When it comes to Hollywood, there’s a certain way of getting things done. The narrow path to stardom is filled with gatekeepers who unfairly select who makes it in the industry and who does not.
Greg Centineo, a long-time entertainment entrepreneur, has seen individuals rise and fall during his time in Hollywood. With the recent trend of social media influencers and content creators making their mark and presence felt within Hollywood, Centineo shares his unique perspective on how these new crop of entertainers can do to ensure their time in the limelight isn’t limited to fifteen minutes.
Author’s Note: This interview was originally recorded live and has been edited for clarity and conciseness.
Frederick Daso: Perfect. How’s it going, Greg? It’s good to see you again. We have so much to talk about today. You’re the first person I’ve talked to dealing with celebrities. Your son is a celebrity. You’ve been in the industry for so long. Before we dive into your actual work, who are you, and how did you get to where you are today?
Greg Centineo: I got where I am today primarily by doing whatever I wanted to do at the moments I wanted to do whatever it was. There was no five-year plan. No ten-year plan. There was no waking up one morning and saying, ‘Hey, I want to be in the middle of the entertainment industry.’ It culminated my mindset with a fierce commitment to design my life and many opportunities throughout my lifetime. When I had an opportunity to do something that resonated with my mindset and design, I did it. That mindset with strong intentions would seemingly magically guide me to those big opportunities, and the keywords to my future were, ‘I’ll do it.’
Daso: I want to dig into that mindset because when we first met, you talked about feeling at home among Millennials. That’s where you felt that you belonged. Having that mindset validated, what did you learn from Millennials that informed you what you should do next?
Centineo: I strongly identify with Millennials’ mindset. I shared their tenants of belief, attitude, vibe and philosophy on how to work. They don’t live to work. They work to live, which I kind of adopted early on in my life. When this generation finally grew up and was now in the workplace, I identified with them and worked with them. There was this immediate synergy between us. I understood this demographic with such familiarity.
It was becoming obvious that this generation wasn’t educated or taught this mindset. But, rather, they were born with it. I started to believe that this intuitive mindset reshaping culture on all levels was coming from a higher energy source, the Universe. Therefore, potentially validating my life trajectory was beyond my intrinsic and intuitive abilities and came from that same higher energy source.
Daso: As you’re doing this stuff, you’re working in Hollywood, which is rigid in the way things are done. How did you learn to stick with your gut feeling even before you met Millennials, people my age, who are just naturally doing what you’ve already been doing for a while?
Centineo: Great question, Fred, This statement is not coming from a place of arrogance but rather from experience. I realized in my late 30s that people immediately give credence and power to those in positions of authority regardless of the industry. People figuratively bow to the industry titles. In reality, so many of these titled positions are led by incompetent individuals.
Daso: Okay. We got hot takes here!
Centineo: Many of these titled individuals are industry gatekeepers, and some are purely lazy and incompetent. When we say “the industry is broken,” we are saying that the system is being led and controlled by very broken and incompetent human beings who, in many cases, are just stagnant in their positions of authority. I realized that if I want to do what I want, I can’t let these people become a barrier to my goals and aspirations. I needed to become disruptive in the very true sense of the word, find a better way to accomplish the desired goal, and build up a process that works the way it was intended to work. So that’s what I did, and it’s what I do intuitively. I found another way to the top! Fred, I’ve done this my entire life. Be disruptive to find a better way that will work and benefit everybody around me.
Daso: Right. Let’s talk about a practical case of you being disruptive. For example, you managed your son’s career. How did you act disruptive in guiding his career and how things could be done in Hollywood to allow everyone to be successful?
Centineo: It boils down to what are the imposed limitations, and who’s telling you that you can’t do this? Noah said he wanted to be an actor when he was young. Therefore, I said let’s do it. And don’t let anything get in the way that will stop us; whether naysayers, haters, doubters, or complacent industry gatekeepers, we will do it anyway.
Daso: One example you shared with me was how you brought a certain deal to Hollywood that had never been done before. It was on the order of like a hundred million dollars or something similar. Could you give us more details?
Centineo: Yeah, I got involved in the early stage phase of that project. So, You have this independent production company that wants to launch a 3D animation film franchise. That was laughable because The animation industry then was controlled by three major studios, Disney, Dreamworks, and Pixar. So how did I figure it out? I went back, looked at the independent production company, and said, what are the problems? What are the issues? Raising $1mm in the capital? It’s a whole slew of reasons. Films don’t make money; independent filmmakers have trouble raising mega dollars, typically using archaic models and not being transparent with investors.
