The New Entourage: Talent Agents Cicero Leak, Tristian Turner, & Chuck Stinson

The TLS Agency represents entertainers and athletes, and they’ll do what it takes to provide their clients with the best direction for their careers. On the show, Cicero Leak, Tristian Turner, and Chuck Stinson talk about how it all got started, what it’s like to work with celebrities, representing athletes in the new landscape where amateurs can profit off their likeness, being black in America, and what it’s like to have “the talk” with your kids – and that doesn’t mean about the birds and bees.

*Warning: This episode and this clip below are explicit and hilarious.*

Donald Thompson: [00:00:00] Well guys, welcome to The Donald Thompson Podcast and I’m excited to have Mr. Tristan Turner, Cicero Leak and Chuck Stinson, and these guys are the TLS group in the representation business and the entertainment space for many years. And more recently, have expanded their portfolio to really look at the holistic value proposition for their clients, both in terms of media opportunities, marketing opportunities, all kinds of different things like that.

[00:00:27] But more specifically, are creating opportunities for athletes at HBCUs from underrepresented organizations to make sure that they get high quality representation as they continue to chase their dreams. So, gentlemen, thank you guys for spending some time and I appreciate you guys joining us today.

[00:00:43] Cicero Leak: [00:00:43] Thanks for having us.

[00:00:45] Donald Thompson: [00:00:45] So to get things started and just jump into the conversation, Cicero, kick us off with why you started out becoming an agent. Take us a little bit on that journey.

[00:00:56] Cicero Leak: [00:00:56] Well, it was a few stories, but I’ll, I’ll give [00:01:00] you kind of, like I said, the short version, but I mean, it kind of goes back to when I executive produced a documentary called Welcome to Durham, years ago.

[00:01:10] That was kind of what led me into the entertainment industry. And, I remember after it was done, and because I was the one that went out and got the deal for the movie. So it’s Tristan, I mean, he was like with me every step of the way back then, you know what I’m saying, like, anytime I went out of town, like I’m big on like, we’re all big on, like, we’ve known each other for a long time.

[00:01:33] We’re big on sticking together. You know what I’m saying? Like, we’re, we’re, we’re, we’re big on that. We’ve known each other since high school and we always include each other in everything that we do. You know what I’m saying? So, but it came from then. So one of the other producers on the documentary was like, sister you’re like that guy on, uh, Entourage: Ari Gold.

[00:01:53] That’s what you do. You know what I’m saying? So, you know, I watched the TV show and I was like, yeah, I am [00:02:00] like that motherfucker. Yeah. Yeah I am like that.

[00:02:05] That is me. You know what I’m saying? So then, you know, it kind of goes back, so Tris was making a transition from finance to a new space and we kind of got together and was like, let’s start an agency. So I was like Tris, I have all these contacts in Hollywood that I’ve used to try to sell the damn movie. Why, waste them? You know what I’m saying?

[00:02:24] Like, you know, cause I went everywhere trying to damn sell that damn movie, you know, to every end, like I tried to knock down every door. So I knew everybody, like every network and production company and record label and you know, it was just crazy. So it was just like, damn, my fucking Rolodex is pretty awesome right now.

[00:02:44] You know what I’m saying? I can be anybody on the phone, but I don’t have nothing to talking about them no more. You know, let’s get into representation. So Tris and I got together and was like, okay, let’s, let’s start this.

[00:02:55] Donald Thompson: [00:02:55] And Tristan, how did you make that decision? Give a little background on your [00:03:00] vision of connecting with Cicero, not just as friends, but taking that business journey together.

[00:03:05] Tristian Turner: [00:03:05] Well, as I tell you, for lack of a better term, kind of like the live wire of the crew. So, uh, one of the main reasons why Cicero wanted me around because if we were somewhere where we needed some energy, I was just naturally going to provide it. And then, you know, that coupled with a big marketing background as well, you know, I’ve just been, have been doing marketing before I knew I was doing marketing.

[00:03:28] Next thing I know, it was like, oh shit, that’s what I’m doing. I’m doing marketing. It just really made sense. And you know, there’s an old saying that says you shouldn’t work with friends. However, we disagree. You know, you see three of us right here together. Like Cicero said, we’ve known each other since high school.

[00:03:42] As long as your friends, aren’t just like you, it works. And his strengths complement my strengths and my weaknesses, you know, he fills in the gaps there and vice versa. So it just really makes sense. And it made sense for us to, um, really take things to the next level. So, [00:04:00] yeah, I mean, we just took it from there.

[00:04:02] Donald Thompson: [00:04:02] Good stuff. Now, who did, who was the first client that you’d, that you signed?

[00:04:07] Tristian Turner: [00:04:07] Hah.

