This was supposed to be 9-year-old Tiana Sirmans’ big break. The Delaware 4th grader who has gained notoriety for her precocious journalistic chops had been invited to appear on NBC’s new The Kelly Clarkson Show in Los Angeles.
And this time it would be Clarkson asking the budding journalist all the questions.
Tiana, who lives with her mom in New Castle, decided at a young age that she’s destined for a career in broadcasting. Last year the Pleasantville Elementary School student was the youngest student in the country chosen to be a reporter for Time for Kids magazine.
And over the last year or so she has met Good Morning America host Robin Roberts and interviewed a number of celebrities – from Chelsea Clinton and comedian Carol Burnett to rapper Ice Cube and actor Michael B. Jordan, (who played Killmonger in the Black Panther film).
So when Clarkson’s show producers contacted Tiana and her mother Tiffany asking her to talk to them about flying out to Los Angeles to appear as a guest on their program, they jumped at the opportunity.
She would appear as one of three guests, along with Sports Illustrated model Kate Upton and Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington – a professional role model to Tiana who she was thrilled to meet.
The duo made it to LA two weeks ago and the show was taped; everything was set for the program’s national broadcast at 2:00 pm on Wednesday this week.
That was when Tiana, twenty-two of her Pleasantville Elementary classmates and several teachers eagerly gathered in anticipation of her big moment.
But then… about 20 minutes into the program, near the conclusion of the Kate Upton segment, NBC News broke in with a Special Report. News anchor Lester Holt announced, “We are bringing you an extraordinary moment – a meeting here in New York underway between President Trump and the president of Ukraine, the same two men whose phone conversation has now triggered a Congressional impeachment inquiry.”
The breaking news report continued right through Tiana’s segment, and the show returning resumed with only 10 minutes left to air.
Tiana and her classmates were crestfallen. Tiana said she had done a lot of research in preparation for the interview. “I was really disappointed. This was a big moment for me, and I worked really hard on it,” said Tiana. “But I’m a journalist, and he’s the president. So, I guess that’s an interesting take on the whole thing.” She said.
“This was really what Tiana had been building up to for the last two years. Her chance in the spotlight,” said mom Tiffany. “The money we spent on food and her wardrobe, and taking the red-eye home — all the running around, getting her hair done, and a last-minute wardrobe change — all to be on national television. To call it a disappointment would be an understatement. And to have it snatched away by a special report. And I am like, ‘how do we fix that?’”
Apparently not all local stations in the country pre-empted the show. Some friends of the Sirmans outside of Delaware said they did see the segment.
Still, mom Tiffany has reached out to producers at NBC, the parent company of The Kelly Clarkson Show. She’s hoping they will find a story within a story and share her daughter’s experience on the show with an even bigger audience.
Tiffany and Tiana are pretty familiar with the morning shows taped in New York City. Tiana got her first big break at Good Morning America (GMA) two years ago, and she has been a somewhat frequent visitor and guest interviewer on the show ever since.
When she was only 7 years old and modeling at the New York Fashion Week, Tiana was spotted by one of the producers in charge of “kids casting” at GMA. That producer started following Tiana on Facebook, noting her budding interest in broadcast journalism. Since then, morning show staff have invited Tiana several times up to New York to come sit in the front row and pose questions to some of their celebrity guests.
Her time in the spotlight hasn’t come without a lot of effort. “Sometimes we would take a midnight bus from 4th Street in Wilmington. We did that a lot. Maybe 6 or 7 times. Or sometimes I would drive up at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. Every time she [Tiana] went up, she was able to pose with Robin Roberts. It’s been an unbelievable experience,” said Tiffany.
Tiana also met Today Show anchor Craig Melvin last month at the National Association of Black Journalists convention in Miami. Tiana, with her microphone in hand, not only interviewed members but networked like other budding journalists. The aspiring journalist says she’s eager to make the connection with Melvin if she lands one more chance on NBC.
So just how did the interview go with Kelly Clarkson? The show did air once — at 2:30 am the morning after the scheduled run. (TSD taped the early hours episode.) The affable and poised 4th grader beamed as Clarkson fired off a few questions, including “What does it make to be a good journalist?” Tiana’s response: “Of course you have to be curious, a good researcher, and a good listener,” to which Clarkson replied, “You could have your own talk show!”
Fortunately, Tiana came away from her Hollywood experience with two very big surprises. The youngster did not know that Arianna Huffington was backstage and would be joining her on the program following her segment.
Enamored with the young journalist, the syndicated columnist offered her a one-day internship at her new enterprise, Thrive Global, in New York. “You can interview anyone who works there about anything you want, including asking them how much time they spend on social media, and do they compare themselves to Kate Upon. And then we will publish it on Thrive Global,” Huffington told Tiana.
Clarkson also had her own surprise for Tiana: “From our friends at Access Hollywood, you’re actually going to spend a day interning there as well. You’ll get to meet Mario Lopez and see what it takes to be a top-notch entertainment news reporter. Does that sound good?”
As disappointing as it was for virtually no one to have seen the program, Tiana is still grateful for the experience and optimistic about the future. She will also receive an award from the Newark NAACP chapter on October 20 for her outstanding work. “I think it’s amazing, especially because I’m only 9 and in the 4th grade. I’m so lucky to have all of these opportunities.”