May 6, 2011
By Bill Bennett
As a child growing up in Belize City, British Honduras (which is now Belize City, Belize on the east coast of Central America, located directly south of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula), Nigel Miguel had no idea that as an adult he would become an Ambassador of Goodwill for his native country and in 2008 officially appointed by the government as the Belize Film Commissioner. Of course as a youngster he also didn't realize that as a college-age student-athlete, he would be playing basketball at UCLA on an NIT championship team. Then, at the conclusion of his basketball career, become successful in the acting and entertainment profession. But Miguel, who has dual Belize and U.S. citizenships, has done all that and more during his 48 years. He celebrated his birthday on April 8.
When he was six years old in 1969, Miguel's family left Belize and settled in Los Angeles. When he was 13 years old, his family relocated to Pacoima.
Miguel became a standout boy's basketball performer under head coach Glenn Marx at Notre Dame HS in Sherman Oaks, CA. As a 6-6 senior forward in 1981, he earned prep All-America honors from Scholastic Coach Magazine and McDonald's. Leading his team to a 19-5 overall record and the Del Rey League championship, Miguel averaged 23.1 points and 10.0 rebounds and was selected to the CIF 4A first-team. His prep career bests included game-highs of 39 points, 18 rebounds and 10 assists. His post-high school career highlights were playing in the McDonald's East-West game and helping the U. S. win the Albert Schweitzer Games in Manheim, Germany. At the Schweitzer Games, Miguel scored 37 points in the quarterfinals, 35 points in the semis and his basket in the final game clinched the team title for the U. S. In the summer before enrolling at UCLA, Miguel teamed with future Bruin teammates Ralph Jackson and Stuart Gray to lead the West squad to the gold medal at the National Sports Festival held in Syracuse, NY. In the recruiting process, Miguel selected UCLA over USC to become the first Belizean athlete to compete in Div. I collegiate athletics.
Through his recruitment in high school to his 1984-85 senior season at UCLA, Miguel dealt with three UCLA head coaches. As a senior in high school, Miguel was recruited to UCLA by Bruin head coach Larry Brown. But Brown departed for the NBA after the 1980-81 season and Larry Farmer became the new UCLA head coach. Under Farmer, who was a forward on three (1971/1972/1973) NCAA Championship teams and was also a Bruin assistant coach from 1975-81, Miguel played both guard and forward. Then when Miguel was a Bruin senior in 1984-85, UCLA great Walt Hazzard (1962-64) became the Bruins' head coach, and moved Miguel to starting point guard. In his final UCLA campaign, Miguel helped lead the Bruins to the 1985 National Invitation Tournament championship, the school's first ever NIT title.
As a freshman in 1982 in Farmer's first season as UCLA's head coach, Miguel played in 15 games, averaged 1.5 points and earned the Irv Pohlmeyer Memorial Trophy for outstanding first year player. Behind starting guards, sophomore Ralph Jackson and junior Rod Foster; forwards, Kenny Fields and senior Mike Sanders and freshman center Stuart Gray, the Bruins won their last three games to finish 21-6 overall, 14-4(second-place) in the Pac-10 and were ranked No. 19 by the Associated Press.
Miguel played in all 29 games as a sophomore in 1983, averaging 3.6 points and 2.1 rebounds overall, and 4.1 points and 2.4 rebounds in conference play. He was co-winner, with Jackson, of the Bruin Bench basketball award for most improvement in all-around play and mental attitude. At midseason, the Bruins were ranked No. 1 for two weeks. But UCLA lost three of its last four games, including a 67-61 defeat to Utah in an NCAA second round game. With starters Jackson, Foster, Gray, Fields and senior forward Darren Daye, the Bruins finished 23-6 overall, placed first in the Pac-10 with a 15-3 mark and ended the season ranked No. 7 by both wire service polls.
In 1984 as a junior, Miguel began the season as a starting forward and ended it as a starting guard. He played in 26games, started 12, averaged 4.0 points and 1.5 rebounds and averaged 18.0 minutes a game. With Jackson, freshman guard Montel Hatcher, Gray, Fields and junior forward Gary Maloncon also in the starting lineup, the Bruins in Farmer's last season as head coach, finished 17-11 overall and placed fourth (10-8) inthe Pac-10.