[00:04:09] Cicero Leak: [00:04:09] It was getting Kid ‘n Play. It was Kid n’ Play. It was Kid n’ Play. It was really Play. And then, yeah, and we got Kid after that, you know what I’m saying? Like collectively, cause I already knew, Play was involved with the documentary.

[00:04:21] Uh, I hired him to direct cause he was living in Durham. So I had a relationship with him through that. And then I was just like, okay, well, he’s sitting in Durham and everybody knows the hell he is. So let me try to sign this mother. You know what I’m saying? So he was like, I’m on board. And the next thing you know, he was like, well, Kid wants to, you know, you to, you know, work with you as well.

[00:04:41] So a couple months later we signed Kid and then the rest was history.

[00:04:45] Donald Thompson: [00:04:45] Oh, that’s awesome. Now you guys were working for a while and then Chuck, you came on board to do the sports, or you’ve always been in the picture and we just hadn’t had met yet. Give me kind of your relationship and as its grown the agency.

[00:04:57] Chuck Stinson: [00:04:57] Uh, I think, well, I think to [00:05:00] kind of answer to that question, it’s kind of both. I’ve always been around a little bit. I wasn’t there at the very beginning at first. Like I knew what they were doing Welcome to Durham. And I was kind of around, I mean we’ve always been friends. So I knew what was happening with that, but I wasn’t intimately involved in any of that part of it. I think what ended up happening, I came home for the Duke-Maryland game, and I had, I had cops and tickets and we just got talking about it and he was like, you know, this thing’s kicking off. It’s pushing all. Hey, why don’t you come along too? Why don’t you, why don’t you find a spot come along and join us and do this thing.

[00:05:33] And so I’ve been always more akin to sports and I always love sports. So it was kind of, Hey, well maybe I will see in all that sports side of it, I was kind of around the beginning, not in the very beginning. But then it kind of just kind of slowly, it was moving slowly at first. And I just think as of late, the timing was right, it’s really put more into it, put more behind it, I think that’s where, how we got to where we’re at right now.

[00:05:56] Donald Thompson: [00:05:56] Yeah. That makes sense. I want to stay with the backstory a little bit, [00:06:00] but also educate our listeners, and everybody wants to be in entertainment. Right? Everybody wants to be a star, right? But nobody want to hit that grind. What would you say to people that want to be in the entertainment business beyond being an agent, beyond the business side of entertainment, when they’re thinking about if they have what it takes to do what you guys do to win in this game, what kind of advice would you give them?

[00:06:21] Cicero Leak: [00:06:21] Well, I mean, I would say do your research, you know what I’m saying? Know, know this is what you want to get into because I mean, it’s not an easy thing and you know, it’s not an overnight thing, but the biggest thing would to me, Don, and as you will know, you know, what us working together is that, you know, when you go out here and you’re representing someone. You have to do what you say you’re going to do, you know what I’m saying? If you make promises to people and say, okay, well I’m able to do this and we’re going to try and do this.

[00:06:50] Of course, you know, some things in the end don’t work out, but if you’re going to say, okay, because they’re putting their career in your hands, you know what I’m saying? That’s very important. Just don’t go into this [00:07:00] blindly and say, okay, well I want to represent celebrities or I want to, you know, I mean, really do your research and, you know, read up on, you know, what it takes to, to make, you know, what people have done in the past to make this. And that’s what I did. You know what I’m saying? I’m brushed up on agents that, you know, came before me, black agents, and I met with some as well to kind of talk to them and see what they went through over the years and what it took for them to make it as well.

[00:07:23] So, I mean, yeah. We did jump in, Tris and I did jump into this blindly, kind of we was like, you know, we put our feet to the fire and was like, shit, but we made a lot of mistakes in the beginning. You know what I’m saying? Because represented, you know, represented celebrities is hard. You know what I’m saying? Like they really, you know, they —

[00:07:39] Tristian Turner: [00:07:39] They’re needy.

[00:07:42] Cicero Leak: [00:07:42] Yeah. They’re needy. Personalities are needy. So you have to kind of adjust, you know what I’m saying? You have to, you know, but you have to really do, like I said, you have to do your research and you have to really figure out this is what you really want to do and go from there.

[00:07:59] Donald Thompson: [00:07:59] Yeah. That’s good [00:08:00] stuff.

