It is the continuation
of a legacy spawned by what has been far from Hip-Hop’s proudest moment. Flavor of Love gave us I Love New York, Rock of Love and Charm School,
and now the VH1 Celebreality machine has created a little brother for the MTV
From Gs to Gents brings together a group of 14 guys described as rough
around the edges, and gives them the opportunity to change their ways and
possibly earn a cash prize.
to be a Charm School experience for
the male contestants of I Love New York,
the show follows a similar premise to what comedienne MoNique did with the Flavor of Love all-stars, down to the
$100,000 prize given to the winner at the end of the season.
But these are not
guys seeking to extend their 15 minutes, having masked their desire for superstardom
by faking true love. As host Fonzworth Bentley explains, creators Jamie Foxx and
Chris Abrego were after way more than a ratings factor in televising this
and Ambassador of the Gentleman’s movement shares with us how his latest
project goes beyond entertainment.
AllHipHop.com: So how did the
show come about?
Fonzworth Bentley: Ive been turning
down reality shows, at least three a week for the last three years, because, as
far as reality, I didnt really wanna do anything unless it was going to help
somebody else. And you did the interview with me sometime back in September
about the book [Advance Your Swagger: How to Use Manners, Confidence, and Style to Get Ahead]. I had been in talks
with a few companies about developing something around the teachings of the
book, because people were excited about it and enjoyed the book, its been
I got a call from Chris Abrego, and Jamie Foxx had this idea to turn Gs
into gentlemen. And when he thought of it, he thought of me from the very
beginning. The irony of it is, hes been
wanting to do a show with me since he met me back in 2001. Its kinda funny how
six, seven years later, were finally able to make it happen, which is a
testament to having relationships and maintaining favorable relationships.
AllHipHop.com: So how closely do
the topics you visited on the show work with what you wrote about in Advance Your Swagger?
Fonzworth Bentley: It was a perfect fit with the
book, and we wrapped a lot of the things around the book. And we added other
things on to it that, not just men need to know, but that especially the men
need to know. Its basically about adding other tools to the toolbox, if you
will. Right now, if youre living in the streets, or if youre living even the
suburbs, or wherever youre living, the only way that you know to go about
getting things done or working, or moving your dream forward, let alone just
whatever you do to survive, are the only tools that you know.
Its kinda like, if you have a hammer and a wrench in your tool shed,
and thats all you got, you gon break something! So this is just adding a
drill. If you got a vise, you can cut something event straighter. So its
really about adding some different tools to these gentlemens toolboxes. Im
excited because every where I go, I would always get asked questions because
people know I started from an assistant point of view, and also I had an
incredible mentor that knows every gamete of the game. And thats why I wrote
the book. And after I wrote the book, people would say, Bentley, you really
need to do a show with this so that folks can really see this and learn. And
so I think that the show is gonna be really impactful because its like, I can
see these guys making a transformation.
It was really interesting because, you know the winner gets $100,000. The
show started out with everybody [thinking], I gotta get this $100,000. This
could change my life. And as the show progressed, it turned into, I dont
wanna leave here Bentley, because I dont wanna miss the lessons that youre
teaching us. We taught them lessons in how to dress appropriately for every
occasion, and they never really thought about it as in-depth as that. Lessons
in chivalry and gallantry. Lessons in how to put together your resumé, and how
to take the things that youve done and your work experience and make it look
the best on a resumé. How to even go
about getting an interview, a lot of folks dont know.
Etiquette, and business savvy; and theres a different type of
conversation you gotta have if youre talking to your person on the corner,
than if youre talking to the person thats in the boardroom. And nothing says
that you cant do all of that. We have living, glowing examples right now,
especially in Hip-Hop, of folks that have made that very transition. From 50
[Cent] to Jay [Z], these are prime examples of folks who have made that
AllHipHop.com: You mentioned
some of the glowing examples of how this has worked for others. And you got
some people involved to showcase that first hand, right? Master P, Irv Gotti
Fonzworth Bentley: Yeah. Master P is a
wonderful example of someone who not only started from nothing, but had a dream
to open a record store. And he named his record store No Limit! I mean, just in
the sheer idea of what he decided to name his company, folks really need to
think about when they brand and name their companies, what are they naming
their companies? He named his No Limit, and he did just that. He started with a
record store, then he did the label, then he said, I dont really need yall,
Ill sell these records on my own.
He did one of the most groundbreaking deals for Hip-Hop, and he took
the same mentality of the street and brought it to the record game. He has
upped his profile. His son did his thing. His son was an actor, and his son is
now going to USC. So Master P, I thought was the perfect person, especially
with the guys that I had on the show, he would be the perfect person to really
hit home with them.
AllHipHop.com: How did you guys
choose the contestants? Where you involved in that process?