After the 1983-84 campaign, the Bruins named UCLA great Walt Hazzard, the senior starting All-America point guard on John Wooden's first UCLA NCAA championship team (1964), as the school's new head coach. Hazzard brought with him three UCLA standouts to complete his coaching staff - Jack Hirsch, the senior forward co-captain with Hazzard on the 1964 national championship team; Andre McCarter, a starting junior guard on Coach Wooden's final Bruin NCAA title squad (1975); and Sidney Wicks, two-time (1970/1971) National Player of the Year as a forward on three of Wooden's national championship teams (1969/1970/1971).
Not only would Miguel be playing for a new Bruin coaching staff, he was also looking at a new court position, becoming UCLA's starting point guard. Miguel was joined in the starting lineup by two senior teammates, captain Maloncon and center Brad Wright, along with two sophomores; guard Hatcher and long-range shooting phenom, forward Reggie Miller. Following a four-game losing streak in early February 1985, the Bruins would win seven of their next eight games, including six of seven victories over Pac-10 opponents, to end the regular season with a16-12 record, a third-place finish (12-6) in the conference and earned a bid to the National Invitation Tournament.
The Bruins hosted their first three NIT games in Pauley Pavilion, beating Montana 78-47, Nebraska 82-63 and Fresno State 53-43. UCLA advanced to the NIT Final Four at New York City's Madison Square Garden, beating Louisville for the second time, coached by Bruin great Denny Crum, 75-66 in the semifinals and clinching the school's first-ever NIT crown, defeating Bob Knight's Indiana Hoosiers 65-62 in the championship game. Miguel had an outstanding NIT run, scoring in double figures all five games, including 20 points, with eight rebounds and six assists, in the win vs. Louisville and scoring 18 points in the NIT title game win over Indiana. During NIT play, he averaged 15.6points, 4.2 assists and 4.0 rebounds, and shot .563 (27-48) from the floor and .750 (24-32) from the foul line. Miguel was named to the All-Tournament team and Miller, who also scored18 points vs. Indiana, was named the NIT Most Outstanding Player. UCLA ended the 1984-85 season with eight consecutive wins, to finish 21-12 overall.
As a senior, Miguel started all 33 games, scored in double figures 21 times and was the team's second leading scorer overall (12.0) and in Pac-10 (11.9) play. He also led the Bruins in assists (3.2) and was third in steals (1.2). In an early season 80-61 defeat at DePaul, Miguel scored a career-best 21 points.
In UCLA's regular season 75-65 home victory over Louisville, Miguel had one of his best overall games, scoring 15 points,with a career-high eight rebounds and a career-best nine assists. He was the only Bruin to be named first-team All-Pac10 and was the conference's Defensive Player of the Year.
Miguel earned his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from UCLA in September 1985.
In the 1985 NBA Draft, Miguel was a third round selection by the New Jersey Nets. After not making the team, he spent the 1985-86 season in the Continental Basketball Association at La Crosse, WI. He earned All-CBA rookie team as a point guard, playing in 48 games and averaged 17.5 points, helping the Catbirds advance to the league championship series. With interest from the Nets and Lakers, Miguel went back to the Nets and signed a two-year agreement entering the 1986-87 season. But in the final week of training camp, he suffered a broken bone in his left heel and missed the entire season. Miguel tried to return to the Nets for the 1987-88 campaign, but his foot injury had put an end to his professional basketball career.
Acting and Entertainment Career
With basketball in the past, Miguel began to pursue another long-time interest, becoming an actor and entering the field of entertainment. As the months and years passed by, his athletic and basketball talents helped his acting career take off. Miguel has been a member of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) since 1987. He obtained an agent at Commercials Unlimited, which at the time was one of the top three agencies in the world.
First, it was in commercials for products like Reebok, Converse, Nike and Pepsi. He developed a friendship with Charles Barkley, working together in Nike commercials. Miguel and Barkley first met in 1981, when they played in a high school All-America game with other young basketball standouts, including Michael Jordan and Patrick Ewing. In 2006, Barkley was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame for his outstanding basketball career at Auburn and during his 16 years in the NBA. As his acting career developed, Miguel would become Michael Jordan's body double for seven years.