[00:08:00] Tristian Turner: [00:08:00] We learned a lot. We learned a lot in that fire, you know? Fire makes a lot of things stronger and the melts other things, it definitely made us stronger, you know, we’re definitely not. And so it made us stronger as we, you know what Cicero said. We fucked up, and other things we did great. And we were like, okay, let’s take the stuff that we did great, capitalize off that and stuff that we messed up on, let’s figure out what exactly where we went wrong. So we don’t make those mistakes anymore. And we learned some really great lessons. I mean —

[00:08:29] Donald Thompson: [00:08:29] Well, give me an, give me an example of a lesson that you can share. Some of them might be, you know, like you don’t want to create liability if you messed up somebody’s contract, but what are some, what are some lessons that you could, that you could share on the way on the come up?

[00:08:45] Tristian Turner: [00:08:45] So, thankfully that never happened one lesson, for sure. It’s just being careful, really careful who we deal with. We were working with the promoter with Kid ‘n Play. Um, it was their 20th anniversary, I want to say.

[00:08:59] Cicero Leak: [00:08:59] Yeah, [00:09:00] yeah, yeah. That was the 20th. Yeah. Yeah. They, they went on tour.

[00:09:05] Tristian Turner: [00:09:05] So we were working with the promoter and I’ll take this on me for sure. I mean, having worked with promoters, I should have known, look out for janky promoters, like God, and you talk about a janky promoter man. Like. He fit the bill up and down, bro.

[00:09:22] He fit the bill, but we were just so wrapped up in the moment, the possibilities of things that can happen and go on, now a lot of good things come out of it. Like we were able to book Kid n’ Play for George Lopez, Lopez Tonight when he had his nighttime talk show and we made a ton of connects off that, did some pitches with a few stations and networks off of that as well. But just dealing with that promoter, trying to get everything done with Kid ‘n Play, I mean it was a frigging nightmare, bro. It was a nightmare.

[00:09:52] Cicero Leak: [00:09:52] I wish I could go into detail. It was that time when we was in LA and we were going to the BT Awards. Man, I just want to get [00:10:00] on a flight, and bring my ass back to the house.

[00:10:02] Donald Thompson: [00:10:02] It was rough.

[00:10:02] Cicero Leak: [00:10:02] It was rough. It was rough. I mean, we was out until like, we was on the phone to, like, this is at like two, three in the morning trying to get stuff situated with this guy.

[00:10:13] Tristian Turner: [00:10:13] I mean, we east coasters. So it’s like, bye, to us, we, our eyes are bloodshot red and we’ve been drinking too, like it was rough, you know, but you gotta really protect our brand, man. We got, we got a name out here. The fellow that Kid n’ Play was mad at us. And they had every right to do it.

[00:10:36] Cicero Leak: [00:10:36] It was mad as hell. That was a rough day. It was bad there. That was a man. I think Joel, remember that when it comes to stuff outside of what he does, he does the regular. But I had to call him on that when I was like, man, bro.

[00:11:00] [00:10:59] Chuck Stinson: [00:10:59] Man that was rough.

[00:11:05] Donald Thompson: [00:11:05] So, as you guys are looking at the landscape in business and entertainment and different things, you guys did make a conscious decision and move into sports, and then specifically, HBCU sports. Not that you won’t sign people from all across the thing, but you decided on a focus. Talk to us about that thought process, Chuck, and how you made that decision and what you see the future of it.

[00:11:30] Chuck Stinson: [00:11:30] Yeah, the thought process of how we ended up in that space was really, it came down to what we were seeing in the landscape. I’ve always been involved with new sports and sports in general, and I’ve got kids who play. I’ve got friends with kids play. But when they started getting older and looking at sports in general, you saw less and less opportunities for HBCU students.

[00:11:51] You saw less and less HBCU students getting drafted or hearing about, hey, they went to an HBCU, but then you also saw from the kids [00:12:00] less and less interest to go to the HBCU because of that, I mean, for better or for worse, most of the kids that people were around put how, hold sports to high regard. They hold academics and sports in the high regard. When it became, hey, that HBCUs were no longer in the conversation, just because they weren’t viable options.

[00:12:20] We saw that, I saw that as a problem. We saw that as a problem for a bunch of different reasons, but we just saw that as an overall problem. And hey, it’s no longer a viable option that coupled with the opportunities being less, and we just thought, hey, for a holistic approach and for it to be still viable, something has to be done, it has to be a stronger, focus on making those two options. And that’s kinda what led us to not only sports, more specifically to HBCUs.

[00:12:43] Donald Thompson: [00:12:43] Yeah. That makes sense. When you guys think about now having an even broader portfolio in working with and representing talent. Is that all you do, right? Are there things you do on the production side that or, give us, give us a breath, of just the different things that your agency offers.

[00:12:58] If somebody [00:13:00] that’s looking for an agent, that’s got the talent, that’s got maybe a couple of things under their belt, is looking for representation. Why the TLS Agency, and tell me about the future and why should they choose you guys?

