Don Benjamin Has A Plan
By Stacey Gualandi
As a young boy, Don Benjamin may not have had a van like his rhyming doppelganger Jon Benjamin (you watched that on Comedy Central, right?), but he was afraid of flying cockroaches. Which is surprising when you consider that as a contestant on Season 20 of America’s Next Top Model, he didn’t hesitate to pose with a giant yellow python. Then again, taking chances is what this 28-year-old model-actor-rapper is all about.
Benjamin was born in what he calls a “ rough neighborhood of Chicago’s South Side” to a Caucasian mom and an African-American father, and he grew up in cities—and homeless shelters— all over the country. He was a basketball star in Minneapolis, but left his hoop dreams behind in 2006 when he embarked on an acting and music career in Los Angeles right after high school. “ I moved out here thinking that within a year I would be the next Denzel Washington,” Benjamin says half-joking. Ten years later, he admits it takes time to make things happen in Hollywood but is proud to say, “ I’m in a happy place right now.”
He made it to the top eight in 2013 on the Tyra Banks-helmed modeling competition—with his smoldering eyes, blonde hair and nearly full-body canvas of tattoos—before being eliminated. (Not bad for a self-described skinny kid who never dreamed of modeling.) Despite the defeat, he has gone on to be the face of Guess, Moods of Norway and Tilly’s. He even parlayed those good looks into good licks with his own music, which he says captures a “ bedroom-ready R&B vibe within the framework of hip-hop.” Benjamin says he likes to share his life story through his songs and hopes people will relate. Following the initial success of the track “ Across the Sky,” he is about to release a new single called “ Hit The Snooze.”
Lately, he has become more at home on film sets, too, and even drew from his high school past for a basketball-themed movie due in theaters soon. All of his hard work has already earned him a following: Benjamin is a finger-pinch away from reaching a million and a half followers on Instagram/itsdonbenjamin.
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