Since 1990, Miguel has appeared in numerous feature films.In 1991, Miguel's character was "Dwight the Flight McGhee" in the hit film White Men Can't Jump, starring Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson. His other movie appearances have included: Colors (1988); Shooters (1989); Heaven is a Playground (1991); The Air Up There and Blue Chips (1994); Forget Paris (1995); American History X (1998); and Elizabethtown (2005). He has appeared on numerous television movies and series, including: "21 Jump Street" (1990); "Equal Justice" (1991); "Hangin' With Mr. Cooper" (1992); "Martin" (1993); "Time Trax" (1994); "Rebound: The Legend of Earl `The Goat' Manigault" (1996).
Miguel's entertainment success has also taken place behind the camera. Since 1995 he's been the owner of II Jam Casting & Production, Inc., a specialty casting and production company, which specializes in placing athletes in commercials and films and provides production consulting and production infrastructure all over the world. II Jam Casting has significant presence in North America, Central America and Africa, with a base in Addis Abiba, Ethiopia under the banner of AriLew Films, producing films and live events for the African market. From 2003-2008, he was president of Ardomi Entertainment, a boutique productions entity that produces independent films and is also a content provider for web-based programming. Miguel has been a basketball/technical advisor to film and television productions, a stunt coordinator and producer. He has cast over 100 national commercials and administered all the technical advising.
Miguel has produced/directed/edited two documentaries: Battlegrounds: King of the Court (2005) and Four Square Miles to Glory (2008).
Ambassador for Belize
As he matured, it was always Miguel's hope and belief, through basketball and then acting, to return to Belize and assist in the growth and development of the country. Starting in the mid-1980s, he has actively worked to promote the economic prosperity of Belize. He was instrumental in promoting goodwill between the U.S. and Belize, drawing several business ventures to Belize and encouraging entertainers, athletes and tourists to capitalize on the untapped resources and unspoiled beauty of Belize. In December 1994 in Belize City at the age of 31, Miguel was honored in a formal ceremony giving him the rights and responsibilities of Goodwill Ambassador to the U.S. His primary responsibilities were to improve business relations with the U. S. and promote more jobs for the young people of Belize. Earlier that year, Miguel organized an NBA All-Star camp, clinic and exhibition game where NBA players spent a week in Belize. For years he has been organizing children's sports camps in Belize.
In May 2008, Miguel was elevated to the official position of Film Commissioner for the Government of Belize. He works hand-in-hand with Belize's Ministry of Tourism and Ministry of Fine Arts to promote and enhance the country's film industry. His experience as an actor and producer enables Miguel to deal with everything from running huge casting sessions, to coordinating complete pre-production setup for bringing the cast and crew into Belize. His primary role is to encourage international producers to bring their films to Belize and to attract investment from interested parties willing to set up the infrastructure necessary to grow a film industry, which will provide jobs for Belizeans.
Ten years ago, Miguel founded the "Belize Forever Foundation", a charitable organization that creates opportunities to benefit the children of Belize.
Last summer, Miguel persuaded Bruin great Marques Johnson (1974-77) to travel to Belize and work with the country's men's basketball national team.
Nigel Miguel's family has long established roots in Belize. His two grandfathers, Edward Miguel, Sr. and Daniel Butler, were a contractor and real estate executive, respectively, who contributed greatly to the prosperity and growth of Belize City. Nigel's father, Ed, a UCLA graduate, was an engineer with Radio Belize when he left the country in 1969 with his family to accept a scholarship to UCLA. At the age of 16, Ed was a world-class cyclist and Belize national champion. Miguel's father, who died in October 2002, had a Masters degree in business administration, worked at Mohawk Data Systems and was a computer lab executive at Wang Laboratories, Inc., retiring from there in 1998.
Nigel's mother, Leonide Butler Miguel, is from a prominent family in Belize. In Southern California, she worked at Security Pacific, which became Bank of America and now resides in the San Fernando Valley. When her son is in Belize, Leonide coordinates the activities of his casting company. He met his wife, Julie Simmons, in Belize and they have been married since 2003. They live on a 60-acre farm on the outskirts of Belize City, about five miles north of the Philip Goldson International Airport, and have three children - twin stepsons Chad and Chetney (22) and daughter Chelsea (13), who wants to be a future Bruin. They also have seven dogs, including six mastiffs and a terrier. Julie is a church deacon and owns two retail stores in Belize City.