[00:13:11] Cicero Leak: [00:13:11] I mean, we really go hard for our clients. You know what I’m saying? And we really spend a lot of time working with them in detail about what they want to achieve.

[00:13:21] You know, I won’t downtown some of the biggest or any other, you know, any other agencies, but you know, some of the things that people run into when they want to get signed by an agent is that, you know, everything’s all hunky dory at first. And then a couple of years later, they never hear from them anymore because either the money’s not coming in the way that they wanted to come in or, or the relationship just went sour.

[00:13:44] We have clients that have been on our roster since the beginning. We go hard. Like one thing is our clients know is that now we don’t give up, we trying to make things happen for you, even through the highs and the lows, you know what I’m saying? So just because you were hot [00:14:00] then, but you’re not as high as you were now, you know, we’re going to get you to that point again and even bigger.

[00:14:05] We’re talking longevity. We’re not talking about in the moment.

[00:14:08] Donald Thompson: [00:14:08] That’s powerful.

[00:14:09] Cicero Leak: [00:14:09] We’re looking for more of a partnership and a relationship.

[00:14:12] Donald Thompson: [00:14:12] No, that’s powerful. I appreciate that. So one of the things let’s drill down into present day, right? The NCAA has recently passed some new legislation about the likeness of an athlete.

[00:14:23] We’ve been able to make money from their own likeness, basically, right? An athlete being able to make money from that. That sounds good. That sounds like progress. That sounds like movement forward, but typically things are in the detail. Right? So what does that mean for young people? What does that rule mean for you in the agency business?

[00:14:39] Give us some background, give some perspective of what you guys think and see.

[00:14:43] Chuck Stinson: [00:14:43] Yeah. You know, the way that we see it, the way we’re looking at it, it creates a great opportunity, but like anything else, it creates an opportunity where it’s still going to be on the student athlete to capitalize on it, or to take advantage of it.

[00:14:58] I think it’s like anything [00:15:00] else is going to be a rule that, hey, creates an opportunity where, you know, it fills the gap for somebody’s income or, for lack of a better word, for them to actually get true value or worth for who they are. But it can turn out to be just a rule in place or another way for them to be taken advantage of if they don’t own it, or they don’t find people to work with that help them own the situation and actually play it for their benefit.

[00:15:25] Donald Thompson: [00:15:25] No that makes sense, I want to ask a followup. Apologize for interrupting you, but I want to, I’m going to give you space back in just a second. Does that allow students to have representation now while they’re in school, do they have to make these decisions on their own about how to make money?

[00:15:38] Because to your point, if you now can make money off your likeness, but you’re talking to business people, but you’re still a student. You’re a young person. How does that work so that you can really strike good deals and be smart with that?

[00:15:49] Chuck Stinson: [00:15:49] I think there’s still a gray area. I think that’s really still a gray area because the rule is, I mean, it’s still new and it hasn’t, per se, been finalized and completed yet. It’s supposed to hit start [00:16:00] in 2021, and they laid out some guide rules on what you can’t do, but they haven’t per se, well, I haven’t seen where they’ve addressed how do agents or representation play into that? And that’s also why I say that could be like a pro or con, like you’re going to have some kids who are set, like I been thinking back in the day, you remember, Greg Anthony.

[00:16:23] Donald Thompson: [00:16:23] Yup.

[00:16:24] Chuck Stinson: [00:16:24] When he had his own comic book business and he had his own outside business. He had enough business sense and above wherewithal to know how to work around the rules to create extra income for himself while he was in college without jeopardizing his NCAA eligibility. And so there’s going to be kids out there like that who probably do it on their own.

[00:16:44] There’s also going to be the mess of kids who are going to be, like anything else, at big institutions or your big five schools, then they have a big following. And the right output is gonna fall in their lap. This is going to be like, I don’t know, say a Gatorade or a Nike will [00:17:00] elate to and give them, they give them contracts and money, but there’s going to be a larger pool of kids where the opportunities are there, they just don’t know how to capitalize on it, and so they sort of need that representation to navigate them through that or to even help manage it while they’re still trying to manage school and practice and time on their own. Some of it feels like a play. I feel like agents are going to be needed in that space, is an opportunity for agents to help and new relationships and help kids at the same time.

[00:17:30] But I don’t think the rule has been solidified or clarified enough to know for me or anybody to say right now, how it’s going to work.

[00:17:36] Donald Thompson: [00:17:36] Yeah. One of the things I would say, just as we, you know, partnering together and think about the future and how to chase ideas, you know, a lot of times that creates a great opportunity to create blueprints for people.

[00:17:46] Right? Like even such things as social media marketing training for young athletes, right? How to monetize your business. And so that may be something we ought to kick it offline and figure out how to take marketing savvy, agent savvy and create the playbook. And we might not [00:18:00] want to put this out on wax.

