🎙 "Everyone Can be Rich in Crypto; There are No Divine Rights:" Terry Crews
In this week’s episode, I speak with Terry Crews, a legit star. He was a professional football player, has starred in multiple Hollywood films and currently leads in TV shows including America’s Got Talent. He is also a cryptocurrency enthusiast, minting his own social token called POWER.
Terry has a very powerful story on how he got into crypto. It was at a design show in Milan. He wanted to support his friend at the show, but wasn’t able to withdraw money from his own American Express account. He realized a financial system that’s based on trusting a long line of intermediaries is broken. He thought, even when he did everything right, and he was already wealthy and famous, he still got the door shut in his face —so what’s left for the rest? He thought back to the families who were crushed under debt from loan sharks in the neighborhood he grew up in. He watched what happened with Gamestop earlier this year.
All of that cemented his view that the financial system should be permissionless, transparent and global. He believes creators and personalities with a following like himself stand to benefit from this new system by bypassing old gatekeepers and reaching their audiences directly.
He is exploring this concept by creating his own social token. POWER brings together a group of investors who will support artists. Eventually, when the group has collected a valuable portfolio, he plans to make the POWER token tradable. But he’s not in a hurry. He said, to him, “this thing is for life.”
The podcast was led by Camila Russo, and edited by Alp Gasimov. Transcript was edited by Owen Fernau and Dan Kahan.
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Camila Russo: We usually don't have athletes and movie stars on The Defiant podcast. So really interested to hear about how you got interested and involved in crypto in the first place.
Terry Crews: Wow. I'm going to try to be as succinct as possible because it's a little bit of a long story. But the first thing I am, I am an artist. Before I was a football player, before I was an actor, I was an illustrator, painting, drawing. And I actually thought my career in Hollywood would be in the special effects lane. My dream was to work for Industrial Light and Magic, and create special effects for movies and use my art in telling stories.
And I had an art scholarship before I had a football scholarship. So as an artist, my whole thing was, how can me as an artist find ways to survive? Because when you are an artist, the first thing that goes before your name is usually starving, starving artists. A lot of times being an artist is always attributed to being tied in to having a life of poverty, a life of trying to make things work, you know you have to sacrifice everything, you probably have to give up everything, and then someone else benefits off your work.
And my thing is, being an artist, I've always been a patron of the arts. I always have found people that I loved and I always invested in them. And when I was getting involved in the furniture business, there was a friend of mine, who actually is one of the world's best designers. He had just left the school. He was in Switzerland, he was studying luxury at his university, and creating really beautiful objects. And this guy had been my friend when he lived in the United States.
And I flew over to Switzerland. And I love this guy. And I was like, man, look, I have this budget, I said, whatever you want to do, I'm going to contribute to you. I'm going to invest in you. And I said, let's make a product. I want you to design it and we'll put it out, you will blow up. And the whole thing is to get you the recognition that you deserve, because that's really, really hard for most artists.
“And I was like, man, look, I have this budget, I said, whatever you want to do, I'm going to contribute to you. I'm going to invest in you. And I said, let's make a product. I want you to design it and we'll put it out, you will blow up. And the whole thing is to get you the recognition that you deserve, because that's really, really hard for most artists.”
So he came up with a whole line of furniture, a settee, a table, a chandelier, and it was beautiful. And we took it to Milan for the Salone del Mobile, which had an emerging designers conference for brand new designers. And it was a hit. I spent all my money. I ended up spending double, because all his designs were so beautiful, they were real marble and real glassmakers, and we had to get things from all over the world, but it was so beautiful. It won awards.
And the thing was when we were at Salone del Mobile, it was in Milan, Italy, and I flew everyone over and it was a huge exhibition. And what was happening is the exhibitors needed more money. And I was like, oh, okay, there were always these little fees and little things that I had to take care of. And there I was, I was out of the country, so it was more than my ATM could give me. So I had American Express send me my own money, basically, and I was supposed to pick up the transfer, the wire, at a bank right there in Milan.
And I went to Milan, I went to the bank. And there I was, I had my passport, I had my driver's license, I had my American Express card, I had everything in my hands, I was ready to go. And mind you, Camila, I was already famous. So this is one of those things where I was in the bank, and people were like, oh, I know you, you know. And I was like, hey, guys, how are you doing? And the bank, they had secure glass. I’ll never forget this. It was this big, thick, bulletproof glass that was sitting up there.