Bruins in the Real World: Growing up as a child in Belize your family left to come to the United States and Southern California when you were six years old. What do you remember about that process, was it a traumatic experience for you?
Nigel Miguel: I remember coming to the U.S. being a big deal back then. My father went to New York first and attended school. He then came back to Belize and brought my mom with him when he came to Los Angeles to attend UCLA. He received a scholarship to UCLA, so he and my mom came out to Los Angeles and left me at home with my grandmother. They returned when he finished school and soon after we came to America. My mom and dad took the bus, my grandmother, aunt Jeanette, cousin Sonya and I got to fly.
I remember my early childhood being tough because I was an only child from a different country that didn't talk like the rest of the kids. I was big for my age and kind of quiet. The only way I made friends early on was through basketball and it was something that I could also play by myself.
"If I'm going to play somewhere, I want to play with the best. can only improve playing against the best competition. If I don't play a lot my freshman and sophomore years, when my time comes, I'll be ready. I have to work hard wherever I go and probably have to work a little harder at UCLA, but I'm willing to take that challenge. That's what it came down to. There's no better place in California to get exposure than at UCLA. I feel my time will come sooner or later." - Nigel Miguel, Daily News April 7, 1981
BRW: Once settled in Southern California, your athletic talents took over and in 1980-81 at Sherman Oaks Notre Dame HS, you became one of the top-recruited basketball players in the nation. At first, you were recruited by UCLA's Larry Brown, then he left and the new Bruin head coach was Larry Farmer. You verbally committed to USC, but then decided to attend UCLA. Describe your recruiting process and what were the factors that made you ultimately decide to become a Bruin?
NM: I told USC coach Stan Morrison that I would attend USC if Gary Maloncon was going there. Coach Morrison had said that USC had a verbal commitment from Gary and it would be announced in the papers sometime later that week. I remember waking one morning and my father brought the Daily News to me and the sports section had a huge headline that said "Maloncon makes decision and it's UCLA." So I followed my heart and became a Bruin. The recruiting process was very hectic, but I enjoyed the process to a point. After a while it go crazy and my mom took over telling folks I wasn't home.
"Nigel has the ball-handling skills to play in the backcourt and the quickness and leaping ability to play around the basket. We have always liked him because of his versatility. He's a winner." - UCLA head coach Larry Farmer
BRW: In your first three years at UCLA, you played forward and guard and in 1983, the Bruins advanced to the NCAA Tournament and won the Pac-10. What are your memories from your first three years at UCLA?
NM: Those first few years at UCLA were enjoyable but tough at times on the basketball court. I wasn't experiencing the type of success on the basketball court that I anticipated, but being at UCLA and experiencing the Bruin college scene was awesome.
I truly enjoyed being at UCLA, but it wasn't exactly they way I thought it would be for me in basketball. We were fairly successful, but at UCLA you're supposed to win championships. I was really scared that I would have left UCLA without leaving my mark at the University and that was unacceptable.
BRW: After your junior season, Coach Farmer was replaced by Walt Hazzard. Do you remember what your initial thoughts were entering your senior year under a new coach?
NM: I didn't know what to really expect, but I knew it was a new start. I would have an opportunity to prove myself. I did like the fact that Coach Hazzard was a former UCLA player and that he preached up-tempo basketball with a strong defensive presence.
I remember meeting him in the parking lot at UCLA with Kenny Fields and Ralph Jackson after my sophomore season. We had lost to Utah in the NCAA Tournament and everyone was pretty disappointed because we had a really good team that year. We were Pac-10 champs and then we lose in the second round of the tourney. From that first meeting, he made an impression on me as a person, but I had no idea that he would be my coach for my final year at UCLA. I always believe God puts people in your life at the perfect time. While I love and respect Coach Farmer, Coach Hazzard set the foundation for me and my adult life in the work force. Because of my senior year at UCLA, it allowed me to accomplish and experience many things. I will be always be thankful for his involvement in my basketball life.
"His best attributes are his ball-handling, passing and defense. He will be the player with the basketball when we are on offense. We expect him to have a great senior year." - UCLA head coach Walt Hazzard
Entering 1984-85 season
BRW: You were also in a new position, point guard. Describe the transition to your new placement on the court?
