Social Work: Terrence J On Paying it Forward
JET is introducing a new segment with Social Work, which highlights the philanthropic efforts of celebrities and public figures. Through this feature, we’ll bring you the action behind the cameras.
TV personality and actor, Terrence J, has worked the entertainment industry for 10 solid years, making his first introduction in the homes of many youth while co-hosting 106 & Park on BET alongside Rocsi Diaz.
Since his days at BET, Terrence has navigated his career into acting roles, starring in notable films like Think Like A Man and Think Like A Man Too, in addition to a stint on BET’s The Game and most recently, a cameo in Entourage, the movie. Currently, Terrence J serves as co-host on E! News, but the New York-bred, 33-year-old is molding an even deeper meaning for his celebrity with selfless efforts of giving back.
On April 24, a week following his birthday, the 2004 graduate of North Carolina A&T State University gifted his Alma mater with a $100,000 donation that also included a day of networking and professional development at the university. But Terrence’s efforts go further than the dollar.
In this inaugural feature, Terrence breaks down the importance of positively shaping the next generation, his work with the White House and using his platform to breed future leaders and build opportunities.
JET: With all of the work that you do off-camera, in what ways do you see the selflessness of giving back shaping the next generation?
Terrence J: I’m very grateful and just humble. It’s been [more than] a 10-year journey and I’m just appreciative of all the people that have supported and helped me along my path. So I think giving back, whether it’s your time, financial or any capacity, any way that you can give back is really important. It’s all about paying it forward and I just want to be able to help the next generation have some of the same opportunities I had.
JET: Speaking of your journey, I understand that you faced some challenges along the way. During that time period, what did you learn about yourself that you’re able to pass along to others while working in the community?
Terrence J: The first thing is to just not give up, you know. There’s a difference between those who are successful, those who make it and those that don’t — and that’s sheer will. If you listen to Jay-Z tell his story, he shares this quote that I love “The greatest thing that we did, is we didn’t give up.” Especially in the entertainment industry, there’s really no linear blueprint to success. If you wanted to be a lawyer or a doctor, you kind of follow a blueprint. There’s certain classes you have to take, degrees you have to get…there’s a path. In my field, there is no clear path. The path that Will Smith took is different from the path that Diddy took which is different from the path that Oprah took. But the one common denominator is that none of them gave up. So no matter how hard the path is, it’s just having the will and not giving up on what your dreams are.
JET: From hosting 106 & Park to now being on E! News, acting…you’ve even expanded your career to authorship. You’re showing young men that there are cool and positive men of color. Let’s explore the relationship between you and your mother and how that’s helped shape you into the man you’ve become.
Terrence J: My mother was very influential in my life. She had me at a very young age so I got to really watch things from a different perspective and I never had a chance to meet my biological father, but I’ve always been very protective of her. When I think back on the wisdom that she’s given me, especially after having me so young, and the things that she had to go through, it just made me more motivated. There’s some people who might look at the fact that they never met their dad, their mom had them young and they can look at that as a disadvantage or “Woe is me. I didn’t grow up like everybody else, I grew up on welfare.”
I’ve always looked at it like, “Ok, this makes me work harder and this gets me more motivated to go after my goals.” It’s all [about] how you mentally position things. You feeling sorry for yourself and looking at the world like it’s against you, then the world will be against you and you’ll continue to feel sorry for yourself. I’ve tried to look at everything from hardships at work, hardships at relationships, hardships at health issues – anything that comes along like “Why is this happening and how I can learn from it and be a better person from the things that I go through?” That’s something that my mom always instilled in me. So that would be my biggest takeaway to people is we all get dealt a different hand in life and it’s on you how you decide to live with the cards you’ve been dealt.
JET: Do you have an idea of some projects or things that you want to do for the community?
Terrence J: I’ve been working a lot with the White House on a program called “My Brother’s Keeper” and I think with everything that’s been happening in the country for a while now, more than anything, it’s about helping our young brothers and sisters. So I’ve been volunteering more, doing outreach and going into more communities and schools. It’ not just about giving money and cutting a check and sitting in the Ivory tower and having nothing to do with it. When I meet a young, 17 or 16 year-old skinny Black kid like myself, I want him to know that you can come from anywhere, be from any socio-economic background and you can still follow your dreams – whatever they might be.
JET: I know you’re on a tight schedule, but I definitely want to make sure we let readers know where they can see you next and what projects you have in the works.
Terrence J: You know, being a producer and getting behind the camera is a big goal of mine and a big focus for me right now at this point in my career. I am currently working on my next film. I’m in pre-production for a movie I’ll be starring in and producing. We’ll be announcing that soon. We have a lot of fun things happening for the summer and with the show. So I’m excited about that as well.