From homelessness to launching a media business

Wayne Ayers’s circumstances instilled in him a sense of generosity, and a belief in himself

BREMERTON — When Wayne Donovan Ayers Jr. was attending Bremerton High School, he didn’t always know if he was going to eat. Some nights, he wondered where he would sleep. The odds seemed stacked against him.

“All you truly think about is surviving and how you can get out of the situation you’re currently in,” Ayers said. “Homelessness made me more aware of my surroundings. It made me appreciate life way more … It’s a humbling experience.”

He graduated from Bremerton, where he played basketball for the Knights, then moved to Los Angeles where he lived in a hostel while studying business at East Los Angeles College, working as a bank teller and doing videography for his sister Kiki at entertainment industry events.

Media savvy and ambitious, and living in America’s entertainment capital, he created “WhereIsTheBuzz,” covering entertainment, politics and human interest stories — first on Instagram, then expanding to other social media and an online publication. (Recent headlines: ”Why the Signing Day ‘Angry Mom’ Video Caused Such an Uproar,” “Kylie Jenner’s Baby Girl Name Revealed!,” “Nefertiti Replica Sends Black Twitter into Overdrive.”)

The site was a quick success, reaching — as of this writing — 500,000 people and netting more than 1 million views on all of its social media pages combined in one month.

Ayers, now 21, has met and interviewed rapper/producer/entrepreneur Dr. Dre, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman and Def Jam Recordings founder Russell Simmons, to name a few. WhereIsTheBuzz has been compared to TMZ, a celebrity news website.

“It’s new and refreshing — it’s not your traditional publication,” Ayers said, adding that the online publication’s target audience is millennials and is a platform for emerging writers. ”We want to help people accomplish their dreams.”

Ayers hopes to be financially stable by 30, own businesses, invest in companies, and for people to view WhereIsTheBuzz like they do Huffington Post, he said. (He told HuffPost that he counts his East L.A. College professors among his mentors.) He also wants to inspire young black people.

Andrea Ayers, Wayne’s mom, said she and Wayne’s father divorced when their son was 2. To compound matters further, she was diagnosed with sarcoidosis, an inflammatory disease that can affect multiple areas of the body, including the lungs, eyes, skin and, in some cases, the heart. Working two jobs at the time, Andrea was advised by her doctor to quit one. Although she couldn’t afford it, she took her doctor’s recommendation in hopes that it would improve her health.

The resulting lack of money meant living in a car and, sometimes for Wayne, taking the Bremerton-Seattle ferry so he had a place to sleep.

Kelli Andrews, one of Wayne’s high school teachers, said she often thinks about how bad Andrea must have felt when she had to give away her son’s bike.

“He was a little boy that really needed his bike, and that event is something that really could’ve left an ugly mark,” Andrews said. “He could have become a victim and used his story as an excuse to be someone that failed, but he didn’t … There is definitely something special about Wayne.”

Through adversity came generosity. In eighth grade, Wayne gave away his small collection of basketball jerseys to sixth graders who didn’t own any, Andrea said. Another time, Andrea lent her son her ATM card so he could eat. She later received a text message from her bank notifying her card was used for $19 in purchases at Burger King.

“I thought to myself, ‘I know this guy did not buy himself $19 worth of food or treated his friends without clearing it with me first,’ ” she said. “I mean, this was just breakfast.”

A three-minute rant to her son made Andrea “feel like crap” after hearing why he spent as much as he did.

“Well, I was walking into Burger King and there was a lady with her two little girls, and she was asking people if they would help her and her daughters out by getting them something to eat,” Wayne told his mother. “I felt bad for them … so I got them breakfast.” Andrea was speechless.

Andrews said Wayne is “strong in the face of adversity.”

“He didn’t let the world change his amazing smile, even when [the world] was at its ugliest around him,” she said. “His mother and sisters really love Wayne and have worked really hard to make the best out of the worst for him.”

Andrea said the love her family has for one another was fundamental in making it out of tough times. She said statistics show that the odds are stacked against young, black men who grow up without a father in the home. ”Wayne is proving that’s not true.”

Wayne said of his sisters, Kiki and Selena, “They are both truly inspiring and without them, there would be no me.” He also expressed appreciation for his friend Deonte Dixon’s family for letting him stay with them during his senior year of high school.

“I just appreciate things way, way more now,” he said. “Like, one minute you can have it all and the next minute, you can have absolutely nothing. Sometimes, when people go through their darkest moments, they just need one person that they know cares about them.”

Jacob Moore is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. Contact him at jmoore@soundpublishing.com.

Bremerton High School alum Wayne Ayers Jr. created an online publication, WhereIsTheBuzz. He lived without a stable home for most years of his childhood in Bremerton. (Courtesy/Wayne Ayers Jr.)

Bremerton High School alum Wayne Ayers Jr. created an online publication, WhereIsTheBuzz. He lived without a stable home for most years of his childhood in Bremerton. (Courtesy/Wayne Ayers Jr.)

Wayne Ayers Jr., founder of WhereIstheBuzz, has met and interviewed rapper/producer/entrepreneur Dr. Dre, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman and Def Jam Recordings founder Russell Simmons. (Courtesy/Wayne Ayers Jr.)

Wayne Ayers Jr., founder of WhereIstheBuzz, has met and interviewed rapper/producer/entrepreneur Dr. Dre, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman and Def Jam Recordings founder Russell Simmons. (Courtesy/Wayne Ayers Jr.)

Wayne Ayers Jr., founder of WhereIstheBuzz, has met and interviewed rapper/producer/entrepreneur Dr. Dre, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman and Def Jam Recordings founder Russell Simmons. (Courtesy/Wayne Ayers Jr.)

Wayne Ayers Jr., founder of WhereIstheBuzz, has met and interviewed rapper/producer/entrepreneur Dr. Dre, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman and Def Jam Recordings founder Russell Simmons. (Courtesy/Wayne Ayers Jr.)

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