[00:18:01] This might just be between —

[00:18:03] Cicero Leak: [00:18:03] No, we’ve already kind of talked about that. It’s just being things like, no, well, we need to be ahead of the curve on this. We can’t wait to somebody else gets in on this and then we’re trying to play catch up. Like this is the time just to stay ahead of it. So, no, we we’ve already had those conversations.

[00:18:19] Donald Thompson: [00:18:19] That makes sense. Cicero, let’s, let’s change topics. And I’ll start with you first and then come back and it’s been on my mind and brain. And now obviously with you guys also, there’s a lot going on in our country from a race standpoint, there’s a lot going on. As African Americans in general, as African American men in particular, as we think about the relationship between the community color and the police, uh, the systemic racism that exists and, um, I’m certain that you guys have faced that in this industry.

[00:18:49] Right? And so what I want you guys to talk about, two things, and then I’m going to give you guys the space, talk about that systemic racism and the challenges you guys have had to overcome and push through. [00:19:00] In the media and entertainment space and then widen the lens and talk just a little bit about what you guys are feeling and seeing today just as African American men trying to live this life.

[00:19:11] Cicero Leak: [00:19:11] Yeah. I mean, of course we all have to go through it, but in pertaining to the business, the entertainment business. I mean, you go through things with people. If they don’t know who you are, then they find out that you’re an African American agent, or, you know, your rep, representative for a talent. It’s weird.

[00:19:33] I mean, because fortunately, like I said, it hasn’t been anything directly that I’ve had to deal with in this business in regards to that. But, you know, you can feel it, you know, the issues with big agencies that we, you know, may have to talk to or work with. Sometimes you have the, you know, the issues, you will know that, they’re not taking you seriously.

[00:19:51] You know what I’m saying? And you have to kind of push through to let them know, no, you need to take me fucking seriously. Know what I’m saying, I mean, if we want to get this done, then [00:20:00] I expect you to give me the same level of respect you would give your counterparts. You know what I’m saying? Or someone who may not look like me.

[00:20:05] So that part, you have to deal with all the time, but I’ll say this and mean, and you know, with Tris and Chuck and I have known each other for so long, growing up in Durham, you’re rarely had racism because everybody in Durham’s Black, you know what I’m saying? It like everybody in power in Durham was Black.

[00:20:25] You know what I’m saying? So it was kind of weird. One thing that I tell people like, I really didn’t deal with growing up, you know what I’m saying, in Durham, I really didn’t have to deal with it because it was like, wasn’t, it was like Wakanda, you know what I’m saying? It was like the man was Black, the chief was Black.

[00:20:43] You know what I’m saying? And everybody was from Durham, you know what I’m saying? Everybody knew each other. As time went by, as you get older, now you see, you know, especially now with social media, you know, more things are coming to light. But I remember when the Rodney King situation happened, it was kind of shocking, like, [00:21:00] okay, this is how, you know, this is happening.

[00:21:02] And, you know, seeing that, you know, this police officer was, you know, would do what they did to him. You know, it was a shocking thing for me to see on TV. I mean, of course, you know, what happened in the past and the civil rights movement and things like that and what your parents and your grandparents and their parents went through, but in our generation, coming where we came from, you didn’t see, you didn’t see that anymore. You don’t, you only saw it in movies. You only saw it and tell him, you know what I’m saying? But having the dealing with it directly, like I never heard a White person say the N-word, you know what I’m saying? I never heard that. So, you know, I only, you know, would see and hear about this stuff on television.

[00:21:40] But as I got older, you know, it started to hit me like, okay, and me moving out of Durham, you know what I’m saying, into a predominantly White neighborhood and you know what I’m saying? And dealing with, you know, you start to in dealing with Corporate America, and you know, you start to see, okay, no, some things going on around me that I’m, you [00:22:00] know, I mean, you know may not be privy to, you know what I’m saying?

[00:22:02] That, and one thing that we were talking about is that, you know, Chuck and I have teenage sons, it worries me when he goes out to go, go for a run, what may happen. I’m always like son, you have your phone, make sure you, you dress in, you look like you’re running, exercising, don’t wear any, you know what I’m saying?

[00:22:22] Like, unfortunately I have to say stuff like that, sounds stupid, but unfortunately I have to tell him stuff like that just to see, because I feel like I have to protect him in a certain way. You know what I’m saying? To cover some bases. To make sure, okay, this may not happen to him while he’s out here trying to exercise, in a community that, you know, I paid, I paid for it, you know what I’m saying?

