Tyrese Gibson is one of those guys who you know where they stand — and usually it's on the progressive side of things. Recently he's been making headlines for being pretty outspoken about the Oscars and its lack of minority inclusion. Prior to the awards, he, among others, asked for Chris Rock to step down from his duties as host due to the #OscarsSoWhite controversy. Rock did not oblige and ended up taking it a step further by doing a monologue during the ceremony that had people either for the shade he slang at the Academy or against what he had to say by questioning his taste. Tyrese ended up once again at odds with CR and blasted him on Instagram shortly after.
Now, for the first time, the actor/musician is speaking out and expanding on his displeasure for Chris Rock's actions during the Oscars. Originally he criticized the comedian's jokes about Jada Pinkett Smith's boycott of the ceremony, saying it "f**ked up" his night. During an exclusive interview with BET.com, Tyrese further expanded on his feelings about that night and how he's fed up with Hollywood's racism.
Also during the interview, TG opened up about his love for his community. Signing on with Coca-Cola's Pay It Forward program, he's been able to give back. Recently his foundation, along with Coke, awarded a Compton teen $50,000 to help pay for his higher education. And it sounds like a smart investment too as he's already getting straight A's at Atlanta's Morehouse College. Ty made it a point to differentiate between donating money and "giving back." To him, giving back is all about getting involved. He knows what it's like to be given a shot, and that's what he's been doing in his community for years.
What made you want to get involved with the Pay It Forward program?
It caters to single mothers — and single dads, for that matter — but mainly single mothers. Most single mothers have these visions and goals to want to put their kids in college and this sponsorship won’t put you throughout college, but it’s a start. We have about 25 kids that we want to select to win this sponsorship and I think it’s a really good thing. For me, Coca-Cola paid if forward for me. They changed my life forever from like seeing a 16-year-old kid born and raised in Watts and saying I see the value in you. Let me give you a shot and gave me an opportunity to be in that Coke commercial and it changed my life forever.
I’ve been wanting to get back in business with my original family and we were able to do it this way. My life is changed all over again, I feel, in being involved. I said to them, "One would assume I want to be involved for me, but I want to use my relationship with Coke and pay it forward [and] impact other lives." That’s why I did the Coke commercial with Gabi Wilson. Everything that I’m doing at this point is shedding light on gifted and talented people that I feel wouldn’t have a shot otherwise.
You mention being from Watts, your foundation recently awarded $50,000 to a Compton teen to help pay for his higher education. Compton, as you know, is a crazy place to grow up for so many. What did it mean for you to do that?
Lorenzo, he’s just a special kid, man. There’s some people that just generally want to put people through college and spend money on this and just say, “I just want to make a difference, I don’t care who the money goes to.” I was moved by him specifically. He is just a smart, good kid and he’s ambitious and he’s focused and he’s driven and I was like, “I don’t care what it takes. I got to put this kid in college.” He had already registered and he had been waiting to find out if he would be approved for a college loan. He was like, “I’m supposed to be leaving in two weeks.” I met him on Instagram and all of these motivational and inspirational videos that I do, he was doing the same thing. People started tagging me, saying, “You got to check out this kid, man. He’s like a little baby Tyrese. He’s out here trying to motivate and inspire people.”
Here this guy is, living in Compton, single mom, don’t have a dollar to his name and all he’s doing is grabbing whatever inspiration inside of him to try to impact and change people’s lives. And so I said, “You know what? I want to meet up with him.” I invited him to my house. He came by himself and I just was like, you know what? You’re supposed to be leaving in two weeks. This is what really happened, and I’ve never shared this story and I don’t mind you printing this because this is going to be very powerful to your readers.
In Compton, they were doing something called 100 Days and 100 Nights of Murder. It’s all over the Internet, you can Google it. And he lives in Compton, and basically anybody that’s in the city had it coming. I don’t think they ended up doing it but there was at least maybe a week or two into this concept of 100 Days and 100 Nights of Murder in Compton. I met this kid and I basically told him, “Go get your stuff, come to the house. You’re going to be staying at my house, in my guest house in the back.” And then I’m going to put you through college. So he went from my house to Atlanta Morehouse and now he’s an A+ student and he’s killing the game.
