What Ever Happened to Fonzworth Bentley, the World’s Most Famous Umbrella Holder?
In 2001 Sean Combs had been acquitted on gun-possession and bribery charges after a shooting in an NYC nightclub in 1999. After his freedom was put on the line, Combs— largely known in the hip-hop community as Puff Daddy— wanted a fresh start so he decided to change his name to P. Diddy. He would later change his name again in 2005 dropping the "P" and simplifying it to Diddy.
Diddy's name wasn't all that changed— that same year while in St. Tropez, he would cause another media frenzy when he was photographed with a dapper dressed man holding a white umbrella priced at $700 over his head. When the picture began to circulate, everyone wanted to know, just who was the well-dressed "manservant" holding the expensive parasol?
Derek Watkins was the well-dressed man in the photo, who everyone would later come to know as Fonzworth Bentley. Watkins was born and raised in Southwest Atlanta and went on to attend his father's alma mater, Morehouse College. After college, he began working at the Ralph Lauren store in Lenox Square mall in Atlanta.
He eventually got transferred to New York City and began working at Ralph Lauren's flagship store on Madison Avenue. It was in New York City that Watkins would meet Diddy and land a job as his assistant and valet.
According to an interview with The New York Times, Watkins got his moniker from Diddy himself.
"It was Diddy, Mr. Bentley said, who appraised one of his elaborate get-ups and christened him ''Farnsworth.'' The ''Bentley'' came from an executive at Bad Boy, Diddy's record label, he said."
Becoming Diddy's butler was not the only thing that made Watkins stand out from the crowd, it was being a well-dressed man in hip-hop in the early 2000's. Watkins wore Ralph Lauren before Kanye West made it cool. He wore button ups when JAY-Z was still rocking throwback jerseys and fitted caps.
In 2003, Watkins went from butler to reality star after appearing in Diddy's Making Da Band reality show. His personality and style that resonated with viewers, and from there, his career took off. He eventually received his own show on MTV called From G's to Gents. He began acting and appeared in Honey, Fat Albert, and Think Like A Man Too.
Watkins can be credited for helping pioneer the "Gentlemen's Movement," in hip-hop. He even released a book in 2007 entitled, Advance Your Swagger: How to Use Manners, Confidence, and Style to Get Ahead, which became a New York Times bestseller.
He took his career in a direction that most people didn't see coming when he dropped the single, "Everybody" featuring Kanye West and childhood friend André 3000. And in 2011, he released his debut album titled C.O.L.O.U.R.S. by Derek Watkins.
So, what has Mr. Bentley been up to lately?
After releasing his own album in 2011 he continued working in the music industry and teamed up with Kanye West several times. Watkins has songwriting credits on Kanye's Yeezus album, specifically for "Black Skinhead," "I Am God," "On Sight," and "Hold My Liquor."
He then teamed up again with Kanye on his latest album, The Life of Pablo, and is credited as a producer on the single, "Ultralight Beam." In an interview with Fader, he gives an in-depth interview about the creation of the song.
"A Kanye album is like a working document. You don't hear the final version of it until it is available for purchase," he said in the 2016 interview. "That's just the way it works. Every producer knows that, every friend knows that. That's just the way it is. I really admire that about him: his ability to strip down a genius idea and chase another genius idea that's come to light."
Watkins also took his talents to gospel music when he was tapped to host BET's gospel morning show, Life Every Voice, replacing Coco Brother.
And because Watkins' talents and creativity knows no limits, last year he helped arrange and write the songs for ABC's hit show black-Ish. Remember the season 4 premiere? The Juneteenth episode that everyone was raving about? Yup, that was him.
He also choreographed and arranged the first promotional video clip for black-Ish's spinoff show, grown-Ish, starring Yara Shahidi.
Watkins is currently married with children and doesn't seem to be slowing down anytime soon.
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