[00:22:42] And I pay a lot of money to be in, you know what I’m saying? So what’s going on now, you know, just for a situation and you know, the other gentleman. It’s tragic, man. It is tragic, Don. I just hope and pray that as time goes on that, you know, our, you know, the next generation, our kids don’t have to even deal with, [00:23:00] things will change.

[00:23:01] Donald Thompson: [00:23:01] Chuck, any thoughts on what’s going on in the macro environment?

[00:23:06] Chuck Stinson: [00:23:06] I think with the way our approach or look at it, for me being black or having experienced it or being immersed in it, to me, what’s going on now to me is I wouldn’t say it’s more situational awareness because to me it’s always been there.

[00:23:22] It’s more, I’ve been looking at it, especially with my kids and my family is more of a, hey, let’s analyze it for what it is. I’ve always had these conversations with them. I’ve always made them aware of this. I’ve always been aware of this. So when it comes down to it, it’s more of a analyzing the emotional reaction and the understanding of the opportunity that’s happening now and an opportunity to not only educate, but making advancements. And then actually, for lack a better word, play it to our advantage to where, hey, to act to you to affect some real change. You know, I can remember as far back, like Ro was saying, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything as hard some of the [00:24:00] stuff you see on TV.

[00:24:01] But in a sense, I felt like we’ve always, I’ve always experienced systemic racism or institutional racism where it’s always been something I’ve had to navigate. And it’s always been something I’ve had to deal with and always, my kids had to deal with it at an early age and so we’ve always had those conversations, but I think now the current environment, I think it gives us more of a voice and more of a chance to say, hey, I’m not crazy.

[00:24:29] I am not speaking of things, you know, there’s actually real proof put behind it to help illuminate to those who are either blindly or actively participating in it and causing it to happen to take a better look.

[00:24:42] Donald Thompson: [00:24:42] Yeah. Tristan?

[00:24:43] Tristian Turner: [00:24:43] We literally had this conversation, like Cicero said, they both have teenage boys. I have a boy as well. He’s, he’s nine though. I’m able to look to my brothers here and a few of the friends of ours that have teenage and grown sons. And it really [00:25:00] gives me a blueprint to understand how to navigate it as my son grows, you know, I have daughters as well. It’s just a very interesting and weird landscape right now. But it’s only interesting and weird because now it’s becoming to the forefront.

[00:25:13] I mean, uh, you know, we’ve been talking about this stuff forever.

[00:25:16] Donald Thompson: [00:25:16] Yeah.

[00:25:16] Tristian Turner: [00:25:16] Forever. I mean, I literally read something this morning that said every generation has their big moment and this is this generation’s big moment. Hopefully we won’t have to have many more big moments like this. It’s just something really interesting when we have to have those conversations with our sons.

[00:25:35] I had the talk with my son about how to deal with police before I had to talk with him about the birds and the bees, you know, the talk with us is a totally different talk. When I’m around, um, white associates, and we say “the talk” I got to ask them what talk are y’all talking about. That’s very telling within itself.

[00:25:55] And so it’s just a lot that we’re navigating. I’m very hopeful for what we’re [00:26:00] going through is, is very needed. Everything came to a very good pinnacle at one point, because if it wasn’t for COVID-19, I don’t know if things would have gotten to the climax that it did. And I’m pretty sure that they wouldn’t because we’d still have so many other distractions.

[00:26:16] We’d have sports, we’d have restaurants and bars and clubs, new episodes coming out on TV. But as unfortunately, TLS it’s been hindered by that too, because new shows are slow right now, you know, but I’d rather there be a big social change versus us putting more money in our pockets right now, you know? Hell yeah, we need this income. We need to make some more shit happen financially, but we need way more to have happen socially. And like Cicero said, yeah, you know, I moved to Durham when I was in high school and it was just really awesome to see how black people were in charge of stuff. I was born in the A, but I didn’t really live there.

[00:26:58] Chuck had some, [00:27:00] spent some time in the A, in Atlanta, before I was born. Yeah. He was born in a, let me get that in there too. Um, but you know, it was still different for me coming to Durham, just seeing all the things that go on there and, um, being around so many educated black folks that, I mean, 13 HBCUs in North Carolina and for us to sit and say that that didn’t influence our mindset and how we move, we’d be lying. We totally be lying. The three of us went to HBCUs.

[00:27:32] Donald Thompson: [00:27:32] Where do you all go to school?

[00:27:33] Tristian Turner: [00:27:33] Well, I went to the best HBCU of all: Winston Salem State University, and Chuck and Cicero did pretty good. Cicero went to North Carolina Central. Which, my mama went there and she got a couple of degrees from there and Chuck went to a very, very good school: Morehouse, as well.

