Welcome to the Black Lapel Brotherhood series. At Black Lapel, we believe in aspiring to become better men every day. We believe in working, hustling and striving to achieve individual and collective goals. The Black Lapel Brotherhood series is about showcasing those hard working guys who have a strong sense of direction, who want the most out of life and who want to look and be their best every day. We are inspired by these men and want to share their stories with you.
MR. JERRY “JT” TRAN, Dating Coach, 32, Los Angeles, CA.
Imagine an ordinary looking, 32 year-old male. He stands at 5 feet 5 inches tall. He’s not what you would call “Hollywood Handsome”. He isn’t any sort of physical standout. And finally, he’s Asian American. What is the first image that comes to your mind?
Is it this guy? If so, then JT Tran would thank you. Why? Because JT is one of the most renowned, successful and stylish dating coaches in the world and blowing away expectations is what he does best.
If it weren’t for those stereotypes, he wouldn’t be able to enjoy the daily hustle of helping thousands of men, both Asian and non-Asian, shatter perceived limitations on their way to becoming more confident, empowered and successful men.
JT has been featured on several television news programs including ABC Nightline and numerous print publications like the New Yorker. His recent forays onto Ivy League campuses have yielded standing room only turnouts. We sat down with him to find out what makes him tick. Listen up…
JT in some fresh Black Lapel threads.
BL: You were an aerospace engineer by training and a self-professed geek. How did you become one of the most recognized and successful dating coaches in the world?
JT: I never intended to. It was something that just kind of fell onto me. I started as a blogger a few years back, basically at the start of the whole blogging phenomenon. I was one of the only major Asian dating bloggers at the time and it garnered some attention for me. One day, out of the blue, a Chinese mother from Canada called me and said she had seen my blog and asked if I could come help her son. Apparently he had been harassed by Neo-Nazis growing up, and was lacking in social skills and confidence. She offered to fly me up there to work with him and this became the start of me helping guys. I work with a very specialized demographic and I fulfill a very strong need in the dating coaching world that formerly had been ignored.
BL: Were you always great with the ladies?
JT: Absolutely not. I’m an average looking guy. I have no misconceptions about what I look like. Girls don’t look at me and see their dream guy or stereotypical perfect man. I’ve worked very hard over time to become the guy I am today. Quite frankly, I didn’t get my first kiss until I was twenty, and even then it was out of pure luck.
BL: And now, you’re a pretty sharply dressed guy, how would you describe your style?
JT: I’d say my style has definitely evolved over the years. At the start of my dating coach career I was all about the flashy clothes, bright colors, fedoras, etc. I went through a rocker stage where I had facial hair. Now I’ve settled into an Old Hollywood style with fitted suits, pocket squares, and ties. I still wear brightly colored shirts, but my nighttime style is definitely more classic. I always tell my students not to worry about overdressing when we go out because they will never dress better than me. It helps keep the bar high for them and for me. For daywear I’m pretty casual with jeans, t-shirts, and my boots. Then it’s about comfort and convenience.
BL: If you had to make a killer impression on a date, what would you be wearing?
JT: Personally it depends on where we are going and what we’re doing, but I always like to be the best dressed wherever I go. I say it’s always better to be over dressed than under dressed.
BL: Well put. In your opinion, how important is it to be well-dressed or “put together” when it comes to attracting the opposite sex?
JT: I’m not a good looking guy. I’m short and very average looking. But there’s a difference between being good looking versus looking good. So I’m going to stack the deck in my favor as best as I can and use what I have to the best of my ability. Style isn’t the end all of dating, however, it can definitely give you a leg up. I’ve had girls come up to me and compliment me on a suit before. That takes away half of the work me because they made the initial approach, which is nice. Aside from that, I think it’s important for guys to just experiment a little. Go out of your comfort zone and try a look you’ve never done before. You’ll be surprised at the different reactions you get from different outfits. Different girls will respond to you as well. I always say, why wouldn’t you want to dress your best? Why wouldn’t you want to give yourself the edge over all the other average looking guys?
