Looking out at a sea of Claflin University men dressed in suits and ties, Derrick Watkins,better known as Fonzworth Bentley, the former umbrella carrying personal assistant to Sean “Diddy” Combs, said all he could see was a room full of CEO’s.
“You are a CEO now,” he said. “You are the CEO of your purpose. The people you hang with are your board of directors. How you spend your money, that’s your marketing. What is your brand? You have to have a high level of excellence. You are competing in a global society. You don’t hear of anyone who is excellent who is not successful.”
Watkins, a musician, author, entertainer and fashion designer, didn’t come to Claflin to talk about working with the Hip Hop mogul, starring in music videos or hosting his own reality TV show. Instead, armed with his book, “Advance Your Swagger: How to use Manners, Confidence and Style to Get Ahead,” Watkins discussed the importance of appearance, respect, professional planning, setting goals and having integrity are to obtaining successes in life.
“Swagger is a tertiary agreement,” he said. “Manners plus confidence plus style equals swagger. I believe we are living in the golden age of disrespect. Looking hard is in. That’s not me.”
Watkins’ “swagger” birthed Fonzworth Bentley and opened doors to opportunities he couldn’t have imagined. Standing on the stage in Whittaker V. Middleton Auditorium wearing salmon pink pants, a crisp grey shirt, tied perfectly with a dimple at edge of the knot, and a blue blazer he said every man should possess, Watkins said he branded himself early on by thinking outside of the box and going against the norm. He was never one to follow the crowd, he said, wearing suits without being “Wall Street,” bold colors without being totally Hip Hop, practicing etiquette, having faith and showing integrity.
“Etiquette makes it so you are comfortable in all social situations. Set very clear goals, sew a seed of faith and show integrity … your new hash tag should be #CEOSwag,” he said.
Following a question-answer session with students where Watkins gave advice on how to tie a tie properly, dressing appropriately and how to focus and be prepared for opportunities, Watson said advising, mentoring and encouraging people to realize their potential is his passion.
“This is part of my purpose – to lead people to their destiny,” he said. “I see no statistics in this room. I see CEO’s and the potential for success.”
Claflin students were inspired by Watson’s words.
“He was very good. He made me think about how I can be myself and how I can develop my brand to make a difference in the world,” said Quinteaz Montford, a senior sport management major.
Waiting to enter a book signing and meet with Watkins, senior Justin Rufus said given his reputation as Fonzworth Bentley, he wasn’t expecting Watkins to be as low-key as he was. He left the event with a new perspective.
“I didn’t think about my life as a company, and I’m the CEO,” he said. “I didn’t think about how important it was and I hope I can transfer some of the things he did in his life over to mine.”
Watson closed by encouraging the men to spend time developing their “company.”
“These things take time,” he said. “Do your best. Think of yourself as a company. Look at your strengths and weaknesses. If you let a day go by and you haven’t thought about any of those things, you have failed your company that day.”
The event was hosted by the Alice Carson Tisdale Honors College Council for the men of Claflin.