[00:27:48] I was accepted to Morehouse. He and I were actually supposed to be roommates.

[00:27:52] Chuck Stinson: [00:27:52] Hey, you bailed. You bailed.

[00:27:55] Tristian Turner: [00:27:55] Crap. I have enough money.  [00:28:00] So I needed bail. I need somebody to bail me out so I could afford that tuition.

[00:28:11] Nah, I ain’t gonna lie. I would have loved to attended Morehouse. That was literally, it was so crazy. It was the only school that I applied to, Chuck and I had the same recruiter.

[00:28:19] Donald Thompson: [00:28:19] Well, I mean, I can hear the pride in your voice for, for your heritage and the HBCUs. What needs to be, done so that the historically black colleges and universities, what advice would you give to those colleges as they continue work to step their game up from an academic standpoint, from a visibility standpoint, marketing standpoint.

[00:28:38] Because a lot of very successful, great leaders and PhDs and athletes, but there’s still this stigma now that the education is not as good, as not as strong. What can done to kind of raise that profile?

[00:28:52] Tristian Turner: [00:28:52] No, we were actually just talking about that.

[00:28:55] Chuck Stinson: [00:28:55] I think it’s like anything else you got, you gotta up-sell, you have to up-sell yourself.

[00:29:00] [00:29:00] I feel I like the opportunities. And in my opinion, HBCUs spend a lot of time apologizing for what they don’t have as opposed to highlighting what we do have.

[00:29:15] Donald Thompson: [00:29:15] I’m going interrupt you then give you the mic back, spending too much time apologizing for what they don’t have versus highlighting what we do have. And I think that is wisdom both in the question that I asked you, but also in success in general. Right? Because most people think about what they’re lacking versus building a game plan with the tools they have today, with the goals that they want right now.

[00:29:38] And I think that mentality is what you guys do to grow your business. It’s the mentality that I’ve used to make my way in the world. No one’s giving me more aces to play with. I’ve got to win with the cards I’ve got in the moment that I’m in today. That mindset is what I try to get into my kids. The people that I work with, the partners that I select [00:30:00] is that the world is isn’t fair because you hope it to be, you got to create fairness, right?

[00:30:05] The only way you create success and fairness is through winning. And I’ll, I’ll just, I’ll talk about this for a minute and then Chuck I’ll out and give you the mic back. Is that, one of the things that blesses me is that because I’m in some of the doors now where decisions are made, I can make sure that everyone that I see gets a fair shot.

[00:30:25] Tristian Turner: [00:30:25] That’s cool.

[00:30:25] Donald Thompson: [00:30:25] Therefore, the more doors you’re in, the more you can create influence. Because you can make sure that this resume, that may be of a person of color, that somebody would naturally just put over here because the university didn’t have the same pedigree that I’m sitting in the boardroom and saying, you know what? We should probably test the applicants. We should probably get them to write an essay. We should probably get them to do a social media programming clinic. We should probably get them to come in and pitch us. So now, if you create testing and the application process, now, all of a sudden the pedigree [00:31:00] in the paper has a little bit less weight.

[00:31:02] And now the people that get an opportunity to get in the door, get a chance to win today. You guys are creating, and this is my, the phrase that I’m using to when you hear it, if you see it on social media, it’s a total compliment. It’s the new stereotype, right? You guys are the new stereotype. You’re talking about being better fathers.

[00:31:21] Not this deadbeat dad stereotype that’s on TV. You’re talking about what you say to your sons and your daughters and how you raise them. The new stereotype, you’re talking about being entrepreneurs and how you guys work together. You decided that all of the things about friends not working together wasn’t for you.

[00:31:37] That was for somebody else, but y’all were going to rock together. And the new stereotype is how do we think on our own to get the dreams and goals that we have. And so I’ve got one or two more questions, but I wanted to throw that in because like we see each other. But a lot of times I don’t get to let y’all know how I appreciate y’all.

[00:31:53] And what you’re doing, and then I’m cheering for you and the other people are cheering for you, because we’re so much on our grind sometimes I don’t get a chance [00:32:00] to say Cicero, man, I’m cheering for you. Tristan I’m pulling for you. Chuck I’m pulling for you. And the, the thing that is really important as we kind of go through this thing, this transformation in the world together, is we all need each other more than we ever have because this thing is crazy out there right now.

[00:32:17] And the only way we can push through to that winning mentality to really create that transformation is that we lean on each other quickly when we need each other. And we kind of put away the ego that keeps us from asking for help and open up ourselves and say, you know, can Don help me do that? Can Cicero help me do that? Can George help me do that? So that we stay strong together and keep it and keep it pushing. And so, you know, the last thing I wanted you guys to do is just share with our audience anything that’s on your mind, whether it’s macro event, whether it’s something that’s going on with your agency that I didn’t ask or get to, what didn’t I ask you that you would like to talk about?

