A natural for the gig, model-turned-producer Datari Turner began his career with an exclusive contract with Ford Modeling, signed by Katie Ford herself, through which he struck a pose in top campaigns for Tommy Hilfiger, Sean John, Abercrombie & Fitch, Polo Ralph Lauren, Kenneth Cole, Banana Republic, Skechers Footwear, and Ray Ban Eyewear.
In 2007, Turner signed on to become the spokesmodel for Jay-Z’s clothing line Rocawear. Those piercing eyes and that sexy pout graced billboards all over the world and, as expected, his female fan-base quadrupled.
What many don’t know about Turner is that he was quite the scholar and thespian growing up. After high school, he was accepted into the prestigious Yale School of Drama but did not attend because he was in such high demand as a fashion model. Talk about having great options.
In 2002, Turner turned his experience working on the music video scene into inspiration to pen the script for what would eventually become one of his most noteable works to date, the film “Video Girl.” It debuted on BET and was a semi-autobiographical look at life in the hip hop industry through Turner’s eyes. The movie quickly picked up a cult following and was one of the network’s top movies of 2011.
Tired of being the focus of the camera, Turner eventually left the spotlight to go behind the scenes, return to his roots, and pursue his true passion — producing films. This year, look out for three new projects from him: “LUV” starring Common, Danny Glover, and Meagan Good; “Dysfunctional Friends,” which opens February 3rd and stars T.O. and Stacey Dash; and “Cherry,” scheduled for release later this year.
Turner’s genius was behind TV One’s hit reality show “Lisa Raye: The Real McCoy,” which went on to break reality TV rating records and became the network’s highest rated show of all time. He also created and produced TV One’s “I Married a Baller,” the first reality show about professional athlete’s wives, and BET’s smash hit “The Ultimate Hustler,” an urban style “Apprentice” starring hip hop mogul Damon Dash. All of which only solidified his reputation for being the reality TV king.
We asked Turner what it feels like to have two careers come to fruition at just 32, and he says it really hasn’t hit him yet. “I haven’t really taken the time to let it digest," says Turner. "I worked really hard.”
Turner may have said farewell to his days as a professional model, but if anything is clear from looking at these photos, he can always return to the modeling industry. He’s a natural.
Turner graced many a catwalk during his modeling days. Check him out strutting his stuff, ladies.
Turner’s mother’s tough love has everything to do with his extraordinaire work ethic. He tells us that when he was little, she wouldn’t let him play football until he knew everything about the game. Now, the self-proclaimed “movie buff” says he takes the exact same approach with his work — making sure he studies the film industry in and out to ensure he’s always at the top of his game.
“I just want to be known as a great artist,” says Turner. “A lot of the guys I look up to are the Speilbergs and the Bruckheimers and Quincy Jones, and you know, a lot of the people who have been able to do it for 40 or 50 years and are still relevant in their 70s. I would like to have a career producing film and TV 30 or 40 years from now.”