NM: From very early on in my basketball career I was taught by my first real coach George McDaniels, to be a complete basketball player. When Coach Hazzard said that he was going to give me the ball to run the offense, I think that he saw in me a person that was responsible, if nothing else. I think he gave each senior on the team that year some type of responsibility to improve his confidence. When he took over the job he had to rebuild our swagger, because at that point, most of his senior leadership had done nothing to be proud of on the basketball court. My father sat me down that year and told me, "This is it." We worked all summer and during the season we had early morning workouts.
There was also a family friend by the name of Marty Danzig. He and his wife, Ruth, really took an interest in me. They made sure that every NBA general manager knew the name Nigel Miguel. I got a chance to work out during the summer with Magic Johnson and Michael Cooper of the Lakers. They really gave me some extra time during that summer. So I got tutored by some of the best that summer.
BRW: Midway through the 1984-85 campaign, the Bruins lost four games in a row and were 9-11 overall. But something changed and UCLA would go onto to win 12 of the next 13 games and the school's first ever NIT championship. What were the factors involved that caused the positive turnaround?
NM: Yeah, that year started out rough because we had a tough schedule and we were just learning how to win and be a team. We had some really talented young players in Reggie Miller, Montel Hatcher, Corey Gaines and Craig Jackson. I believe that was our baptism by fire and it really hurt our chances to get into the NCAA tournament. But what it did do was it made us battle tested and at the end of the year we were playing as well as any team in the country. The turning point I think was the `SC game where we lost in quadruple overtime (80-78 in Pauley Pavilion on Feb. 28, 1985). We sat down as a unit and every man in the locker room decided that was it and things just started to fall our way. We had lost a couple of close games during the year that could have gone either way. But because we didn't believe early on in the season that we should have won, we didn't. The seniors had to start to lead and be seniors and when we did that, the younger more talented guys fell in line and followed us.
BRW: In UCLA's run to the 1985 NIT title, there were wins over Denny Crum's Louisville Cardinals and Bobby Knight's Indiana Hoosiers. What do your remember about that run to the NIT championship.
NM: That was a magical time for us as a team and me personally. I always loved playing back East. I was pumped by the fact that we were going to New York City and Madison Square Garden to play in Final Four of the NIT. When we left for New York City, Sidney Wicks told everyone on the plane, "Don't come all the way out here and embarrass yourself, your family and the University." He told us UCLA only hangs national championship banners in Pauley. He said it's bad enough that we're not in the NCAA Tournament, but if we come to the NIT and we don't win the championship, he was going to make us walk back to Los Angeles. I remember Coach Hazzard being in the pre-tournament press conference and saying that he was impressed with all the other coaches' resumes, but he was here to win the tournament. I looked at him after he made that statement and knew that I had to give my all. I remember the seniors saying that this was it for us and let's not leave anything in the chamber.
"The fire had died. I don't know why, and I don't know how to explain it. But the edge that I always had was my willingness to work harder than anyone else at basketball. After the injury I lost that. It was gone. And it was sad." - Nigel Miguel, Los Angeles Times, June 13, 1992
BRW: Although your professional basketball career was cut short because of injury, there must have been some positive elements to it. Were there some coaches and players who helped you through it all and were good influences on your life?
NM: My pro career was cut short, but I enjoyed every minute of it because it's at the top of the profession. I thank God just for the opportunity to have been drafted and being a part of the process. It was traumatic at times when I had to face reality that it was over. I really appreciate how the vets on the New Jersey Nets looked out for me when I got injured. I got a chance to meet a lot of my childhood heroes that were associated with the NBA and the brotherhood that is shared in the NBA family. Buck Williams, who was our team player representative at the time, sat me down and made it very clear to me that it was a business and that I had to handle it as such. He made sure that I was treated fairly and that everything was handled in a proper manner.
Acting and Entertainment Career
"Being out of basketball for the first time, made me realize that I hadn't been in it for the money or the fame or any of that. I realized that I just loved the game, that my pleasure was just in playing the game. But at the same time I realized all of that, I also had to deal with the idea that it was all over." - Nigel Miguel, Los Angeles Times, June 13, 1992
BRW: When and how did your interest in acting and entertainment develop?