Fonzworth Bentley: That happened before I got there. They
basically did castings nationwide. And they had people come in and a
series of questions: what they though a G was, what they thought a gentleman
was. And it wasnt just about getting people who were the most street, who were
the most G. We wanted people that not only were that, but people that really
wanted to make a change. Otherwise, they just gon be there for TV, and thats
not what we wanted to do. Thats not what this was about. We wanted people that
fundamentally wanted to make a change, but didnt have anybody to actually come
to the hood and give them those tools and give them that opportunity so that
they could learn these things.
AllHipHop.com: How much of the
development of the show did you directly have a hand in?
Fonzworth Bentley: Well, after I was
brought on, it was like, Ok, we definitely want you very much involved, we
want your voice, we want this to go the way you want. You know, keeping it
real: most reality shows, for the host, they come in and they basically [get
told], Here, we need you to hit these points, set up these challenges, and
well have you out of here by five oclock. I told them before I signed on,
Im not leaving at five oclock. Im staying here as long as I have to stay, to
make sure that they get this information. I dont wanna test these guys on this
information, if I dont fully believe that they have been taught the
information well enough to perform.
So many days, this was a good 18-20 days a lot of times, because I was
sticking around because I really cared about these guys. And most importantly,
theres no reason for anyone to want to try and work on being a better man and
work on being person or really adopting the things that were teaching if you
dont see anybody making a transformation. I was very much involved into who we
brought in to teach different lessons, so I had to make sure that we chose
We had [designer] Ozwald Boateng to come in for the fashion lesson; we
got Sean Yazbeck, who won the fifth season of The Apprentice, to teach business savvy. Heres a man who took an
opportunity of being on the show, to then working for Trump, to now having his
own enterprise. He really took that opportunity to the next level. We taught
them how to do a PowerPoint presentation, and then they pitched what they
thought would be a sound business to gentlemen out in L.A. called the Dolce
Group. You know [co-owner] Michael Malin won one of these reality shows [Big Brother], and now they have all
these hot spots all over: they have the Geisha House, Ketchup.
Thats why they were perfect, because heres somebody who was sitting
in the exact same seat that youre sitting in. He took this money and made
something out of it. He didnt just blow the money that he made. So we were
really specific in choosing that. I was really excited about the commitment
from Chris Abrego and Jamie Foxx for really making this a real thing and not
just a comedic hodgepodge, if you will.
AllHipHop.com: What are some of
the other lessons?
Fonzworth Bentley: We said fashion and
business savvy. How to interview, the importance of first impressions, being
able to learn how to adapt to different cultures a lesson in diction and
grammar, because we get so comfortable in how we talk. We had one gentleman who
had never left Miami in his life. That plane flight to L.A. was the first time
he left Miami. He aint been to Tampa. If youre in your environment like that,
you talk how you talk all of the time. Its about expanding your vocabulary.
We literally went through 10 weeks of lessons and challenges. And the
good news is, Ive already gotten calls and emails from the guys. One of the
gentlemen, he called me on the cell phone and told me, Bentley, I went for an
interview to be a waiter. I dressed appropriately and I had my resume together.
And because of how I presented myself, he told me they made him a shift
manager, and he was like, This stuff is real! Now you know the economy that
were in right now. Thats an extra couple dollars plus responsibility in a
starting position, just off the things that he learned on the show. So that
made me proud. Some of the gentlemen, theyve gotten into school.
AllHipHop.com: At the same time,
everything doesnt always take. Are there people that you felt were unable or
unwilling to take what you were giving them? Or even guys who you felt were
just there for TV?
Fonzworth Bentley: Nah, those guys
were gone the first episode. As soon as they walked in the house, you see what
that is, and they exposed themselves. And I think that from that, even they
learned. Like, Wow. I just walked in the house. Heres a wonderful
opportunity, not only to learn something, but to win $100,000 and to learn from
someone that I know is a student of the game and has advanced his swagger. And
I dont got kicked out the house on the first day. I will never mess up an
opportunity like this again. So no matter which way you do it, its a learning
AllHipHop.com: What was the most
challenging thing about the whole set up for you?
Fonzworth Bentley: To be perfectly
honest, the most challenging thing was to see certain guys, who because of the
way their personality was, it would hold him back. There were certain guys who
really were listening to lessons, would perform well in the challenge, but
because they had bad attitudes, and because of ego, it would hold them back. That
was really frustrating.
There were people on the show who had been fired from every job because
of violence. So its like, Brother, when youre messing up, its affecting you!
Youre hurting yourself. I can see you at the end, and look at you: youre
messing this up because of a simple thing. What good is it to take it to that
level with another man? Thats what this whole thing was about: you can have
fisticuffs going mind to mind. And its like the reality is, every person who
got on this show learned that its actually very easy to be a G, but it takes a
lot more effort to be a gentleman.
