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BlackMen Digital Profile: Don Benjamin, From Modeling To Music

Tuesday 4th, November 2014


Don Benjamin

From Modeling To Music

By: Kathy Iandoli


Anyone familiar with the "America's Next Top Model” franchise will recall the Cycle 20 contestant Don Benjamin, whose light eyes graced the TV series’ runways once the show went co-ed.


Benjamin moved to Los Angeles in 2006, hoping to achieve what many Cali transplants want. “I moved out chasing the acting and the music stuff. The modeling hadn’t really happened yet.” He says the music came naturally, where the desire to compose songs was constant. It was a perfect fit. “As soon as I got an opportunity, I was like man this is where I want to be,” he says of making music. “I don’t have to put on an act. This is really me, and I get to tell a story.” Of course modeling pays the bills right now, but with songs like his Elijah Blake assisted street single “Doin’ It Well,” that’s bound to change.



It’s been a wild ride for the LA resident, who currently divides his time between being a Wilhelmina model, potential acting roles, and a burgeoning rap career. The latter in that trifecta, Benjamin credits as being the most “controversial.” His model-level looks — while they’re a “perk” and a “disadvantage” he says — make most people assume that Hip-Hop isn’t his song style of choice. “A lot of people think that if you’re a good looking dude, you should be an R&B singer,” he says. That’s not the case, as Don Benjamin is a rapper, and a good one at that. “I don’t really talk about violence in my music either, so it isn’t like I’m this pretty boy trying to act like I’m something I’m not,” he explains. “It kind of benefits me, with having a pretty strong female following,” he continues. “I try to target them and approach that whole market.”


Music for Benjamin is easy; the modeling he says is more difficult, citing his fear of tripping on the runway versus slipping on stage during a performance (since that can turn into an opp for crowd engagement). America's Next Top Model helped not only his modeling, but also, life in general. “If there’s one thing I learned [from ANTM] it’s that you have to be ready for anything,” Don says. “They would wake us up at like three or four in the morning like, ‘Okay we’re gonna shoot.’ Then, they would put us on this bus with the windows blacked out so you wouldn’t know where you’re going. That kind of let me know you have to do whatever you can in this life to succeed. You’ll be thrown into situations, and you have to do it to come out and be on top.” His debut project is slated for a Fall release, and in the meantime, he’s still multi-tasking more than most.


“I usually try to figure out each day with what I have going on,” he says of balancing his now rigorous schedule. “Do I have a photo shoot that day or test shoots? Then, I figure out where I can squeeze in my studio time. Music is a first priority, but of course the modeling is a must.” Don typically moves his modeling career during the day, spending countless hours in the studio at night. Acting is there too, as he’s reading some scripts. Not bad for someone who used to play Chris Brown’s body double. “I’m a few years older than [Chris Brown] so in This Christmas he was younger and was only allowed to be on set for a certain amount of time,” he explains. “They would have me come in and stand during scenes where they were over the shoulder shots and whatnot.” Now though, when Don Benjamin lands a role, it’ll be face forward.



In the entertainment business, diversity is key, and Don Benjamin is proving to have mastered that in the midst of skeptics. “A lot of people tell me, ‘You’re too pretty, why don’t you just stick to modeling?’” he says, before providing the best response. “In this world, why do you have to stick to one thing? Why can’t you do everything?”


Point taken.