And here I was in line. I showed everything to the teller, and she went to her manager, and the manager was on the phone in the background going no, no.
TC: Why? Right. And that's exactly where I was going. I was like, what's going on? And he was on the phone with American Express. And then I got on the phone with American Express, and I said, I see the person you're talking to and I said I need my money. And he was like, no, no. And the teller came back, gave me my passport, gave me all my information back, gave me my card back and said no.
CR: What? Did they give you a reason?
TC: This is the thing. So I talked to the guy from American Express, and he's like, I'm so sorry, Mr. Crews, we're having difficulty. I can send you somewhere else. And this was just weird.
CR: What year was this?
TC: This was probably 2017.
CR: Okay, pretty recent.
TC: Not a long time ago. So I realized something. And one thing, I looked around and I started to realize very quickly what was happening. I was the only black person in the bank. I was probably the only black person that these guys have even seen in the area, because everyone was white, everyone.
CR: What, did you think they were discriminating against you?
TC: Absolutely. I believed right then and there, he wouldn't do it. And even apparently, American Express couldn't make the guy give me my money.
CR: But he didn't believe you were the account owner or something?
TC: I had everything. I had all my information right there. I had everything. I guess he thought I was running some big scam or something.
CR: No, that's so unacceptable.
TC: But this was the thing. Again, and this is another thing is that. Just like in America, there's probably just as much racism in America as there is in Europe. And in Italy, they're not used to seeing a lot of black people. And so in his mind, he probably felt like I'm being tricked; there's some sort of scam going on. So the American Express guy sent me to the very sketchy side of town and it was a side of town that the Ubers wouldn't even go, because they were like, this is not safe. I had to walk to this 24 hour internet café, and they were selling incense and smoke things. It was really smoky. It was so sketchy. And the guy gave me my money, and I had to walk all the way back to the hotel because the Uber wouldn't pick me up.
CR: So this was a different American Express location in a bad neighborhood?
TC: It wasn't even an American Express location. It was just the people who would give me my money. American Express worked hard to find someone who would agree. And this is what happened. But I had a Black Card. I mean, this is the best American Express card you could ever have.
Permissionless Access to the Financial System
CR: And you couldn't even access your money?
TC: I could put a million dollars on this card, and they would not accept it. But on the way, and this is why I said it's kind of a long story, but this is where it all comes together. On that walk back to the hotel, I said this can never happen again. On that walk, I was thinking, look at the ability of someone, I'm already rich, I'm already famous, and I can't get access to my own money. And I thought these are gatekeepers. These are people who are preventing you from succeeding in some way, shape, or form. This is a system. This is something that, even when you do everything right, even when your credit is A1, even when you do everything down to the letter, they can still say, no. It blew my mind. And I said, there's got to be another way. There's got to be another way.
“I'm already rich, I'm already famous, and I can't get access to my own money. And I thought these are gatekeepers. These are people who are preventing you from succeeding in some way, shape, or form. This is a system. This is something that, even when you do everything right, even when your credit is A1, even when you do everything down to the letter, they can still say, no. It blew my mind.”
And Camilla, once I started to look into research, and I found out about crypto, and I started to look into the democratization of what crypto is, and it did not care what color I was. If I had fulfilled all the requirements of the smart contract, it must go through. No one person can say no to me. It's the whole community. One thing that blew me away is being decentralized, is truly power. Because a country can't even say you can't have it. You know what I mean? This is about a whole other system. When I saw DeFi, I saw the ability for people.
“One thing that blew me away is being decentralized, is truly power. Because a country can't even say you can't have it. You know what I mean? This is about a whole other system.”
You have to understand, when I started doing the research, I started to see how people in Africa were being denied ownership of the places that they knew their families already owned simply because they had no record. And so I said, this is a way. If you can put it on the blockchain, if you can put the record of you owning your own land, and your own places, and all your contracts, and what your family has on the blockchain, no one can refute it. But now you'd have somebody to come in and say no, you don't own it, this is ours.
And this happens all the time. This happens all over the world. So many people are told, no, that's not yours, it's mine. I have more records than you do. But this, the fact that we can have a ledger that proves who you are, where you come from, and I'm telling you, I said, this is the way of the future. This is truly, truly power. When you look at the hundreds of millions of people who are being disenfranchised, I was one person who was disenfranchised from the system. And I said I'm in. After that, I said, I have to find a way to get involved with cryptocurrency because it truly, truly is something that everyone needs in their life.
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