Terry Crews is many things: Actor (“Brooklyn Nine-Nine”), furniture designer, artist, Old Spice spokesman and former NFL player. But the achievement he’s most proud of these days is raising his voice on behalf of the #MeToo Movement. TIME magazine recognized him as one of the Silence Breakers in its Person of the Year cover this past winter. For photos of Crews’ art, check out his social media accounts on Twitter (https://twitter.com/terrycrews), Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/realterrycrews) and Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/terrycrews).
Q. How have your travels impacted your view on how people of color are treated worldwide?
A. I’ve been to some beautiful, exotic places. But you cannot deny the history of where you’re going. The biggest example of that was in South Africa. I was shooting a movie and spent about three months there. It was wonderful -- the people, food, everything. I got to spend time in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Sun City. And then it hit me. We were staying at resorts where blacks weren’t allowed to stay in the past. It was wild and not so long ago. I remember being in high school and hearing about all these rock bands that boycotted Sun City because of apartheid.
Q. Are you buffered from overt racism because you’re famous?
A. Sometimes, but let me tell you a story about Cape Town. I was in a gym on a machine working out and this white guy tapped me on my back. He said, “Get off of my machine.” I looked at him and said, “I’m sorry, sir, but I am on this machine right now.” This went back and forth until he screamed at me and hit me on my back. I said, “Dude, you touch me one more time, I’m going to hurt you.” But then I realized what it was. He thought I was African and that as an Afrikaner he had the right to tell me to go away. I saw how even the Africans were conditioned to let people get away with this stuff. I had to go there to experience the remnants of what this place was about. This is what traveling does. It gives you perspective and the chance to see history in action.
Q. Where would you like to visit next?
A. I can’t wait to go to Mongolia. I read a book called “Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World.” It blew me away. My wig is still flipped. It basically talked about the Mongolian culture and how it has shaped the way we live today and how real and grand and wonderful the culture has been.
Q. How has traveling shaped the way you view entertainment?
A. You’re Korean, right? I love BTS. The first time I saw them I was like, “These kids are jamming!” They’re top trending on Twitter every time I turn around and I checked them out when they were on TV. They put on a show! Would I have appreciated a group that doesn’t sing in English when I was 20? Probably not. But that’s something that travel has given me -- this appreciation for different cultures and things that are not familiar to me.
Q. What were your road trips like as a child?
A. When I was a kid, we would not stop when we traveled down south all the way from Michigan to Georgia. We wouldn’t stop at diners, because you knew the way you were going to be treated as a black family. So we would pack all these things in the back of the trunk -- chicken, sandwiches, drinks -- and stop at rest stops to eat. What is wild is that as I became an adult, the older blacks still felt like they could not go to diners. I remember traveling with my parents or grandparents and they didn’t want to go into restaurants. I said, “We can. I want to show you it’s OK.” It’s the deep cultural problems that are deeply set in and you don’t even know why you’re doing it anymore.
Q. It sounds like traveling isn’t just a pleasure for you, but a mission in a way.
A. Yes! When I travel, I feel like I am doing it for all the people who couldn’t. Years ago, people like me could not do this, so I need to do this on their behalf. And it feels good. My wife and I held hands and walked around Sun City with our kids. It feels like vindication going to places that blacks couldn’t go to in the past.
Q. What are your five favorite cities?
A. I love L.A. It’s the home of dreamers. New York City is fabulous; London, of course. Maui is where I chill. And the fifth would have to be Rio de Janeiro, because they treat me like I was raised there. Old Spice is gigantic there and “Everyone Hates Chris” did well there. They treat me as if I was born there and people hug me and treat me like royalty.
Q. What do you always make time for in a new city?
A. One of my big things is visiting museums. I basically spend a day in a gallery or museum wherever I am. I went to London and visited the Design Museum. It’s something I wouldn’t do with the whole family, because the kids get tired. It enriches me. It’s my alone time and I feel really at peace.
(Jae-Ha Kim is a New York Times bestselling author and travel writer. You can respond to this column by visiting her website at www.jaehakim.com. You may also follow “Go Away With...” on Twitter at @GoAwayWithJae where Jae-Ha Kim welcomes your questions and comments.)
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