AllHipHop.com: Do you feel like
you guys did a good job of showing them the value of putting that effort in?
Fonzworth Bentley: Yeah. And thats
why I said, the one payoff was the $100,000. But then it was about, Wow, Im
learning things here from experts, and Im enjoying learning it, and this is
stuff that I really need to learn and things that I really need to know. A lot
of these guys had kids. So its like, you gotta step your game up not just for
yourself, but for your little one. And you know that this is stuff that you
need to not only have for yourself, but you need to be passing down to your
little one. And thats something that they never could deny.
AllHipHop.com: Were you involved
with the editing process to? Because a lot of people who appear on reality
shows complain about the fact that the shows are edited to make them appear a
certain way. And for all of you and Jamies best intentions, theres still
someone out there whos wanting to make it good TV
Fonzworth Bentley: Well, I can tell
you that one of the things that I said was that I wanted this show to be real.
And a lot of that has to do with the way that I conducted myself. And if I
really came from a real, teachable spirit; all of the guests came from a real,
teachable spirit and not really tryna lame folks out, then its gonna happen. People
had real transformations. Thats whats gonna make this a really good show. It
aint just about the quick joke. These folks are really going through real
Thats why I think people are gonna turn in, because theyre gonna really
get into these guys. There were guys I couldnt stand. I was like, I want him
off right now. And then within another week, I really liked the guy and I was
like, this is a night and day. Because I think a lot of the things that we put
them through and challenged them on, it really helped to turn them inside out,
so to speak. There were some folks, it was rehab for them. There were folks who
came in the house that were addicted to drugs. Hard stuff.
AllHipHop.com: How did yall
deal with that?
Fonzworth Bentley: Well, they cant
get none. Theyre locked in this house. But there were people that stopped
smoking in here. And it was amazing, because it wasnt that we made them stop.
It started to be about, you need to be a better person and you know why. You got
somebody back home thats looking up to you. Thats rooting for you to be
better. You cant lose here. Its too much to lose. And I would be very blunt
and very forthright in highlighting there lives to them. I think what its
really gonna be, is its gonna be some balance in the industry, and its gonna
be balance for television.
AllHipHop.com: Would you do it
Fonzworth Bentley: Oh, I cant wait to
do it again, because this is really something that Ive already been doing.
Since my book came out, my goal has been to talk to 80 different schools in two
years. Im at 65.
AllHipHop.com: Wow! And it
hasnt been a year yet!
Fonzworth Bentley: Well, I started
before the book came out. Because I had been writing and drafting, and it takes
four months to print a book. So I started before the book came out. I targeted
a lot of single-gender schools. Ive been everywhere from Harvard to the
Wharton Business School at [University of] Pennsylvania, to Morehouse, Spelman
and Clark. Ive gone to speak to students because a lot of these students are
coming out of school, but theyre not getting the information that they need
for the real world, and thats what I found has been missing.
Even at the high school and middle school level, theres a couple of
school that have been adopting it as part of their curriculum. So this is
something that Im about. And thats what my whole mission is. Even with the
music, the whole Cool Outrageous Lovers Of Uniquely Raw Styles [C.O.L.O.U.R.S.],
this is a new school. Knowing how to treat a lady is cool. Knowing how to get
dressed up for every occasion is cool. Being a gentleman is cool.
You know just as well as I do, there are folks who grew up in middle
class neighborhoods, who try to act like they thugs because they think that
theyre gonna get accepted in Hip-Hop. And then theyre getting called out
cause folks who from they hood say, He wasnt like that. He never been like
that. But youre already seeing: the gentlemens movement is here, and its
about to be full pedal to the metal. And Im talking about the pedals on the
Oh, and theres a G in gentleman. A true gentleman is someone whos
classy, someone whos chivalrous, but somebody who can be themselves in all
social situations, and can adapt. Thats a gentleman. So you dont have to lose
your G. And that was the whole thing about the show. I didnt wanna take away
the things that innately made each individual who they are. I just wanted to
give them some other tools, which would give them some other options, to then
be able to expand their territory.
AllHipHop.com: So give us some
tips for Gs who want to follow you into the Gentlemens Movement.
Fonzworth Bentley: If only people
around your way understand what you’re saying when you speak, dont talk louder! You need to better
If you buy XXL shirts, and you weigh 140 pounds, and you’re taller than
four feet, that aint your size.
Stand up! Offer your seat to the older person getting on the bus. That’s
right – hold the handle bar for a senior.
If you hear “nice gators” and your wearing flip-flops, buy a
If everyone at Starbucks knows that you’re behind on your rent, you’re talking
too loud on your cell phone.
Profanity is overrated; if you don’t believe me, let one out around
your grandma, then brace for the Rick Flare chop!
If all else fails, do whatever Obama does…