In a climate where a lot of young people still don’t have much opportunity, particularly in urban communities, how important is it for those with resources, not just yourself, reach out to them?
It’s very important. Here’s the thing: when it comes to giving back people unfortunately heavily associate giving back to cutting a check. Giving back is doing something. Stepping in. Having those conversations. Mediating gang truces. Trying to get some dialogue and energy going to stop innocent people from being killed or stop anybody from being killed in general. [Lorenzo] was stressed. He was sad. He was very frustrated. He was really feeling like college was about to start and had not gotten a response that they were going to accept me and give me a college loan. I said, how much is it going to cost? He told me. So I said, “Man, it’s no way that you’re not going to go to college.” So I made it happen proudly. So that’s what it’s about.
My relationship with Coca-Cola changed my life forever. it’s my original family. 20 years ago I stepped onto that bus for that Coke commercial. Everything I do. Everything I stand for, sometimes very controversial, lot of social media because I’m very vocal about how I feel and there’s enough people out here that are false prophets. There are enough people out here that are way bigger than me as far as celebrity and star status. I never claim to be the biggest star, but for you to sit on your hands and privately complain, and when someone steps out there, you’re privately calling and supporting, you’re privately texting them and supporting them but you’re not willing to go public with it. We’re living in a very selfish world and you would watch your America crash and burn than to be willing to step up and do something and say something because you’re concerned about backlash and popping sh*t in your comments.
I don’t remember the last time I lost sleep over a hater because I walk and I live in my truth and that’s just what it is. No one can say that I’m a bad person with ill will or negative intentions toward anybody. If there’s a difference in opinion, you have yours and I have mine, but we’re going to have a dialogue about it and get to the bottom of it.
Do you see yourself in a lot of these at-risk kids?
Every bit of it. My biggest fear is the day that I’m out of touch. My biggest fear is the day I’m so isolated from my world I lose touch with the reality of what’s really going on in these streets all day everyday. That’s literally my biggest fear: the day that I’m not relatable. The day people like, “Yo, you so big time, you’re so famous I can’t even relate to you because I come from that. That’s who I am and that’s who I stand for. Kendrick Lamar, Dr. Dre, Tyrese — we’re all from the same hood. All of that’s us. We walk those streets we went to those elementary and high schools. We know those teachers. We know those people who work in the cafeteria. That’s our hood. Those are our blocks. Those are our streets. Whether we winning Grammys or we got millions in the bank account or not. That’s the fiber of who we are. Ice Cube. That’s who we are.
Did you get a chance to see Viceland’s Bompton series on Kendrick Lamar and Compton?
No, I didn’t unfortunately.
It’s pretty dope if you get a chance to peep it. But anyway, you recently made it known that you weren’t happy with what Chris Rock said in his opening Oscars monologue, particularly about Jada Pinkett Smith’s Oscars boycott. You were happy about Leonardo DiCaprio finally winning, though. Could you maybe expand on that a little bit beyond just the Instagram video you posted?
Yeah. Well this would be my first interview about it. So I’ll just say this: I don’t have a racist bone in my body. I know more white people than most white people. I proudly have close to 50 multi-ethnic, sharp and brilliant minds — gay, straight, white, Black, Latino, Asian, you name it — they all work for Voltron Entertainment. I think the days of blatant racism is over. I can’t stand it. It’s sickening to my stomach, and I feel — and this is my position — that African-American people of influence, if you don’t have a position a position will be introduced to you. If you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything and this is not white versus Black. This is about us saying, “Our dollars matter, our presence matter, our contributions matter,” and if you get sucked into somebody else’s matrix then you’re going to lose your position and you’re going to lose your value.
