focusing entirely on preparing to pass.

In the end, he scored 10 points over what was necessary. His teacher brought him in front of his English class and congratulated him.

“That experience right there made me who I am today,” Wiggins recalls. “I got it done.”

Early influences

While academics were a major focus for Wiggins, his real passions lay elsewhere.

“Man, I was interested in entertainment,” he says. “En-ter-tain-ment.”

Growing up watching Jay-Z, Ja Rule, Eminem, Dr. Dre and others on BET and MTV, Wiggins had early exposure to big possibilities but didn’t know where it would take him.

He also wasn’t sure what to do after high school. He worked small jobs for a while before deciding to continue with his education. He enrolled at a state school but kept changing his major and then transferred colleges.

“I just didn’t know what the heck I wanted to do,” Wiggins says. “I was going through the motions.”

He decided to change his trajectory back to his twin passions: His goal would be to develop his business skills and find a way to leverage them in a career in entertainment.

“Then I found University of Phoenix (UOPX),” Wiggins says, “and the rest was history.”

 

Getting his degree

Wiggins enrolled at UOPX in 2009. During the day, Wiggins trained for a telecommunications job. At night, he opted to take in-person classes at the UOPX Lafayette Campus instead of learning online. When his training ended and he could no longer make that schedule work, he decided to dive into pursuing his education online.  

It made a big difference. When he attended traditional colleges, he found that life kept getting in the way of school. Taking classes online, he had more time to address the challenges life threw at him without sacrificing his progress toward his degree.

“I’m not going to lie to you,” Wiggins says. “University of Phoenix was my saving grace.”

Applying credits he had earned at other institutions, Wiggins was able to complete his degree in three years, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Business Management.

“I wanted to become the best businessman I could be,” Wiggins says of his degree choice. “I wanted to start doing some big things.”

Learn in-demand business skills with a Bachelor of Science in Business. 

 

 

Big things achieved

Shortly after earning his degree, Wiggins forayed into the entertainment business. He started local, managing Louisiana-based artists who were starting their music careers. He launched his music label, MG LLC, and quickly signed four artists, all from Louisiana.

He could have stopped there, but that’s not Wiggins’ style. About a year after starting his label, he began putting out his own music, performing under the moniker V-LO The Maestro.

“I was like, ‘Let me try it,’” he says of his decision to start recording. “Let me see how I sound on the mic.

“I was listening to myself, and I thought it sounded pretty good,” he says, laughing.

Things started really locking into place for Wiggins. He started producing music videos to promote his work and hit viral fame with his song “Can’t Phase Me,” which has received over 1 million views on YouTube. He pushed himself and became a Top 100 Apple Music artist, releasing several singles, mix tapes and albums.

From big things to big-picture thinking

All the while, Wiggins was expanding his circle. He began traveling and networking, connecting with filmmakers. 

Vernon Wiggins gets in front of the camera

He found that his experience with music videos formed a strong basis for a transition into acting. (He even put this talent to work on an episode of the TV series The College Tour featuring UOPX.)

Wiggins didn’t stop there. He started a film companyMG Films & Television, where he can turn his passion for film into completed projects.

When he’s not busy making music or movies, he’s running yet another company, Maestro Consulting, which helps clients grow their brands through digital and in-person marketing. 

Bringing it back to the community

Again, Wiggins could have stopped there. Certainly, viral musicianship, multiple businesses and a feature film would be enough for most people. Not for Wiggins.

Wiggins wants to share his success with the communities in and around his hometown. Through the Maestro Foundation, he does just that. The philanthropic organization has a hand in multiple efforts, from organizing benefit basketball games to passing out turkeys and toys at Christmas. Whatever would benefit the community, Wiggins wants to make it happen.

Kayla Gilmore has worked with Wiggins on a number of projects, from toy giveaways to film productions.

“He will always make you feel like you can take another step up,” she says. “I have never heard anyone say a bad thing about him, and if he says he is going to do something, he [does it]. He is always helping everyone on his team to level up.”

 

Looking forward

Not one to rest on his laurels, Wiggins completed his Master of Business Administration at University of Phoenix in 2021.

Now, Wiggins is focusing on providing as many opportunities as he can to those around him. “I’ve been blessed to have some great people in my life,” he says. “I want to see them grow and become the best versions of themselves.” 

 

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