Flying First class to rewrite the narrative with Enitan Bereola II
Bereola, a graduate of Florida A&M University, has taken the classic concept of manners and made it beautiful, again! He penned the award winning + bestselling books: BEREOLAESQUE, GENTLEWOMAN and THE GRAY.
As CEO of The Bereolaesque Group, Enitan has advised and partnered with clients like 20th Century Fox, Apple, Facebook, Salesforce, McDonald's, Visa, LINKEDIN, Yahoo, Jack Daniels, Crown Royal XO, I.W. Harper, Anheuser-Busch, BEVEL, Bergdorf Goodman and Goorin Bros. He was selected as BLACK ENTERPRISE’s Young & Bold Business Leader. Bereola paired up with Beats By Dre's "Show Your Color" campaign as well as Jay-Z and Steve Stoute's Translation, LLC marketing Co. President Barack Obama & the First Family, Oprah Winfrey and Mark Zuckerberg are owners of his work.
Enitan gives back. He partnered with Usher Raymond’s New Look Foundation as well as the Alice E. Foster Scholarship Program. He paired with Autism Speaks and adopted his former high school to contribute 20% of Bay Area Barnes & Noble book sales to help fund student programs. He supports The Bay Area After-School All-Stars and joined forces with the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America to help their mission to fund research.
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Written by: (Brandon Alexander)
tell us about your childhood and what growing up was like for you?
Enitan: I’m from San Jose, California – Silicon Valley. Growing up, I used to think that I had a Huxtable-like family. I have 1 brother and 2 sisters and was the youngest til’ my little sister came around. We had a really good life. My mom let me be creative. I was an eccentric little kid.
I questioned a lot of things as a kid, but didn’t speak about them. I didn’t understand the idea of going to a job, earning a salary and no matter how hard you work, that’s all you got paid. A lot of things didn’t make sense to me.
I didn’t really understand the concept of when you turn a light switch on somebody paid for that utility bill. I thought you just turn a light switch on anywhere in the world and it comes on. For a while I believed something was wrong with my thinking but those things that I question propel me today. Those questions allowed me to solve those problems.
What College Did You Go To?
Enitan: FAMU. I studied Computer information systems with a minor in business administration and a concentration of marketing. When I was 16 I interned at Hewlett Packard, I was like the only high school kid in there.
what did going to the barber shop teach you about life?
Enitan: At that young of an age I knew I don’t want to be an adult trying to live my life and do things but I have to go to a barber because that’s the only person who could solve my problem. That’s similar to how I got started. I wrote these books, but also if you look at anything visually on Instagram, I’m the man behind the design work. I taught myself, it’s very important.
A lot of people ask like how do I get started? I have all these ideas, I have no money. Like I can run my business by myself, legitimately. I started off doing my own PR, my own marketing the whole thing people were like who do you have doing this. I used to say I have a team because you look crazy saying you don’t. But it was me from the beginning. I messed up cutting my hair for years just so I could avoid having to go to the barber shop.
What does it mean to be an author and describe your creative process?
Enitan: It was hard for me to swallow becoming an author because so many people go to school for writing. Whatever I do, I can master and there’s a guilt there. I thought anybody could do it. I didn’t think it was a gift. I would tell people, “why don’t you just try it?” I didn’t understand. The first book was surreal. I had an idea I thought was going to work and culture opens its heavenly gates and embraced the topic.
It’s all perfect timing because the content isn’t comfortable content or cool content. We’re talking about vulnerability and black men going to therapy. We’ve never talked about mental health and generationally our parents didn’t talk about it either. The Gray is about just that and it came years before the “Me Too” movement started. I get these deposits and they just flow through me as if I’m a vessel. I don’t take credit for the work.
What’s the biggest challenge in being a young black author?
Enitan: I think just that, being a young black man. That comes with its stereotypes. I’ll fly first class and usually I’m the only brother up there. People will also stereotype me based off the way I’m dressed and think, “He must play for a team.” I always entertain that conversation. I know it’s coming so I’m prepared for it. Sometimes I intentionally dress a way where I will be stereotyped. My whole purpose for writing is a shift perspective so I want to do that in person too.
