The virtues of a man should never rest on the physical alone, a high fashion model with vision and entrepreneurial precision Datari Turner is breaking barriers similar to Heidi Klum & Tyra Banks as a media mogul for the world to keep a steady eye. With his newest film Dysfunctional Friends debut on BET Network on November 8th, Turner taps an ensemble cast bringing a sense of nostalgia to fan favorite films The Big Chill and Dazed & Confused. A generation of talent that creates a film to hopefully remind viewers as Turner puts it, to “think about friends they lost touch with & pick up the phone.”
A quiet deal maker, Turner catapulted into fame during the late 90’s turning heads as a fashion model. The sheer fact of luck and chance, his rise to stardom came from a simple walk through the local Bay-area Union Square mall. Three weeks later at the age of 19, he moved to New York with an exclusive contract with the Ford Agency, which resulted in him being the first black man featured in Abercrombie & Fitch campaigns worldwide. Traveling the world to grace the catwalk of Fashion Week, he took the fashion world by surprise as the fresh, raw face shooting with world-renowned photographers Herb Ritts, Bruce Weber & Walter Chin. Turner recants how “It was funny, at the time when I was 19 it was only two other black male models at the agency” and in terms of the culture shock transitioning into the fashion world, he remembers “Roshumba… she was just talking about how unpolished I was. I really didn’t know what to say, coming from where I came.” The female dominated fashion industry makes no promises for endless success, where talent treads on a thin line of “you either have a look or you don’t.” Datari learned quickly and started looking at opportunities for growth as not just the image of art but as a creator. He explains “Looking good isn’t really a talent” and he didn’t want his legacy lost as just a J-PEG file for a screensaver or simply a past memory left with a generation.
Literally, jumping from the pages of GQ Datari Turner established a foundation for Hip-Hop reality shows to be seen by millions, he is truly inspired by longevity and the purpose of his art. Never seeking the camera, his wildest dreams could not have prepared him for his journey to successful producer. Turner humbly professed “I never thought in a million years that I would be getting paid to fly around the world and be on billboards, I didn’t think I had looks like that”. From lighting up skylines with his billboards to creating a staple record breaking reality series on TV One, he proved who is The Real McCoy. The ultimate hustler has provided a blueprint of how to take a brand to the masses through television. 8 years ago, Turner developed a reality show influenced by street smart, business savvy moguls such as Sean Combs & Jay-Z. The Ultimate Hustler which aired on BET in 2005, taught inner-city youth the formula to build companies from scratch and pure passion. Turner remembers “watching the Apprentice and not really being impressed… Every body on the show either went to Harvard, Wharton or Princeton and I knew a lot of moguls that never went to school but was working with millions of dollars.” Turner’s relationships and ideas opened the floodgates for more shows inspired by Hip Hop to transition into the mainstream.
Some can say he is the godfather of the advent of basketball wives reality fame, with his debut of I Married a Baller starring retired NFL football player Eddie George & his wife Taj of singing group SWV. But the integrity of his creation portrayed the positive family life of a true martial union. He is not impressed with the infamously controversial images of the ‘basketball wives’ permeating the blogs weekly with cat fights and hearsay. He looked to reality television to gain experience in transitioning from TV to film, bridging the gap for a lucrative television career.
Art imitates life for most true artists, as Turner birthed his first film Video Girl from years as the face of couture designers to cameos as the exquisite male lead in some of R&B’s top rated music videos. In 2009, 7 years after writing and developing his first feature film, he produced Video Girl starring Meagan Good & Ruby Dee and secured yet another deal with BET. As the writer and producer, Video Girl was his confirmation that he is built for this business. His film interests were validated with an acceptance to Yale University’s School of Drama, where he had to make a tough decision to ride the success of his modeling career or take a step back to learn his artistic craft. His choice to continue his path as a super model, flying around the world to rip the runways of Milan provided him a gift that he admits, “I am grateful for and not trying to waste given opportunities”. His decision garnered him the title of independent producer working on over 15 films to date, some of which have been nominated for multiple international film festival awards. His film Another Happy Day starring veteran actress Demi Moore won the Waldo Salt Award for Best Screen Play at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival in 2011. His commitment to his craft is seen through art house films taking him to Sundance for the past four years and his first screen play Video Girl is displayed in the archives of the Academy of Motion Pictures Library.
A faithful knowledge-seeker, Turner made something out of nothing from his dreams of being a professional football player to now allowing others to live out their dreams through film. Whether it’s the next award winning screenplay or shattering ratings on cable networks, Datari Turner’s methodic approach to the industry ensures him the success of being one of the brightest, young black independent producers to date. Nestled in the back offices of Paramount studios, unseen by the masses, he is one-half of a powerhouse that’s quiet as kept, energized by the talents of decades past. Catch Datari Turner’s newest release Dysfunctional Friends airing on BET and the upcoming January 2013 release of his film LUV starring Common and Danny Glover. To keep up with Turner’s work follow him on twitter: @datariturner