NM: I've always had a passion for film-making. After I got injured I kind of looked around for things I could do. The film stuff kind of fell in my lap, just because I had a following from basketball and people knew me. I've always wanted to be a storyteller. I like the process of putting things together and seeing the final outcome. For whatever reason, people from the industry have come across my path and offered me opportunities to become involved in great projects. The bug bit me in high school at Notre Dame and I would see all these projects coming to our school to film. One day I asked one of the production assistants on set what he did for the film shoot and it took off from there.
BRW: Describe one of the early breaks in your acting career that was a building block for future success?
NM: I was cast in the movie Colors. I had a small part in that film. But what it allowed me to do was learn the insides of Hollywood from some big wigs. The director, Dennis Hopper, was a huge basketball fan and he took me under his wing and showed me around. I got a chance to meet Sean Penn, Robert Duvall, Damon Wayans, Don Cheadle and develop relationships with these guys. That movie, in that time of my life, was very important as far as laying the groundwork, the foundation for what I am doing now.
BRW: With supporting actor roles in films like White Men Can't Jump, Colors, and The Air Up There, what are some of your favorite memories in film?
NM: I have been very fortunate to be involved in some groundbreaking projects from feature films to TV commercials. I have worked with just about everyone in the industry. I have been fortunate to establish relationships with many of them after we finished the project. The movie industry is like that, you become a family while you are doing the production and you will always have that project to stay connected. The one thing that I take away from all the projects that I have been through is the access that you have when you are doing a film or any type of high profile production.
One example was filming with Michael Jordan on some of his Nike shots during the Bulls' run of six NBA Championships. I would be in some places that you wouldn't believe and I would have access to these places because of Michael and Nike. When we shot The Air Up There in South Africa, I was able to tour South Africa and see both sides of the country because I was there with Disney doing a movie. It was an amazing experience and this was before Nelson Mandela. The people in South Africa knew me from White Men Can't Jump and they knew about the "Dream Team". I would walk in the malls in Johannesburg and they would call out "Dwight The Flight", my character from White Men Can't Jump. It was amazing to see the power that a movie can have in a country thousands of miles away.
"The NBA is a tough business and Nigel didn't get the breaks. But he is a good man. When life puts you down, like it did to him, it's easy to stay down. Nigel has gotten back up in a big way. That doesn't always happen to people." - Charles Barkley, Los Angeles Times, June 13, 1992
BRW: Early in your career, during the filming of a Nike commercial, you became friends with college and professional basketball great Charles Barkley, now a basketball television commentator. Is Charles the down-to-earth and funny guy that he seems to be on television?
NM: Charles and I became friends the summer of my freshman year at UCLA when we played in the Sports Festival Games in Indiana. He was on the South team and he was 6-6 playing center for Auburn. We hit it off from day one and spent many nights talking about what we wanted to do in the future. If I remember correctly that year the Sports Festival was at Butler University. The dorm rooms were small compared to the Northern Suites at UCLA and that's where we first met. I made a comment about the small size of the dorm and Charles said, "All you guys from UCLA are spoiled." Over the years he has been a very close friend and someone that, whenever I see him, it's like we never were apart. Charles has the biggest heart, and he's a real good person.
BRW: You have a unique and proven professional entertainment career, both in front of the camera as an actor, and behind the camera as a producer, director and administrator. How challenging has it been to gather in all those different experiences?
NM: I was one that always wanted to know how things worked. The fact that I was around all these very talented people and they were willing to share their knowledge with me while we were on the set in exchange for a few basketball stories, was great. Basketball has truly been my biggest asset in whatever I have accomplished. The fact that I was a UCLA player would open a door for me at the strangest time. Through my relationships, I started casting and producing projects because I was able to get things done in a quick and cost effective manner. I have developed an incredible rolodex over the years and we all know how important that is in this industry. My motto for my company is that you could drop me in any part of the world and I could cast a project for you and get it produced. I have been fortunate to do production in Africa, Europe, Central America, the Caribbean and North America and it's all because of relationships.
