Nick Cannon’s Teenage Dreams

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Mr. Cannon’s entertainment industry journey began early: he grew up in San Diego and Charlotte, N.C. (Dad was a televangelist), getting his start in local talent shows. After making San Diego his permanent home at 15, he began auditioning and was eventually cast on All That, sort of an SNL-for-kids, that still has numerous admirers. “At the time I thought I was too old to be on there, because there were younger cast members,” he said. “I was 18. Looking back, it was the perfect age.”

There are those to wonder if, at 30, he isn’t a little young to be the face of a network. Last year, to retaliate for the rapper Eminem’s various attacks on Ms. Carey’s virtue, Mr. Cannon released a comedy single under the persona “Slick Nick,” which included the lyric, “I dunno if I should hit him cuz he’s feminine, Slick / Excuse me, Eminem, but why you lyin’ on your dick?” Around the same time, he Tweeted that late-night host Chelsea Handler was “white trash” and “looks like she got hit in the face with a hot bag [of] nickels.” These are not the kind of comments that are likely to get someone a HALO award nomination.

Mr. Cannon was asked about such unguarded moments. “I think that’s part of life,” he said. “There’s a difference between my occupation and who I am. But it’s always from respect and positivity. I don’t attack people, but I stand up for what I believe in. And I think that’s what we teach our viewers. From Degrassi to the HALO Awards, everything represents using your voice to stand up for what you believe in.”

Mr. Cannon often finds himself standing up for Ms. Carey and their relationship. When we ventured that many observers found the pair’s 2008 wedding surprising due to an 11-year age difference and a certain perception of Mr. Cannon’s role, he finished our sentence. “Errand boy?” he said.

He chalked up the misconception to “everything from my youthful exuberance—the fact that I look young—to the fact that people think I don’t deserve to be in certain situations.” As for tabloid rumors: “It’s so damaging to their own credibility. It’s so untrue—to me, obviously untrue—if it seemed like a possibility that I could be a womanizer or my wife could be overpowering—all that stuff is so ridiculous to me.” (Mr. Cannon is somewhat reticent about his personal life these days, having perhaps learned a hard lesson about acting out a romance in the public sphere: in October 2007, he and his then-fiancée, Victoria’s Secret model Selita Ebanks, broke up just five months after he broadcast his proposal to her on the giant MTV Networks Times Square Jumbotron.)