On a movie set — and you should look this up — you have people that do a job, which is called, they’re prop masters. They’re prop masters. Prop masters provide necklaces or glasses or if you’re wearing a watch in a movie or a TV show scene they provide all of your props. You go see the prop department to get all of your clothes and your gear in order to do a movie scene. I felt like we have been used as props by the prop masters in these particular award shows.
Now listen, there’s greater issues going on. There’s dirty water in Flint where people are dying. There’s people dying all over the world. There are much bigger and more significant issues happening in our world and we’re tackling one issue at a time, however if I leave my house and I’m missing on opportunities to pick up and drop off my daughter at school. If my daughter has a 105 [degree] fever and I’m somewhere on the other side of the world working on a movie, I’m sacrificing everything I am in order to contribute to Hollywood, in order to contribute to the art of acting, directing, writing, whatever it is I’m doing and I just so happen to be a black man. You have purposefully and maliciously decided to leave me out and rob me of the opportunity to have my work and my sacrifice to be recognized. Rather you’re white, Black, Latino, Asian, gay or straight, if you are the best person for the job, if you are putting it all on the line — focused and committed to your craft and leaving it all on the table — you deserve an opportunity to be honored and recognized for your work in-front of everybody. Period. That’s the way I feel.
Chris Rock in my opinion, Reginald Hudlin in my opinion, the President of the Academy Awards in my opinion, until things change, my feeling is that they were used as props by the prop master to show we do like black people, we do rock with black people. No no no, you’re performing at the Awards. You’re presenting awards at the Awards. You’re working with Wolfgang Puck in the kitchen at the Awards, but you can’t get an award. You can’t get a nomination or an award for all the gifts and things you brought to the table. Now that’s wrong. That’s wrong.
When I asked Chris Rock to step down, rather he had a contract in place and he has a deal and can’t break his contract, I would never get in the way of a man trying to feed his family, however if you don’t have a position. If you don’t have a bottom line, they’re going to continue to cross that line every time they feel like it. They’ve only given out 14 Oscars in 88 years, and that’s wrong. That’s wrong. That’s wrong. Listen, the last 10 years, African American movies with predominantly African American casts have grossed over $100 million consistently in the box office.
Straight Outta Compton…
Straight Outta Compton [did] $200 [million]. Hundreds of millions of dollars into this craft. Into this world called Hollywood and we’re doing our thing. We are the minority, but for us to be purposefully and maliciously left out and overlooked as if we don’t matter. All the time, energy and commitment and sacrifice that we’re putting into our gifts and our crafts, you’re just going to overlook it as if we don’t matter? That’s wrong. And so for me, I respect [Cheryl Boone Isaacs]. I respect Reginald Hudlin. I know Chris Rock and I respect him. I was saying, “Let’s take a stand. Let’s have a position.” That’s how you affect change.
Whether people agree with me or not, I don’t care. The days of these jokes and making us feel like we don’t matter, that s**t is over. It’s the lowest ratings in eight years, The Oscars. The Golden Globes is figured it out. Other award shows is figured it out. Diversity. Not just black people. Everybody. I love that the director of Revenant is a Latino. I love it. This is what America is. America is an all-inclusive America. This is why Jews are marrying Asians. This is why white people are dating Black people and Black people are dating Latinos and Asians are dating who they want. If you love somebody, whether you’re white, Black, gay or straight, if you’re happy, live your life. And that’s what America represents.
America does not represent an award show with all one race. Even the BET Awards had Robin Thicke and Sam Smith being nominated, offering them to perform. Robin Thicke has been at more award shows with African Americans than White people. Because whether you’re white or Black, if you’re gifted and talented, we showing love. Sam Smith got nominated and was a no show and he won a BET Award last year. I was in the audience. He was a no show. But he went to the Oscars.
Paul Meara is a Columbus, Ohio native and resident and BET.com staff writer/columnist. He's also written for Billboard, Complex and HipHopDX, among others. Follow him on Twitter: @PaulMeara
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