Achieving fame at a young age is not easy, but for Annapolis resident Dylan Gilmer—now best known to audiences as the titular character on Young Dylan, being in the limelight hasn’t changed who he is.
He might be a rap artist, an actor and a celebrity personality, but as far as he’s concerned, he’s just a normal 11-year-old kid.
“My proudest moment is the way Dylan handles his success and his new fame, I guess you would say,” says Gilmer’s mom, DeAundra DeJesus. “He’s a great kid, he’s a humble kid, he’s a respectful kid. He has manners. He hasn’t let this process stress him out. He’s adjusted well to everything.”
Gilmer rose to fame at age 6 when a video of his rapping went viral. Under the stage name Young Dylan, he reached celebrity status on Instagram and YouTube. He became a recurring guest on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, as well as a performer at the NBA All-Star Weekend and on America’s Got Talent.
But it was his appearances on Ellen that caught the attention of Tyler Perry, who started to develop a show based on the pint-sized performer. “I love creating comedy television and can’t wait to work with the talented Young Dylan,” says Perry, who is collaborating with Nickelodeon for the first time with this series.
In the show, Young Dylan goes to live with his affluent uncle (Carl Anthony Payne II), aunt (Mieko Hillman) and cousins (Celina Smith, Hero Hunter). What follows is a classic clash of cultures as the rising young hip-hop star adapts to living in their strait-laced household.
“It’s a family-fun show and brings back memories of good times,” Gilmer says. “It has a Fresh Prince of Bel Air vibe.”
Adapting from his life in Annapolis to life on a TV studio set brought many changes—and some homesickness—but Gilmer has adjusted well and made many new friends. His full day usually begins with arriving at the studio at 9 a.m. so that filming can start around 10. By 3:00 p.m., filming has wrapped up for the day, when the kids go to lunch and then to school for a few hours. In the evening, Gilmer goes over the scripts for the next day.
“It’s been stressful at times, but exciting more than stressful,” says DeJesus, who has been around for the whole process, although she says it didn’t feel real until she saw the premiere on TV. “I’ve heard positive feedback from friends, everyone in the Annapolis area. Everyone is excited for him. Everyone has been saying, ‘I knew this would happen.’ . . . They didn’t know when, but they all saw Dylan doing this.”
Gilmer’s success also brings a lot of pride to his community at Germantown Elementary, where he was a student since pre-K. “Dylan is a genuine, considerate and caring student,” says music teacher Diana McLoud. “He has a unique way of using his leadership qualities to ensure everyone around him is included and successful.”
Kristin Barrett, who taught Gilmer last year in fourth grade, echoed McLoud’s sentiment. “Despite his fame, while in school, he cared more about his math problems than his upcoming Ellen appearances,” she says. “He spoke more about his weekend football games than his trip to the NBA All-Star Game. While very motivated in his career, above all, Dylan wanted to fit in and be a typical fourth-grader.”
DeJesus says this down-to-earth spirit has always come naturally to her son. “I just instill in him respect for himself and for others,” she says. “Remain humble. Treat others as you would want them to treat you and remember your manners.”
And Gilmer is grateful that his friends in Annapolis see him this way. “They treat me as a normal person,” he says. “They knew me before I was going on Ellen, so they just know me as regular Dylan.”
Now that cast and crew are breaking between shooting seasons, Gilmer is taking the chance to work on his music. His fans from Annapolis can tune in to catch Season 1 of Young Dylan on Saturdays at 8:30 p.m. on Nickelodeon. As for advice he offers to his peers who also want to pursue show business? Gilmer encourages them to believe in themselves and never give up. “I would tell them you can do anything you put your mind to,” he says. “It just takes hard work and determination.”
Photo: Chip Bergmann, Copyright 2020 Tyler Perry Studios