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Tyrese talks giving, Teddy Pendergrass and ‘The Fast and the Furious’ 8

The actor/singer hosted events in Atlanta benefiting needy families

Actor and R&B singer Tyrese Gibson has taken Atlanta by storm in the last week, helping to raise a record amount for the United Negro College Fund’s annual Mayor’s Masked Ball and hosting two parties for needy families.

Gibson, who goes by just Tyrese, told children in attendance that he wanted them to “do things bigger and better than me.” He spent hours taking photos and mingling with the crowd, who had gathered for food, fun and entertainment.

“I want you to know that what I do represents what’s possible,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you grew up in a house where’s there’s drugs and alcohol and there’s a bunch of people being killed in your community; that still doesn’t define what the outcome of your life and career is destined to be.”

The Los Angeles-based star’s nonprofit #TheLoveCircleFoundation hosted events at the Fanplex near Turner Field downtown and at Norcross First United Methodist Church in Norcross, a northeast Atlanta suburb.

Tyrese will guest-star in Lee Daniels’ Fox series, STAR, at 9 p.m. EST on Jan. 4. The show debuted in December and stars Jude Demorest as Star Davis, a Pittsburgh foster child who is longing for a music career. Queen Latifah plays her godmother.

And Tyrese is one of the stars of FAST 8, the eighth installment in the The Fast and The Furious action movie franchise, which was filmed in Atlanta.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed praised Tyrese for his selflessness.

“This Saturday we set a record at the UNCF’s Masked Ball,” said Reed. “Tyrese came as my personal guest and he ended up hosting a part of the occasion and raising more than a quarter of a million dollars by reaching out to a lot of other wonderful friends that we have, like Usher Raymond, like Jeezy, like Future and really having our entertainment community come together and raise $1.3 million for our young people to go to college.”

The Undefeated caught up with Tyrese at the Fanplex on Wednesday.

What is the appeal of The Fast & The Furious?

The movie represents diversity. It’s one of the most unspoken realities around the success of The Fast and the Furious. You’re able to go to the movie and somebody in the movie looks just like you – around the world. The other universal language I think that people don’t recognize is that everyone loves cars around the world and everyone loves to customize cars and put your own touch on it. And everyone loves women and everyone loves men, it’s a lot of things.

There’s been talk for a while now of you starring in a biopic about Teddy Pendergrass. What is the status of that?

This is an exclusive. Will Packer is producing, from Atlanta. Lee Daniels is attached to direct Teddy Pendergrass. As we all know, Teddy Pendergrass was born and raised in Philly, so was Lee Daniels. And we are doing this in conjunction with the family. Shout-out to Joan Pendergrass, who is the widow of Teddy Pendergrass. And yes, I will be playing Teddy. It’s real.

Tell us about the events your foundation is hosting this week.

The name of my foundation is called #TheLoveCircleFoundation, we are a 501(c)(3). What’s interesting about a lot of charitable organizations is you get locked into one goal and one mission. We do various, different things. This event is called ‘Walk a Mile in my Shoes.’ It’s specifically tied into people taking the clothes off their back, out of their closet, shoes and clothes they will no longer wear, and donating them.

What do you make of Donald Trump’s election?

It’s very simple. I just hope — since we’re on the other side of the election — that everyone involved, including that man, will wake up with the best of intentions toward everybody. There have been certain signs and indications that he wouldn’t, but we just hope that everybody is proven wrong. This is America. It’s about diversity and inclusion. It’s about every man, woman and child who has dreams and hopes — whether you’re an immigrant, whether you were born and raised in the U.S., whether you are handicapped, gay or straight. We want everybody to feel like, whoever you are, if you have hopes, dreams and intentions, that you have a shot at the American dream.

Lots of people are talking about the outfit you wore to the Mayor’s Masked Ball. Can you tell us about it?

I look at it as a king’s outfit. If you go back to where we’re all from, which is Africa, the local tradition was to wear garb. I’ve been spending a lot of time in the Middle East and I may go to Africa for the New Year or my birthday. It’s an outfit that I’ve grown accustomed to wearing even when I’m in the U.S. It only takes me five minutes to put it on and I’m out the house.

What’s your relationship status; and what do you look for in a woman?

Proudly, I’m single. I love a smart, educated classy and sophisticated woman that’s articulate, tall, has a confidence about herself. When she walks into the room, everyone knows it.

Angela Tuck is an Atlanta-based freelance writer and editor. Her blog, lovemypeople.me, is about faith, family and culture. She has worked as an editor at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The Detroit Free Press. She was a reporter for the Lexington, Ky. Herald-Leader and The Tampa Bay Times.