Nick Cannon has succeeded as a stand-up comic, a rapper and a host. Married to
Mariah Carey, he is the dad of twins, and he develops shows for Nickelodeon.
He couldn't cut it as a gang member.
"Whatever side was winning at the time, that is where I wanted to belong to," Cannon tells
Growing up in tough neighborhoods in southeast San Diego, "it was so easy to start dressing like them and speaking like them," he says. "A couple of confrontations with rival gang members, our parties getting shot up, and getting into several fights - this is not what I signed up for."
Cannon's turning point was when friends started getting arrested or killed.
"I got hospitalized a couple of times," he says. "This isn't for me. I still have scar tissues on my nose from it getting broken. You know what? I will pass."
He had already tested himself as a comic, trying out gags on his father's local-access cable televangelist show at 11. Cannon's entry into show business was telling mild jokes about Jesus.
He tries recalling what he joked about: "You know, silly things -- him walking on his bath water."
At 17, Cannon left San Diego and went to Hollywood. Despite his achievements, Cannon says he never really sees himself as having huge successes.
"I still don't feel I have made it," Cannon says. "My wife is a star. She has made it. I am a working entertainer. She is a superstar. What is 'made it'? This business works in cycles. You can have the highest Q rating (how well people know a personality or brand) and people recognize you on Tuesday, and when Thursday comes around you are back looking for your next gig."