JT rubbing shoulders with Kathryn Morris from the hit CBS TV Show “Cold Case”
BL: What inspires you to help other men empower themselves?
JT: I stay inspired by seeing the progress my students make. I like to see the major changes from the first day to the last day. I never want guys to have to experience what I did growing up without a good male role model. If teaching this skill set is how I can help move people forward than so be it. I’m also just completely inspired by the rise of Jeremy Lin. I’ve never seen anything like that in my entire life; an Asian role model that attracts the attention of people from all races. Women see him as a sex symbol and children look up to him as a role model. I’d like to think that it’s the start of something more to come and can only help to create a more positive Asian masculine identity.
BL: Do you have a typical student? What’s he like and why do you think he’s coming to you for help?
JT: While we do get a large range of students, the typical student for me is a guy who doesn’t know much about the art behind attracting women, but knows that he needs to learn this skill. These guys just don’t know how to be social and talk to girls. We get all races, cultures, and backgrounds. In one bootcamp you might have an Asian engineer, a Caucasian schoolteacher, and a Latin marine. You might laugh, but this is what a typical bootcamp is like. These are normal guys that feel they are lacking in some part of their life.
BL: We understand a high percentage of your customers are minority men, specifically Asian men. Why do you think this is?
JT: About 75% of our students are Asian. Since I’m Asian myself, I think a lot of Asian guys want to learn from someone with a similar background. It might not be helpful for a student who looks like me (Asian and 5’5”) to learn from a 6’2” male model type. How is that male model type going to have any clue what to teach this shorter Asian guy? They don’t have the same pitfalls so it’s not as transferable. I also write a lot about Asian issues and media, so naturally, we attract that type of crowd.
BL: Some argue that when it comes to Asian American men, there are cultural biases toward certain ingrained behavior and attitudes while others believe there is a societal bias toward certain expectations and assumptions. Do you think either statement has merit?
JT: You’re asking if the whole Asian stigma is based off of a cultural vs. social biases…now this is something I love talking about. I’m a firm believer that the American mainstream media has influenced how Asian culture is perceived. Sure, family upbringing and a lack of good role models has a lot to do with it. However, I believe that everyone has a fair chance in this world. We just have to put our best foot forward and take on each struggle as it comes. When I was younger, I never imagined that I would be doing this for example. I feel like I’m a testament that you can get whatever you want if you only work at it. I feel like we have the power to change peoples’ minds on this topic.
BL: Breaking stereotypes always takes leaders and you’re definitely at the forefront of this charge. What else are you doing to help?
JT: I teach guys to not let any of that matter. I teach a very specific system that can be used to overcome cultural or societal stigmas. I’ve had the opportunity to speak at colleges and universities and be in news stories and magazines to talk about cultural issues and smashing stereotypes. I’m very lucky that I have an audience and can spread my message to bridge the gap between media and Asian culture.
BL: And what is the number one lesson you want all your students to take away with them regardless of their race?
JT: I think the most important thing is to be open to change. Think outside of the box a little. If you are unhappy in your job and living situation, you’re going to need to do more than learn how to attract women. You have to change yourself before you can be a sphere of influence to anyone else.
JT and his fellow coaches.
BL: What will be you be doing 20 years from now? Will The Asian Playboy retire one day in favor of a family and the proverbial house with a white picket fence or will you be living large in The Asian Playboy Mansion into your golden years?
JT: Now, I feel like that’s a loaded question! I’ve been a dating coach for over eight years. I am getting a little tired. I don’t necessarily find myself wanting to get married, but settling down with one woman probably wouldn’t be so bad. I just hope to expand my business and eventually hand over the reins to the young bucks somewhere down the line. I’d always like to be a presence in my business, but I’d settle for a few guest speaker spots a year.
While JT’s classes are not for everyone, there is no doubt he is helping the students that seek him out discover a fresh approach as they become more confident and successful men in dating and in life. Keep up the good work JT!