Shoulda! Coulda! Woulda! is a book that takes you on a journey
It is most commonly believed that our mistakes shape who we are and provide the guidance we need while traveling on the broken road to success. The book with the same title as his podcast, Shoulda! Coulda! Woulda! by Dwight Allen O’Neal goes more into detail about O’Neal’s life and the lessons he has learned along the way in his journey to success.
Through the peaks and the pits, Shoulda! Coulda! Woulda! takes you on a journey where the emotional lows become lessons learned that are then overcome with humor. You have the highs: they make you want to get up and yell “hallelujah!” This book welcomes readers and makes them relate in one way or another.
“When deciding to write a book based on my own personal life experiences, I had to be as honest and as transparent as possible,” O’Neal said. “Of course, certain names had to be changed. However, my perception and experience of the situations had to be authentic. If I didn’t want to be transparent, then I should have written a fictionalized story. I owe full transparency to my readers and to myself as I share learning moments in my life. Either go big or go home.”
At one point in the book, O’Neal describes how difficult it was to support his craft and to keep his dreams alive. He had worked three jobs at once in addition to managing all of his projects.
“As the bible states, ‘Faith without works is dead’,” O’Neal said. “If you honestly want to achieve a goal or improve your circumstances, you must put in the hard work. I come from a family that believes in hard work and we don’t expect handouts.”
O’Neal’s father used to wake him up every morning at 5 a.m. to do his homework right before heading to school. You may be wondering, “Why not just do your homework at night?,” but O’Neal’s childhood wasn’t an ordinary one. On days where there was more than average amounts of homework to be done, he’d wake up at 4 a.m. to complete it. “I was raised as a country boy so when I got home from school, I had to take care of the animals and do chores. After dinner, I was too tired to study so I would get up early to do it,” he said.
Even now, during the pandemic, O’Neal has kept busy and was sleeping in, by his father’s standard, by waking up around 6 a.m. “I hope he doesn’t see this, or I might get in trouble,” O’Neal joked.
In the book, O’Neal has a mentor by the name of Nathan. Nathan is the friend that everyone needs, the brother that everyone wants, and a mentor that a mentee could only dream of. He challenged O’Neal and helped navigate his way to success before his sudden death. When asked if he has a mentee and the importance of sharing all of the tips that he had learned from Nathan, he said, “I am actively seeking a mentee! Let’s call this my search for one. To be honest, much of the knowledge I have learned from Nathan, I share with my clients. I also do celebrity management. One of my clients, in particular, is older than me. However, I see so much of myself in him when my popularity and notoriety began to blossom. I regularly share with him how to navigate his brand into mainstream entertainment and continue to grow his personal brand. Nathan prepared me for the spotlight early on, and so much he taught me I have been able to equip all my clients with.
“Overall, I do think it is very important to mentor our younger gay community,” O’Neal said. “I am up for the task. I most recently launched a non-profit organization to assist with it, Beauty with a Cause.”
Beauty with a Cause (BWAC), was created to help LGBTQ people secure lucrative careers within the beauty industry. O’Neal partnered with First Impressions of South Carolina to bring BWAC to life in New York City and Greenville, SC.
“I suppose in my own unique way, I am taking what Nathan taught me to assist more on a larger platform,” O’Neal said. “I just hope I am making him proud from Heaven. I miss him so much.”
In Shoulda! Coulda! Woulda! O’Neal talks about his many ventures, even his hit web series, Christopher Street TV, and how he feels it was received by the mainstream media. Christopher Street TV was created to be the young person’s answer to Noah’s Arc.
“The series was never created to rival the work of any other gay filmmaker,” O’Neal said. “It was to be a voice for young gay youth at the time. When I created the series, I had no idea it would be such a huge underground success. I really just wanted to make art that entertained my gay youth culture. The show shares the lives of Chris and his diverse group of friends, Jharemy (played by me), Ashton, and Shawn. These young men deal with troubles that range from relationship issues, sexual identity, self-love, abuse, HIV/AIDS, and acceptance not only from the world but also from themselves.”
No matter how successful the show was becoming, O’Neal felt as if it wasn’t taken seriously because of being produced by a young person of color and the cast was full of people of color as well. “It’s sad how the mainstream will call you urban based on the color of your skin, CSTV was ahead of its time. One of my hardest tasks was to get major networks or distribution companies to take a chance on the project,” he said. “I had countless meetings and heard so many ‘no’s; some days I would even go home and cry. After we made a huge splash online, TLA Releasing reached out and offered me a distribution deal. It took many years but finally we were getting a little bit of recognition.”
When asked if he had any advice for young LGBTQ people that are afraid to take that big leap, he said, “This is going to sound so cliché, but honestly, just do it. One of the biggest mistakes that anyone can make in life is not living your life for you or to the fullest. We work hard for everyone else in the world but oftentimes never work hard for ourselves. It took me literally going to bed every day feeling unfilled to realize that I must get back on track in creating my purpose.”
O’Neal continued, “If you are confused about what you want to do or how to do it, you must take some time with yourself and think, write down ideas, or explore your talents. After you take the first step and believe in yourself, the universe will provide step two.”
“Something else I stand behind is working backward when creating your action plan. Start with your end goal and write down the steps to get there backward. It helps you create an easy step by step plan; reverse engineering is a tool I use frequently.”
You can see more of Dwight Allen O’Neal on The Circle NYC, Season 4. This YouTube Docuseries follows a few New York City socialites as they navigate love, careers, and nightlife.
O’Neal is also a major influencer on the live streaming app, “Bigo Live.” Bigo Live is a cross over between Instagram Live and Zoom. O’Neal hosts a live stream on subjects ranging from hot topics, music, and advice. Most recently, he’s featured performing a monologue for Black Live Matters for over 28,000 users.
If you are looking for a light read that is a sure page-turner that will give you confidence and make you laugh along the way, this is the book for you. The book has peaked at #1 on Amazon’s Gay & Lesbian Biographies and Memoirs list.