BE Modern Man: Meet the Film Producer Datari Turner

BE Modern Man is an integrative program that honors the essence, image, and accomplishments of today’s man of color. With features of today’s leaders, executives, creatives, students, politicians, entrepreneurs, professionals, and agents of change—these men share the common thread of creating a new normal while setting the bar in tech, art, philanthropy, business, and beyond. The BE Modern Man is making a positive impact, his way, and has a story to tell.


Name: Datari Turner

Age: 39

Profession: Film and Television Producer, Show Creator

One Word that Describes you: Passionate

Social Media handles: Instagram:@datariturner Twitter:@datariturner Facebook: @datariturner

What does being one of the BEMM 100 Men of Distinction mean to you?

Being chosen as one of the BEMM 100 Men of Distinction is an absolute honor. Black Enterprise, as a brand to me, has always represented, power, strength, wealth, hard work, honor, and legacy. I am humbled to be chosen to be a part of such an exclusive list of entrepreneurs and incredible minds. 

What are some examples of how you have turned struggle into success?

Growing up as a young kid in the crime-infested city of Richmond, California, taught me how to deal with adversity, seeing people I knew murdered, and end up in jail. I thank God, for introducing me to sports at a young age, because it kept me out of trouble, and taught me to have a strong work ethic, and be disciplined. At age 24, I left a successful career as a fashion model, represented by the Ford Modeling Agency, in New York, to move to Los Angeles to pursue a career as a writer and film producer. I had some really lean years. I didn’t have a backup plan so I was determined to succeed. Today, 15 years later, I have produced close to 30 feature films, and have had multiple successful television shows that I have created and executive produced on air. Most recently the Growing Up Hip Hop franchise. 

What is an important quality you look for in your relationships with others?

An important quality that I look for in my relationships with others, in addition to being hard-working, having integrity, and being trustworthy, is to be kind. Kindness doesn’t cost you anything. Your success and how far you go in life, in a lot of cases is based on if people like you, so be kind and leave people feeling great after having an experience with you.

What are some immediate projects you are working on?

Currently, I have a film coming out in theaters that premiered to critical acclaim at the Sundance Film Festival called A Boy. A Girl. A Dream. Starring Omari Hardwick, Meagan Good, and Jay Ellis. I produced the film. I also have my hit series Growing Up Hip Hop, currently in season four, and Growing Up Hip Hop Atlanta, currently in season three. I serve as the creator and an executive producer on both shows. I also just wrapped another film called Same Difference with Terrence J, Essence Atkins, and Demetrius Shipp Jr. I’m producing a documentary series at Showtime with LeBron James, Maverick Carter, and Rich Paul, on the history of the NBA. I have about 11 other projects I’m working on as well, in different stages of development. 

What is the best advice you have ever received?

The best advice I’ve gotten was from my parents to pray every day. My faith is very important to me. I think the most successful people are those who can wake up and decide exactly how they want to spend their day doing exactly what they believe that they were put on the earth to do. 

What advice you have for other men who want to make a difference?

I would say to work on having a strong relationship with God, first and foremost. Ask God what you need to be doing to make a difference. He will tell you if you ask. You should always be giving just as much as you are receiving. Mentoring. Teaching. Helping other people to realize their dreams equally as well as your own.  


What is your “Extraordinary Impact”? 

I would say that my extraordinary impact in my profession is that I have been able to provide young artists with working opportunities that they may not have gotten had I not given them a chance first. All of the films that I have produced and helped to get made—close to 30 films—I’ve had to go out and raise the funding independently to get them made. Most of the films that I have produced have been with a first time writer and director. I took the chance on them and was one of the first to believe in their vision. 

I have a really keen eye for talent. I worked with and cast Meghan Markle very early on in her career, in my film about Howard University graduates (Dysfunctional Friends). We were in the ABC-Disney talent program together in 2004. I helped discover actress Ryan Destiny, by casting her in her first acting role, in my film (A Girl Like Grace). I also cast actor Michael Rainy Jr. in his first film (LUV).
All of these people have gone on to have very successful careers and more. I mentor and serve as a sounding board for many young people when they are first starting out in their careers.

It’s our normal to be extraordinary. Follow @BEModernMan and join the conversation using #BEModernMan.

Come celebrate the BE Modern Man 100 Men of Distinction at the 2nd Annual Black Men XCEL, Aug. 29–Sept. 2, 2018, at PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.