Terrence J (Digital Cover Story)
A healthy love life is its own full-time job, and often comes second to one’s career. Carving out Tinder time, planning getaways, and sending blue bubbled text messages to a love interest requires time that could be devoted to fulfilling a deadline or slaving away at the office well after clock-out.
For 32-year-old Terrence Jenkins, his current focus isn’t seeking out an eligible wife. Over a decade ago, the Queens, New York native (and eventual North Carolina transplant) left his corporate gig to audition for the host of the now-defunct music video countdown BET’s 106 & Park. As Rocsi Diaz’s baby faced co-host, he once proposed to Janet Jackson with a Ring Pop and on another occasion, was fed strawberries and whipped cream by the sensual music icon. Off-camera, he landed in a serious relationship in 2011 with supermodel Selita Ebanks, a high-profile romance that came to an end in 2013, when the beauty was working on a TV pilot and Terrence had jetted across the country to Los Angeles to become a member of the E! News crew. That same year, he also released a book inspired by his mother’s life lessons titled The Wealth of My Mother’s Wisdom: The Lessons That Made My Life Rich. Ebanks later revealed in an interview with Power 105.1’s The Breakfast Club that it was their individual workloads that made them decide to call it quits, a common struggle among young professionals whose main objective is to win.
“A lot of times, we go against ourselves…Once you let go of that fear, you’ll know exactly when it’s time to leave.”
Terrence J has since cut to the next chapter in his highlight reel. After saying farewell to his E! News post in December 2015, he is devoting his days and nights to becoming a force in Hollywood as an actor, occasional host, and producer. “I’m really at a place now where my career and just really laying down the foundation for the rest of my life is my priority,” he tells me over the phone. “Right now, it’s not a balance. It’s all about my career.”
While there’s no interrupting his grinding, Terrence is still tackling projects in the romance department. His latest big-screen venture, The Perfect Match, isn’t autobiographical but follows a playboy named Charlie who foregoes emotional attachment after his parents’ death for frequent one-night stands with whom Paula Patton’s character describes as “floozies.” He then enters a casual situation-ship with Eva (played by singer/model Cassie) that unlocks his craving for something deeper. “I feel like it’s a story that lot of guys can relate to. In life, in order for a man to become the man he’s gonna be, you gotta go through heartbreak [and] a certain level of understanding,” he explains. “When you go through that initial heartbreak, it really changes your outlook on everything.”
Timing plays a pivotal role in Terrence’s life. His mother was 17 when she had him. (He’s never met his father.) Before he landed the BET job, he was a homeless college graduate. These days, instead of stressing over which friend’s home he’s going to sleep in, he’s thumbing through scripts for potential TV/film gigs. A month after his departure from E! News, Lionsgate and Queen Latifah’s Flavor Unit Entertainment picked up The Perfect Match. He’s taking on hosting duty for TNT’s The Dunk King, slated to premiere during the playoffs, where the world’s best dunkers will have a chance to win $100,000. Terrence is also hosting FOX’s unscripted dating series Coupled, kicking off this spring. In the latter, the Mark Burnett-produced show follows 12 ladies looking for love in the Caribbean Islands and have their pick of 12 eligible bachelors, deciding on-the-spot if there’s instant chemistry or if it’s on to the next one. The women’s text and social media conversations to each other and to the fellas will also flash across the screen as added twist to reality TV.
Terrence admits that the presence of multiple communication channels has flipped the dating game since the days he pursued women. “Ten or 15 years ago, when I was dating, it was just a different landscape, a different world. You had to really get to know somebody from scratch and if you met somebody at the mall, you better get their phone number then,” he recalls. “Now, it’s like you meet somebody and you can find them on social media and can connect with them in different ways. Whether it’s a good or bad thing, it remains to be seen.”
“You can’t let the circumstances of life, whatever they may be, deter you from getting what you want out of it.”
Taking leaps of faith is the central theme of Terrence J’s come-up. Leaving comfortable positions at BET and E! News in search of more fulfilling passion projects could make any dedicated 9-to-5-er tremble with fear. “A lot of times, we go against ourselves,” he offers. “We feel something and we go against it for the practicality of it. People might be in a job, a relationship, or any type of situation that they hate but they’re scared to make the leap, leave that person, quit that job, and go after what they want. Once you let go of that fear, you’ll know exactly when it’s time to leave.”
Defining love isn’t as easy of a task for Terrence. “You know I’m still trying to figure it out,” he admits. “I still have no idea.” The only certainty: a lesson his mother has taught him that remains applicable to every endeavor he pursues. “You can’t give up. You can’t let the circumstances of life, whatever they may be, deter you from getting what you want out of it.”