Class was definitely in session at Morgan State University's 1st Annual Men's Expo, where the male student population was schooled and quizzed by some of the campuses male educators on how to properly groom and conduct oneself in a professional work setting.
As students learned the differences between side-vented and back-vented suits, and convertible collared and french-cuffed shirts, the officiators continued to pump out gentlemanly instructions on how-to shave, select a cologne, tie a tie (yes, a bowtie and necktie), and how-to walk like a man/talk like a man.
(Expo instructors & male students)
And, in order to help affirm and solidify the reasons why men should institute a life-long practice of being well-groomed, Mr. Fonzworth Bentley was brought in as a guest speaker.
(Fonzworth Bentley signing autographs)
When one thinks of Fonzworth Bentley, an umbrella is usually the first thing that comes to mind... quickly followed by an "oh yeah" thought, which recalls him having once been the personal valet of media mogul Sean P. Diddy Combs. But, the fact that the umbrella -nowadays- comes to mind first, lets us know that Bentley was never really just a lowly manservant; his ability to brand himself in such a grand (and may we add, dapper), manner shows us that hard work does indeed pay off.
Bentley, whose real name is Derek Watkins, hails from Atlanta, Georgia and is an alumni of Morehouse College; he holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology, and was once employed at a Polo store in Atlanta. Watkins was eventually offered a job at Polo in New York City, which he quickly accepted as a means to pursue his big dreams of becoming an entertainer. Watkins not only found himself in the big apple, but he also found opportunity after opportunity, which lead him to his most famous gig, working with Diddy. After telling his family that he was ready for the big leagues, he jokes that his family didn't take him seriously and thought he was crazy, but he also tells of how his "solid" southern upbringing helped to prepare him for that next level. In describing a place like New York, Watkins says, "You gotta act like you're the man before you've done nothing!" He also adds that, "if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere."
Always thinking on the bright side and full of comedy, Watkins entertained us with one if his many NYC stories, this particular adventure involving his attendance at the famed VH1/Vogue Fashion Awards (without an invitation, lol). Watkins attended the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York and having heard of the awards show coming to town, he proclaimed, "don't nobody like music and fashion more than me, how come nobody told me about the awards?!" Soon after finding out about the awards, he had no idea on how he was going to get in, but he arose that morning determined to be in attendance; he trekked to the awards location, scoped out the area, and proceeded to do what only he could do. Watkins says, "I walked up to the front desk and the woman asked me did I have my credentials, and I didn't know what a credential was!" Instead of him lying about being on the list or being someone else, he was honest about the situation and was granted a credential to enter the venue. He says, "it was the first time I'd ever seen a red carpet," a fitting introduction to a world that he would one day be a part of.
Fast forward to present day, Watkins has produced an enviable résumé, having appeared on television (Late Night with Conan O'Brien, 2008), and film (Fat Albert, 2003. Idlewild, 2006), he was also a featured artist on Outkast's Speakerboxxx/The Love Below album, and has produced his own music which includes the cult favorite "Everybody" (featuring a guest appearance by Kanye West, André 3000, et al.).
In addition, Watkins is the host of MTV's hit reality-tv show From G's to Gents, which is probably his most personal public venture because he's helping to affect change "hands-on." Watkins claims that he'd received calls to do a reality show "...all the time!," but decided on doing G's because it was an opportunity to give back and positively shape the lives of young men who are at-risk.
With his own etiquette book to boot, Advance Your Swagger: How to Use Manners, Confidence and Style to Get Ahead (Villard, 2007.), Watkins enjoys giving advice and wants to help all men -and women- achieve their own level of excellence; albeit one might equate swagger with success, Watkins begs to differ, he says, "excellence is better than success," because excellence requires you to go above and beyond... and he wants to remind us that we are no longer just competing against each other -as Americans- for places in the world, but we are competing globally, which means that everyone has to step their game up in order to achieve excellence.
On the book's title, Watkins proclaims, "I had decided to use the term swagger long before it became popular...," and right he is; his book was published in 2007, a full two years before anybody was swag surfing! According to wikipedia.org, swagger -or swag- is a term for style, manners, or a self-confident, proud walk. Overall, if we were to equate any adjectives to our encounter with Mr. Bentley, they would most definitely include humility, charm, wit, and determination... and let us not forget, man, he got that swag!!!
Ultimately, Watkins wants young people to understand that no matter what their upbringing, everybody can amount to something great in their lifetime, he quotes the words of another Morehouse alum, the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” By chance, if Fonzworth Bentley should teach another crash course in advancing one's swagger... sign us up!
(Fonzworth Bentley -center- with FAM Male Models & Executive Board Members)
www.morgan.edu, www.morehouse.edu, www.wikipedia.org, www.youtube.com
As if it weren't exciting enough to find a Black model gracing the cover of any national, print publication (at any time throughout the year), this month's Teen VOGUE magazine features not one, but two ethnic women on its cover... nodding to the fact that enough -biased attitudes towards Black models- is enough.
(Teen VOGUE- November 2009 Cover. Jourdan Dunn & Chanel Iman, Photographed by Patrick Demarchelier)
Cover girls Chanel Iman and Jourdan Dunn (both now moving past their formative "it" girl statuses), have been breaking down beauty barriers within the fashion industry for some years now, and they currently share the stage as the 'supermodels of the moment.'
(Iman & Dunn)
Each young woman is beautiful and unique in her own right -Dunn with her British roots and caramel-colored complexion, and Iman with her iconic name and multi-racial heritage; both take their cues from the legendary Black models that have preceded them, i.e. the late Naomi Sims, Beverly Johnson, Tyra Banks, et al. (the latter of whom allowed Iman to be a guest judge on her hit reality tv show America's Next Top Model).
(Dunn & Iman)
In conjunction with the countless runway appearances and magazine editorials, both girls have recently garnered major success as individual brands, bankrolling thousands of dollars in the process; Iman (this being her second Teen VOGUE cover), is now a spokesmodel for Victoria's Secret,
(Teen VOGUE- February '08 Cover. Karlie Kloss, Chanel Iman & Ali Michael, Photographed by Patrick Demarchelier)
...and Dunn -reportedly- became a spokesmodel for Maybelline. Moreover, Dunn made history last year as the first Black model -in 10 years, since Naomi Campbell- to walk the runway for Prada (further news of Dunn has surfaced, confirming that she is pregnant and expecting her first child in December).
(Dunn, age 19)
All in all, the Iman-Dunn cover feat has been long overdue in the eyes of many fashionistas, and although some may say it's only as good as it lasts, this actually isn't the first time either woman has graced the cover of a major magazine -including VOGUE.
(US VOGUE- May '07 Cover. Group photo w/Chanel Iman atop the second ladder, Photographed by Steven Meisel)
(US VOGUE- May '09 Cover. Group photo w/Jourdan Dunn amidst the second page, Photographed by Steven Meisel)
Even as we, here at STYLE101: prepare our own monthly magazine, we don't mind advocating and promoting the countless other fashion titles that educate readers and support creative progression... because regardless of color, the fact of the matter is, we're all in the same gang!!!
(Iman & Dunn)
www.teenvogue.com, www.style.com/vogue, www.google.com