Ambassador for Belize
"The best way to get more jobs is with businesses. And the opportunity is there for all kinds of businesses: shoe companies, computers, clothes manufacturers, everything. Belize is wide open today for entrepreneurs -- and they'll find that our prices are comparable with Taiwan or wherever. People just don't know about us, but if you come and see for yourself, you'll be glad you did." - Nigel Miguel, Los Angeles Times, Feb. 11, 1995
BRW: Your parents were from Belize, but you only lived there until you were six years old and then your family moved to Southern California. But throughout your life, Belize is a place where you have always wanted to give back, make strong and help the country grow. Tell us about your love for Belize?
NM: As a child I was very fortunate to have a strong sense of family. Whatever success I've achieved as a person has been through a group effort. Our current prime minister of Belize was a big sports fan and our games during my senior year at UCLA were televised in Belize. My grandmother used to tell me that when she saw me on the court playing for the Bruins that she could see my father out there. I tell you that just to show that everyone in Belize shared in my successes and failures. They took the ride with me every step of the way. Because of that connection I was always attached to my country, so wanting to see other young kids get the opportunity that I had was a priority. I know everyone wouldn't be as fortunate to be able to get a scholarship, but we could bring the opportunity to them and they could take advantage of it.
"I've always felt that if I was the only person that you met from Belize, I wanted that to be a positive experience and one that you keep in your mental Rolodex. So that anytime someone brought up Belize, it would bring a smile to their face." - Nigel Miguel
BRW: What were your feelings and emotions when your were named Belize's Goodwill Ambassador to the U. S. in 1994 and then in 2008, when you were appointed Belize's
NM: That was a huge accomplishment for me, because the current Prime Minister, The Honorable Dean Barrow, was the person that made the appointment on behalf of the UDP Government, which was in power then. I have always respected and admired him, so when his party chose to acknowledge what I was doing outside of Belize it really meant a lot to me. I look at what sacrifices were made for me while I was growing up and I am a product of both countries, Belize and America. My work ethics and humble beginnings come from a small country, but the opportunities and a desire to want and achieve more comes from growing up in the U.S. At a young age I was very fortunate that my parents exposed me to a lot of different things. My father Edward Miguel was a pioneer for a lot of us in my extended family. He came to the U.S. first and made it possible for his brothers and sisters to come afterwards. He was always about giving back and giving opportunities to others.
BRW: As Belize's Film Commissioner, describe some of your major accomplishments during the last three years as you've worked hard to promote the film industry in Belize?
NM: The biggest difference I feel that I have made in the industry in Belize is that now local professionals believe that we are building a real film culture here. They actually see productions coming to the country and Hollywood isn't this big mystery. We're trying to establish a level of professionalism in our country that can rival other parts of the world and we can offer it at a cheaper rate. I hope to attract international investors to look at Belize as a place to invest their money in the entertainment sector and to have a commitment for a studio by 2013.
"My life has changed over the past 20 years. I would have neverthought of me as a person tooling around in the rain forest ofBelize. I still miss Los Angeles, there's nothing like being in Westwood on a Saturday evening or driving down Sunset Blvd. But now I have the best of both worlds. My evenings now are spent in the yard with my dogs whenever time permits." - Nigel Miguel
BRW: What lies in the future for Nigel Miguel?
NM: I will continue in the entertainment industry hoping one day to have a full-fledged studio in Belize. I want to continue producing content that will bridge the cultural gap between our two countries and introduce Americans to what's going on in Belize. I will be traveling to the Middle East for a summit that UCLA's Center for Middle East Development is sponsoring to explore business opportunities through sports, media and entertainment. I was approached by a former student at UCLA Mashhour Mourad to attend the summit. I met Mashhour during my junior year at UCLA in the Wooden Center. We've kept in touch over the years and now it looks like we'll be able to do some business together in the near future.
BRW: When you think back on your Bruin years, what's the first thing that comes to your mind?
NM: When I think back on my years at UCLA I look at them with fond memories. I knew while I was going through them that I was very fortunate. People use to tell me how blessed I was and that I should enjoy my four years at the University. UCLA is and was a special place for me, because it set the foundation for what I am doing now in life. I appreciate and cherish the friends that I've made over the years and the Bruin Family has been very supportive in my endeavors over the years. Whenever I get back to Los Angeles, I try to visit the campus, just to drive through and get the wonderful feeling of seeing Pauley Pavilion and seeing the hills of Westwood. I always tell people that UCLA has one of the top five majestic campuses in the United States.