Actor Lendale Johnson Talks About the Culture Shock from Being Transferred to a Predominately White Student Body

12/23/2015 02:16 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

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Actor and Tennis player Lendale Johnson's goal is to inspire people to chase their dreams.

Lendale Johnson's Website, Twitter

Who exactly is Lendale Johnson? He's a positive force in this world we call home.

He beat the odds growing up in an almost all white neighborhood. He came out on top after being made fun of as a child. He does charity work with a passion.

Seriously, this guy wouldn't stop emailing me until I said yes -- and I didn't even know what I was saying 'yes' to! Proof that persistence pays off.

But I'm sure glad I said yes because Lendale Johnson has a message for YOU.

What is your mission in life?

My mission in life is to put myself in a position that will allow me to inspire anyone to go after their dreams and help anyone. I now have the ability to manifest all types of opportunities from my network and the business relationships I've created over the years.

Tell us about your family history.

It's funny, both of my parents are from Chicago and love it but they decided to raise me in Michigan. Back in the day mom was a cheerleader and ran track while my dad played basketball. Mom's now a respected hair stylist in the community.

We would all watch Bruce Lee when I was a kid. My dad likes to think of himself as a black belt [laughs] and a good chef. He's always cooking for me when I visit my hometown. I'm grateful because not everyone can say their dad cooks for them let alone was a part of their life while growing up. Sadly a disturbing percentage of Black dads are absent from their kids' childhood. Awesome, quirky and blunt would be a good description of my grandparents; they are from Mississippi and my grandma's southern cooking and language proves it to say the least, as she grew up before the civil rights movement.

Do you prefer bow ties or neck ties? Where do you shop for clothes?

I bought a bow tie for the first time this year and received a lot of compliments but I prefer neck ties. I'm all about being frugal when shopping for material things but sometimes I go crazy and splurge. I shop everywhere from local thrift stores to NY and LA when the timing is right. I'm a fan of Tom Ford, Prada, Armani Exchange, Jeremy Scott and Marc Jacobs. Many of my favorite jeans are Levis -- everyone has that ONE pair of jeans they absolutely love. I have a few.

When did you become interested in tennis?

I was fairly young, not right out of diapers. About 5 or 6 years old. I was self-taught by hitting against a fence while my dad played basketball and eventually I was given a scholarship to train at a local tennis club. From there I racked up on trophies and medals.

Tell us about the charities and community work you're involved with.

This year I signed autographs in Michigan for Housing Resource Inc's annual "Walk To End Homeless 5K" in Kalamazoo, was auctioned off at Chicago's "Fifty Shades Of Red" Dine With A Celebrity Charity event for American Heart Association, volunteered at Grant Park for XS Tennis and Lacoste's "Day Of Play", and recently presented awards in Texas for Equanimity Magazine to support their JB Dondolo, Inc. charity.

What are your thoughts on bullying?

Hate is taught and bullying comes from insecurities. I recently reconnected with one of my gym teachers from middle school and we looked back at my experience and her experience from a teacher's perspective. Parenting and environments outside of school play a big part on how a kid will act in school. Back then I had braces and glasses, and had to deal with culture shock after my parents relocated from a mostly all black community to a mostly all white community. I was made fun of but had great friends and a strong mindset that always come out on top at the end of the day by staying positive. A girl in my high school was removed from class after she told off the teacher on my behalf.

What advice do you have for today's youth?

Stay focused. Go after your dreams and goals relentlessly, write them down and check them off after you've accomplished them. Get your education, be selective of the friends you make and who you hang out with. Not everyone that walks with you and talks to you is your friend. Put down your cell phone for a minute and enjoy the present.

Anything else you'd like to say?

Don't judge a book by its cover. Make an effort to befriend someone outside of your race and/or sexual orientation. They could be that best friend you've never had. Success comes from within, working hard, and never giving up. If anyone is looking to break into the entertainment or fashion industry, work on booking background gigs first and then find a videographer to help create your reel. [AUTHOR'S NOTE: Consider NYCastings for your acting go-to place.]

Take acting courses / workshops and then work on landing an acting agent and/or contact casting directors directly if you can.

Lastly, for any inspiring models out there. Schedule a photo shoot after you've done some thorough research on the photographer, then submit to agencies and fashion shows. Never pay to sign with an agency, it's most likely a scam.