[00:32:54] Tristian Turner: [00:32:54] Well, while we ponder that, Don, I definitely want to say we cheering for you too, brother, you [00:33:00] know, Issa Rae made the statement popular, I’m rooting for everybody black, and I’m not going to be apologetic and say, that doesn’t mean I’m not rooting for White people.

[00:33:12] Cicero Leak: [00:33:12] Hey Don, can I share the story, how you left with me outside the Staples Center and you let them be outside the Staples Center, my ticket didn’t say the same thing as yours.

[00:33:34] I was mad as hell. So me, Don, and Tuck. So Don knows Tuck too, cause me and Don went to LA for some meetings. We had to meet with OWN and, uh, Magical Elves or whatever. I’m like, no, I’m going to meet with my boy, Courtney, you know, works at ESPN, we’re going to go catch a Clippers game. So now Don was like, okay, cool. I’ll go with you.

[00:34:00] [00:34:00] I was like, all right, cool. So we get to the venue. And we bought tickets from a scalper.

[00:34:10] So scalping is not illegal in the state of North Carolina. It’s legal. You know what I’m saying? But it is in California? I didn’t know that, you know what I’m saying? But the guy was acting all shady. So I’m like, he was like, come around the corner, your body triggers. And I’m like, what the fuck are you talking about?

[00:34:26] I was like, why you know what I’m saying? Like in North Carolina, you can do the shit right in front of the venue and then you walk right in. You know what I’m saying? The dude was acting all shady and shit. So finally, you know, when we get the tickets and we’re about to go in, so the guy’s gets, he scans Don’s tickets, he scan’s Tuck’s tickets. And his scans my ticket and he’s like, no, you can’t walk in them. You got to go [00:35:00] to the other gate. Your seat is way up in the rafters. Don, baby, just looked like, alright, well, I’ll see you later.

[00:35:12] Tristian Turner: [00:35:12] But hey you supported that Black business. You know what I’m saying?

[00:35:24] Cicero Leak: [00:35:24] You know how we do. I was like, okay, I’m going to fix y’all motherfuckers. I was like, I’m gonna find y’all. Where were you at, were you at in some restaurant?

[00:35:34] High-rise. VIP. Eating and shit. You know what I’m saying? Watching the game, feet up, relaxing, you know, it was like, bro, that was the first time my elbow, I put my head down. And just walked. So somehow I got up there and I don’t know how it’s like, somebody helped me. I don’t even know how I got up. I put my head down and I [00:36:00] was just like, and like, I was the head of security, you know, they got it, got up there.

[00:36:08] They’ll be eating and relaxing. You know what I’m saying? Like they didn’t even know each other and they were just eating and relaxing, eating and drinking and relaxing while I’m trying to figure out how to get up there.

[00:36:25] Donald Thompson: [00:36:25] I’m crying.

[00:36:28] One more. We go to the meeting at OWN, right? And so, we go sit in the offices, and the client is sitting there, I’m sitting there. Cicero’s sitting there. And Oprah’s team is late. They’re like 20 minutes. And I’m looking at my watch and I’m a business guy, right? And I’m, I’m a little big shot, right? So I’m like, they’re late, like the Cicero, what the hell is going on, Cicero? They’re 20 minutes late. Cicero looks at me and goes, hey man, in North Carolina you [00:37:00] matter. We’re in LA and nobody gives a shit about you in LA.

[00:37:09] Cicero Leak: [00:37:09] I was like, Don chill, man.

[00:37:18] Donald Thompson: [00:37:18] Oh my God. I was like, I wasn’t being sarcastic, I was like, that makes sense.

[00:37:28] Oh my gosh, man.

[00:37:32] Oh my gosh.

[00:37:35] Oh my gosh. Those were the days.

[00:37:38] Cicero Leak: [00:37:38] We had to, I had to get this story, I had to get that story in before we got off it.

[00:37:43] Donald Thompson: [00:37:43] That is crazy. Well, look guys, I’ve enjoyed y’all and keep in touch on the real, and if I can be helpful, I need you guys to reach out to me and let me know how I can be helpful.

[00:37:56] Cicero Leak: [00:37:56] We got you. We all teammates. So no, we got you.

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The Donald Thompson Podcast is hosted by Walk West CEO, mentor, investor, and Diversity and Inclusion Consultant Donald Thompson.

Music for this episode provided by Jensen Reed from his song, “You Can’t Stop Me”.

The Donald Thompson Podcast is edited and produced by Earfluence. For more on how to engage your community or build your personal brand through podcasting, visit

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