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Foxx & Fonzworth Bentley: Real Men On A Mission
When Oscar winner Jamie Foxx was asked what constitutes a gentlemen, he deferred to the man who he says personifies the word. He’s Fonzworth Bentley, the famous and flawlessly dressed, umbrella carrying and proper-speaking style icon and former butler of Sean “Diddy” Combs.
“When I think of a gentleman, I think of a man that can adapt, someone that can be effective and accepted in all social situations,” says a very matter-of-fact Fonzworth without hesitating or having to contemplate the definition before a huge Beverly Hills ballroom of writers at the summer session of the Television Critics Association. “It’s being the best you can be,” he adds.
After Fonzworth released a book last year on the subject entitled, “Advance Your Swagger: How to Use Manners, Confidence and Style to Get Ahead,” the former butler and Foxx joined forces with reality show hit maker Chris Arego (the mastermind behind such TV shows such as “Flavor of Love,” and “The Surreal Life” and “MoNique’s Charm School”) and what these three men came up with was a show that will make every parent proud.
It’s called “From G’s to Gents.” The G’s are gangsters. The rough around the edges, baggy pants wearing, underwear exposing and often cursing and bumping loud music playing thugged out young men you run into everyday.
In the 9 weeks remaining (the premiere episode launched this week), Foxx and Bentley plan to do what many mothers and fathers couldn’t or wouldn’t - make real men out of these bad boys and wannabe bad boys. And it’s more than just a wardrobe change. It’s an emotional and spiritual transformation and it’s tough and not everyone makes it.
“I think it’s going to be fabulous,” says Foxx who’s the executive producer of the show. “When you see these guys going through this transformation… you can’t help but be affected by it. Sometimes reality TV shows how crazy it can get and in this sense, we’re going in reverse.”
Bentley chimes in, “this show wasn’t about taking these individuals and trying to mold them and make them something that was completely different than what they are. This was about taking them and keeping that thing that innately they are, because that’s special, so that they can have more tools to move around and be comfortable in all social situations.”
Thousands showed up around the country for the casting call for “From G’s to Gents” which truly is a makeover show for gangsters. Many of them hit up Foxx’s Myspace page begging for a chance to appear on the show and win the $100,000 prize.
“They delivered a show that has heart, real consequences, and humor,” said MTV Executive Tony DiSanto. “I can’t tell you how excited we are.”
To get the show started, MTV producers selected 14 self-proclaimed “rough around the edges” G’s from all over the country, all walks of life, all races and each one of them for a real reason - whether a girlfriend, father, a mother, they all have decided they wanted to make a life change and become the perfect gentlemen.
In each episode, the G’s will be taught an important lesson -- from how to make a good first impression and always look their best to how to maintain a positive attitude and keep their composure in the face of conflict to how to treat a lady and speak eloquently.
Gents school will also help these young men learn self-respect, their self worth and how to market themselves accordingly. They’ll learn everything from style, grace to etiquette and chivalry. As with most reality TV, the G’s will reside in a posh Hollywood Hills mansion and the last man standing — wins big.
“But in reality, they all walk away better men,” Foxx says with a big smile.
“I think it’s going to really open your eyes in a way because when you see that young man that’s walking down the street and he has his pants below his behind and he’s using a lot of profanity and he’s vulgar - you’re going to look at him differently because of his show,” says Bentley. “You’re going to say there’s a young man who has dreams, but he doesn’t have anybody probably around him to give him those tools. In that moment, instead of judging him, you’re may drop a gem onto them.”
Foxx is not seen in the first few episodes, but will make an appearance on the show. So too will other former G’s and OG’s like rapper turned music moguls and entrepreneurs Master P and Irv Gotti. The G’s will actually have to suit up and for some they’ll actually get all dressed up (suit and ties) for the first time in their lives.
Another cool thing about the show that Bentley fought hard for was in the editing. “I wanted to make sure that the show was edited in a way for that man that’s sitting at home, he can actually take notes,” says Bentley. He can actually learn while he’s watching the show.”
Producers say watching these G’s shed their grills, shave their Mohawks, lay down their 40s and forget all those four-letter words is a guaranteed good time. But this isn’t just a life lesson; this is a competition — one that’s worth a whole lot of loot. So each episode, the G that fails to grow closer to becoming a gent is denied entrance into the Gentleman’s Club. The G’s will undergo a total transformation; one that forces them to answer tough questions about who they are and who they hope to become. They will strive to show the world their full potential. But, in the end, only one will graduate from G to gent. Who will it be?
“They delivered a show that has heart, real consequences, and humor,” says MTV Executive Tony DiSanto. “I can’t tell you how excited we are about the show, It’s the first show out of a new production pack that we recently announced with (Foxx) and we’re beyond honored to be working with him.”
So, who taught Bentley and Foxx how to be gentlemen? Bentley point to his father who just so happens to be sitting in the audience proudly watching his son.
Foxx, who was raised by his grandmother, credits Oprah Winfrey and his late grand mom. But it was Winfrey who pulled him aside after his Oscar nomination and introduced him to Quincy Jones and Oscar winner Sidney Poitier. “She basically told me everything changes now and they sat me down and told me so much and it really has helped me,” Foxx recalls. “I can’t thank her enough for that.”
Now, Foxx and Bentley want to share the wealth with every young man from the ‘hood plus one lucky gent will win some cold hard cash to “advance his swagger” and possibly change his life forever.
(Did I just hear moms everywhere scream Hallelujah?)
FROM G’S TO GENTS AIRS TUESDAYS AT 10PM ON MTV.