Hard-working alum builds career in entertainment industry

Trey Miller
January 21, 2015

It was August 2013 when Mike Wallace and his best friend Aidan Graven loaded up a Toyota Corolla and made the cross-country trek from Silver Spring, Maryland, to Los Angeles.

Wallace had no job and just a possibility of a place to stay. But, in a leap of faith, he went anyway -- in pursuit of his hip-hop music and entertainment dreams.

“‘The Free Life’ is my mantra,” said Wallace. “It’s the realization that life is yours and you have more control of your destiny than you think. You have the free will to chase your passion because passion is going to lead you to what you’re meant to do.”

Now, Wallace has laid the foundation for a career, dabbling in music and TV production, among other things, in the entertainment field.

Wallace recently produced his first episode of “Off the Wallz TV,” where he sits down with important individuals in culture and talks with them about what makes them successful. His first interview was a 27-minute one-on-one with Washington Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson.

He intends to have producers, hip-hop artists and CEOs participate in his show, and already has future interviews scheduled.

“I think ‘Off the Wallz TV’ is unique because the intention was to have the interview about life,” said Wallace. “The football thing is a given. I wanted to provide people with the information that they didn’t know. Because what the people don’t know is what they need to hear the most. My main goal was just to get in front of the most important people that I felt like would connect with audiences in their industry.

“Being able to sit with DeSean and have him open up about certain things, it was just a really great experience.”

LINK: "Off the Wallz TV" with DeSean Jackson

Wallace also is working on his third solo hip-hop album, which is scheduled to release in March. Music videos have already been recorded for it, and he expects some of the music to come out in the next few weeks.

Music is nothing new for Wallace, who graduated from the College of Communications with a degree in telecommunications in December 2012. While at Penn State, he did work with his group Primary Element. Since, he has recorded two solo albums. His first, “The Free Life,” was released while he was at Penn State. While in Hollywood, he was able to release his second solo album, “The Layover.”

That album took him to new heights and he was able to participate at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas. Since then, he has produced his own music videos and worked with Tabi Bonney, a popular Washington, D.C.-based rapper.

On top of pursuing and reaching his goals, Wallace also works part time at a local Apple Store as a business specialist, giving him some stability in his life.

Now, he and Graven have a luxury apartment, where they can go to a roof and look out to see Beverly Hills, the Hollywood Hills, downtown LA and the ocean.

“I’m so blessed and I’m so appreciative and so grateful every single day,” said Wallace.

Wallace didn’t always have it that easy, though. Coming out of college, he had the challenge of learning how to live on his own for the first time -- all the way across the country.

As a student-athlete, Wallace admitted some things came easier to him. He was a member of the Penn State football team from 2009 to 2012 before an injury to a pectoral muscle ended his career. At the same time, some things did not come so easily.

“Coming out of school and being a student-athlete, you get a great education, but you don’t always get the life skills that you need when you first move out of that college bubble,” said Wallace. “As an athlete, I never had a job. As a student-athlete at Penn State, I had never seen a bill, I had never seen a rent check, I didn’t even pay for food in real dollars.”

But, Wallace embraced the challenge and his music helped get him through. He was in his graduation seat at the Bryce Jordan Center in May 2013, when he decided he was leaving to continue chasing his dreams in the entertainment industry. The real dilemma was whether he would go to New York City or to LA.

He had connections in both areas. Wallace spent that summer with his family in his hometown of Silver Spring knowing that it may be the last time they were going to see him for a long time, regardless of where he decided to go.

After deciding on LA, Wallace’s first professional experience in his new home was at the Hollywood Black Film Festival soon after moving to the West Coast. His aunt, Tanya Kersey, is the founder/executive director of the festival, which is one of the largest multicultural film festivals in Hollywood annually. Wallace helped with operations of the film festival, getting introduced to a lot of different people, including producers, film-makers, actors and actresses.

He created opportunities for himself and used his connections. He later completed an internship with a producer he met at the festival, and eventually worked on his first feature film this past summer. He recently assisted with the production of an episode of “Justified” on FX.

Since he’s gotten settled in LA, Wallace has found a renewed “appreciation for appreciation.” Now, he makes sure to enjoy the little things that he may have taken for granted before. He has started and slowly built his own life on the West Coast.

Wallace credits the College of Communications for a lot of his success. Originally a kinesiology major before switching to business, he was introduced to the world of communications by PJ Mullen, an communications instructor who joined the Penn State football program as director of player development and community relations in 2014.

Mullen previously worked as program director at the radio station B94.5 in State College. Wallace frequented the station to promote his music, and being around that atmosphere drove him explore communications. Shortly after, Wallace changed is major to communications.

As a student, Wallace led a radio program at The Lion 90.7 called “Off the Wallz Radio,” which would later receive recognition on the MTVU College Radio Countdown.

“When I found it, I took full advantage of it,” said Wallace. “It gave me the tools to do everything I am doing now. It just goes to show how much opportunity there is at Penn State and in the communications world. There is no limitation to what you can do because we have so many resources. It’s outstanding.”

Last Updated June 02, 2021