I anticipate it and I say, “No I’m actually a writer and just leave it at that.” The dialogue is usually, “Oh really what do you write?” My response, “I wrote 3 bestselling books”, “Oh really? Where are you heading?” “I’m heading to this tour that we produced.” They’re just blown away and their whole position shifts. It teaches them a lesson without me having to put it in their face. The most difficult part is maneuvering through a space where historically we haven’t been seen before.
Who’s your mentor?
Enitan: The first, from the onset it’s family. It was my grandfather, my father, just my family. It’s a great structure and that’s what I saw first. Then I started to pull people from television or arts, thinking to myself, “This person is dope.” I may not know them at the time but in my mind, they’re my mentors. I don’t have to ask them, “Hey will you be my mentor?” No, they are already doing the work for me. I’m receiving what you’re putting out and inspired by your boldness and how you dress.
HOW HAVE YOU DEALT WITH GROWTH VS FRIENDSHIP?
In the past year I’ve moved on from friends that I’ve had for like 15-20 years. I always had a really tight circle and it was always us! My groomsmen at my wedding, just all my guys. Extremely, extremely difficult but extremely necessary. You can’t let the difficulty of anything prevent you from doing what’s in the best interest of your goals. A lot of times in life, your friends are your friends because you all went to elementary together or because of proximity, because of time, etc.
Metaphorically, I used to be in a car and you could get in my car, hop in the passenger side and we could ride together. If you got out for whatever reason I would’ve turned the car around and I would come back to get you, even though I’m supposed to be going the other way. Now I’m like, “I’m not leaving you, you can get in if you want but if you get out, I’m not turning back around.”
It was a long process; it was a dark time for me. I went through this gray area but when I came out of it, it was so beautiful. I’ve learned so much more in the past year than I have in the past 15, 20 years with some of those friends. When you’re holding onto something you can’t open your hands to receive. I made space and when I did, new mentors, new friends changed my life in 6 months more than the past 20 years. It’s amazing, I see the world differently now.
What would you say is your passion and when did you know?
Enitan: I got a passion for people. I light up when I’m in front of people. My parents gave me so much attention as a kid. I’m more internal now so I can reflect on these things and analyze them. Even when I’m in an airport I’m really quiet but I’m bursting inside just looking at everybody – it’s the energy. New York always does it to me, it’s alive. All of your senses are being fulfilled. I really enjoy empowering people and I think my passion is people. That’s what keeps me up at night and what pulls me to sacrifice time with my family.
What inspires you to succeed?
Enitan: First, I have to define success to me because everyone’s version is different. Success is like a deep breath to me, success is like this architecture in here being in its moment and embracing everything that’s dope. It’s the idea that yesterday was amazing but today is today. I’m here today. I’m here now about to go home to my wife after this. I’m going to my wife, my son and my dog. That’s success to me. It’s a feeling that money can’t buy. I have joy, that’s success. Despite anything going on, I have joy, happiness is fleeting. The joy I have is permanent. Things get in the way of it at times but that’s success. I’ve gone and climbed mountains and got hella things and money and material stuff. The issue with thinking money is success is that when you get it… it doesn’t fulfill you. It doesn’t give you the joy you’re looking for. That’s what we’re really seeking. And when you don’t get that after all of that work. You just get depressed. You don’t find it there. But you can find a homeless person that’s hella joyful. When we were broke growing up as a family in the hood in Brooklyn, we were happy. We had fun. We didn’t know we were poor until we got older and society told us we were poor.
Are there any books that have changed your life?
Enitan: The Bible. Super cliché, but I’ve got to be honest, I had never read it. I’ve always been a believer, I just never read the bible. I thought it was boring and all complex, all these weird words. I finally decided to read it before I went on the Exhibit Gray Tour. This is in the midst of cutting off friends. Being in this very grayish area it was a dark fall for me. It was just like the first time I confronted myself in a real way and didn’t necessarily like what I felt, or saw.
It felt like depression and I never thought I would ever experience that. I hear people talk about it, yet I never understood it. Again, if you pay attention to the world, it literally does this. Every time you get up it’s doing that to you. Everybody experiences depression. It sounds like this big word, but it’s very natural. The bible helped me grow through that.
What advice would you give the next generation?
Enitan: In this digital age, we’ve been able to see way more than ever before. You can see what’s happening in China, you can see everything. I think this generation knows what’s possible. It’s most important that we actually do the work. Get your things started so that when asking someone for help, they can go back see what your work is about. They see that the work is done. That’s what I look for. What do you have that I can see?
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