Jeff Jenkins has seen a lot of the world — 40-plus countries — and enough adventure along the way to fill hundreds of blogs, Instagram posts and TikTok videos.
Being paid to travel the globe was an opportunity he intentionally pursued, a demonstration of how the young entrepreneur sets and pursues big goals. He runs Chubby Diaries, an online community focused on inspiring plus-size and Black travelers to live their lives to the fullest through travel and adventures. He’s also developed a strong social media following, with more than 34,000 followers on Instagram and 71,000-plus on TikTok.
“I read off my goals every single day,” he said, holding up a long list of dreams on his phone. “I read these off every single day — like you will have a certain amount of money and you’ll own part of the Orlando Magic and you will have your own travel show.”
When a producer developing TV shows for National Geographic called to ask if he’d be interested in his own show, Jenkins was excited, but not surprised.
“I was waiting on that call,” he said. “She was like ‘Oh my God, you gave me goosebumps.’ And the rest is history in a way. We ended up doing like two pilot episodes.”
We’ll have to wait for all the details on Jenkins’ new show, though he teased that he recently got back from New Zealand.
“The whole premise of the show is that life begins on the other side of your comfort zone,” he said.
That’s something that’s getting harder to do as his adventures accumulate, but Jenkins says he’s always challenging himself.
What’s your coming-to-Austin story? I’m from Orlando. I went to school in Tallahassee at Florida A&M University and then I moved to Miami for two years. When I was in Miami, I really didn’t like it. I was like, ‘It’s time for a change. It’s time to move out of Florida.’ And it was down to Nashville and Chicago. I really couldn’t make up my mind because of the job opportunities. And so I called a friend who lives here in Austin. And I was like, ‘Man, I don’t know if I should go to Nashville or Chicago.’ He’s like, ‘Bro, you should just move to Austin.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, I should just move to Austin.’ Everybody I knew from Austin was really friendly. So good people is the reason I felt like I’ve moved here. And I think today or yesterday marks 10 years here.
Transitioning to a TV show, what are the biggest challenges for you personally, in terms of whether it’s being on camera, or just the production aspects of it that we don’t see as viewers? It is a lot more work. We can go eight to 12 hours in a day of just shooting. So just to get it right, there are times where we might have to do a scene or activity multiple times, just to make sure we got the right angle.
With social media, it’s all in my control. There are pros and the cons of it. Like, as a social media person, you are the whole production. You’re the producer. You’re the cameraman. You’re the videographer, the sound guy. You’re all of these positions. One thing that I love about the show is learning. I was like, ‘Oh, this is how people don’t burn out as quickly.’ A lot of YouTubers and Instagramers are putting on full-fledged productions, and they might only be 10 seconds or it might be 10 minutes. But they put on a full-fledged production. And so I’m learning that it’s great to have a whole team. All I got to do is just show up and be on camera, which is amazing. But again, it’s still on you to make sure a lot of stuff gets done.
Outside of travel, obviously, what are your hobbies? People ask me what is vacation for me. And I tell them it’s actually just hanging out with friends. That is literally it. I mean, it’s like heaven on earth to just be like, ‘Oh, I don’t have anywhere to go.’ I can just hang out with my friends, like this weekend we’ll just be at our friend’s house, to barbecue and drink. And just call it a day and watch movies and then just chill.
Favorite book? “The 10X Rule: The Only Difference Between Success and Failure,” by Grant Cardone.
Favorite movies or TV shows? I love “Independence Day.” I’m interested in watching TV shows now because I’m studying with TV shows, especially non-scripted shows. I like looking at the host and seeing what they’re doing — I’m like, ‘Maybe I can implement that and maybe I can go this way with it.’
I like the Marvel shows on Disney+. They have been some of my favorite things to watch lately and then I go and watch the breakdown, the easter eggs and things I might have missed on YouTube after I watch the episode.
What’s on your playlist? A lot of Drake and Afrobeats. TikTok gets you into new music. So it’s usually honestly whatever the trends are on TikTok. Those songs are so catchy.
Title: Founder and CEO, Chubby Diaries
Age: 36
Education: Bachelor’s degree, Florida A&M University
Family: Wife, Denisha
Hometown: Orlando, Fla.
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