UT graduate reflects on ‘Tonight Show’ scholarship, creative ventures

Mimi Calzada, Life and Arts Reporter

After returning from the gym, Fitzgerald Alan received an unexpected call from a New York phone number asking him to take part in a skit on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.” During what was supposed to be a brief on-stage appearance, Fallon announced Alan and two other UT students would receive scholarships covering the remainder of their college tuition, leaving Alan frozen as confetti rained down on the Bass Concert Hall stage.  

“After that, you sit down and you have to act like everything’s normal, like your life didn’t get changed,” Alan said.

During a special taping in 2019, “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” surprised three UT sophomores with scholarships, including Alan, who graduated last spring. The radio-television-film alumnus has amassed over 115,000 followers across his social media pages. The Daily Texan sat down with Alan to discuss the impact of the “Tonight Show” scholarship, his experiences with content creation and post-graduation goals.

Daily Texan: How did the “Tonight Show” scholarship change your perspective on higher education?

Fitzgerald Alan: It set me free in college, especially at that time when I was still in art school trying to figure it out. Since then, I pushed (through) college with the pursuit that it would have a meaning, even though I didn’t see it in the moment. At that time, (I thought), ‘Is this actually for me? Do I really stay at a school where … I feel like the information is not fruitful to me anymore? Do I drop out, move on and just pursue YouTube and do that full time?’ When the Fallon (scholarship) came through, … I saw it as something that would help me not hurry to make this decision.

DT: Your two main forms of content creation are your YouTube channel, which has 5,000 subscribers, and your TikTok page, which has over 100,000 followers. Which would you say is your main creative priority?

FA: YouTube will forever be my baby because I’ve been nurturing that since sophomore year of high school. I started doing TikTok last year, and I got 10,000 followers for making anime videos. However, my friends have been grilling me, they’re like, ‘Fitz, you should … call yourself a content creator rather than putting all of your chips into one basket.’ But, if I had the choice to be known for something, it would most likely be YouTube.

DT: How does the short-form content of TikTok compare to the long-form content of YouTube, and which do you like making more?

FA: My TikTok isn’t really about me, it’s more about the people I’m talking to. Long-form content is ultimately more satisfying for me because I want to be somebody who can be a sense of clarity for people. Because of that, I have to think really hard about the words that I say. I have to string along a narrative that’s easy for people to follow, and I’m gonna have to tell a story that’ll connect with others.

DT: As a recent college graduate, what do you hope to achieve in the future?

FA: Ultimately, I’m striving to become somebody who’s well-nurtured in different avenues of artistic expression. One person you can think of is Donald Glover — (someone) who can succeed in more than one area. Donald Glover started out as a YouTuber, he went on “Community,” then started making music (and) his own show — there’s so many things to him. I want to make stories that impact people. I want to make stories that I would have liked growing up a lot, and I want to help people bring clarity to a lot of issues.