The velvet voice you hear chiming in on 104.1 KRBE’s The Roula & Ryan Show may sound mild-mannered, but underneath that smooth persona, Ahmad Wilson is exploding with excitement that his career dream is now a reality—something that he’s been working toward since his years as a communications student at the University of Houston.
“I would do CoogTV, which I loved, as well as Cougar radio, which feels like a full-circle moment now that I’m at KRBE,” says Wilson, now an assistant producer for the media outlet. “I loved having my own show on Coog Radio. That was one of the best things I feel like I’ve ever done while in school. It was a time for me to have fun and make playlists. I would play house music, and music performed by queer legends. The experience gave me the freedom to play around, and I try to do that now with KRBE, even though things are a little bit more corporate.”
Representation in media is something Wilson recognizes as important to the queer community. It’s also something he understands as a Black media personality.
“You often hear people say ‘I’m queer before I’m Black’ or ‘I’m Black before I’m queer.’ I tried to find a place where both identities can coexist.” —Ahmad Wilson
“You often hear people say ‘I’m queer before I’m Black’ or ‘I’m Black before I’m queer.’ I tried to find a place where both identities can coexist,” he says. “Obviously, when people first see me, they see I’m Black. But being gay? That’s a part of my identity too, and so it’s always important to make sure both identities are being seen on my terms.”
That duality is something that Wilson has experienced since childhood. “The teachers always had us research someone for Black History Month. Most people will pick Martin Luther King Jr. or someone they see on a suggested list, but I would always find myself digging deep for the queer people in Black history,” says Wilson. “I always feel like Black History Month has given me the opportunity to get more in touch with queer people involved in the civil-rights movement.”
Now that Wilson has access to the microphone, he is using his platform as a way to show the kind of representation he feels is impactful for the queer community.
“I remember being a closeted gay kid in middle school, and I would hear Elvis Duran talk about his boyfriend and their life together. That meant so much to me,” he says. “Back in the day, people felt like they had to hide their queerness. I wanted it to be known that I was getting on the air for everyone, from the young queer kid to the grown folks who are still in the closet, to let them know that it is OK and normal to be a part of this community.”
Now that he has solidified his footing at the radio station, he says there are parts of the job that he absolutely loves.
“Hands down, I love doing Roula & Ryan’s Roses. The reaction people give is always so wild,” he says about the popular segment where the radio hosts attempt to catch cheaters stepping outside the boundaries of their relationship. “You want to be gentle, because these are people’s relationships here, and it is the most cringe-worthy thing I’ve ever done in my radio career, but it was incredible to see the people commenting and laughing.”
Scandals aside, he is grateful for another aspect of KRBE: he did not have to forge his own path on the airwaves as an openly gay man. Another notable openly gay radio personality, Special K, has worked for the same station for several years before Wilson joined the team.
“I remember the first time I hung out with Special K outside of the show. He showed me the most amazing time,” Wilson recalls. “He’s the gay elder at work, and he calls me his baby.”
The two have a special bond that transcends their age difference, especially when it comes to pop culture references.
“One day he was talking about Lisa Lisa, and I asked if she was from the ‘80s,” jokes Wilson. “Special K rolled his eyes and said that there was so much for him to teach me. From then on, he started sharing cool playlists with me and teaching me about music. He’s great.”
When not keeping the radio station afloat or causing consternation with Special K, Wilson has a few hobbies that fill his free time.
“I’ve recently been trying to learn chess, even though I’m more of a checkers person. I feel like it helps me think ahead in my regular life, because with chess, you’ve got to think ‘Plan for the next move,’” he says. “I love going to concerts, and I love to cook. I really love cooking Asian food. My boyfriend is from Africa, so he’s been teaching me how to make a lot of African dishes, too.”