I had no experience in the animation industry nor any experience in fundraising. I studied the situation for seven months and then launched a strategy for how we will do this. We created a completely different mindset and belief system, built around transparency and a compelling story, rooted in the focused belief in what we were doing rather than the potential outcomes. This means not focusing our belief on whether the project would succeed or fail but solely on the fact that we believed we should be trying to create this project. Therefore, my belief was severed from the ridiculous odds against our success, I didn’t even think we’d succeed, but that wasn’t going to stop me from trying. My belief was deeply rooted in the mindset that I needed to commit my time, energy, and resources to this project, not in focusing on the obstacles or the mounting odds against us. It’s at the moment of believing you find a fire deep inside yourself that fuels the journey. As long as you’re open-minded, you’ll figure it out. You’ll fail a thousand times along the way, but you will figure it out.
Daso: Right. Let’s put aside the people who don’t have that open-mindedness and focus on those who do within that subset of people you’re working with. For some of those folks, what are some of the projects you have going on that you can share with us?
Centineo: I’m excited about many of the projects we have in the works. In the boxing industry, we are helping out Eric Lubin. In addition, we have a new female boxer we’re excited about working with, who I think will be amazing. There’s something distinctive about these individuals or these groups that I pick up. If we can just get them on the right trajectory or in the right stream and let them be themselves and do their thing, then great things will happen.
That’s my job, help them identify that within themselves that is distinctive. Every human being has got a compass within them that will guide them. In some cases, it’s depression. If you’re not happy, before you go out and get medication and do all this stuff, ask the question, are you doing what you feel you should be doing in life? If the answer is no, it’s probably your body warning you that you are not moving in the right direction. You’re going down the wrong path. You need to go the other way.
Daso: You’ve been able to do this over various disciplines, whether it’s entertainment, business, technology or other ventures. As you mentioned at the beginning of this conversation, how do you help them get around or through those particular obstacles? What happens when they run into the gatekeepers?
Centineo: The greatest word today is independence. I think the internet began to knock down the walls. The only things standing today are the gates and their keepers, right? You no longer have To deal with the gatekeepers because you can just walk around them. The walls are down! We have access to the masses.
Daso: I’m going to push back here, despite you being right. The internet is a foundation for so many opportunities people wouldn’t have because one would have to go through the traditional paths. The issue is that the gatekeepers are still there even with the internet. They might not know how to go around. These individuals gate access to opportunities, money, and such like that.
Centineo: Imagine there’s a line to get into a venue. There’s a gate but no walls or fences. There’s nothing, but many remain in the single line waiting for approval. Few have realized why not just walk around, pass the gate, and enter on your own terms. But still, many fail to see the new paths. It’s still the masses because there’s so designed to follow like sheep that they stay in that line. Intelligent people, great talented people already in line and waiting for the gatekeeper to let them in and not let them in. I’m telling you, it’s not the gatekeeper’s decision anymore. They have lost the power! You’ve got platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and a barrage of other platforms that you can get your messaging out. You get your content out around the old guard. The gatekeeper were never the ones that made you famous. It was the population (masses) that made you famous. It’s the masses. You have access to the masses.
Daso: Absolutely. They used to control access to the masses. The internet came along and disintermediated them to some degree. As an independent creators, we can go right to our audience. We can build and control the audience to a limited extent. It’s less about the access. It seems to be more of an issue of legitimacy, right? You can have a big profile on a TikTok, Instagram and YouTube, but the mainstream still won’t take you seriously until you go through the approved gate. How do independent talents, whether in boxing, acting, or another entertainment profession, build that legitimacy for themselves?
Centineo: You have another platform. It’s called your brand. That’s the one that has to be built. I’m not going to try to disrupt the boxing industry, but I will transform a boxer’s mindset and build their personal brand. You’re going to build an audience beyond the boxing industry. You’re going to get an audience that doesn’t even like boxing but will start to like boxing because you’re in boxing. The idea is that you leverage those platforms while you build your own. And now you can truly be independent if you do that.
For example, Ryan Garcia is a talented boxer with eight million followers. He negotiates what he’s going to do and what he’s not going to do on his terms. Jake Paul, not a boxer in the traditional sense, makes more money than most pro boxers.
It’s happening right before our eyes. The gatekeepers are no longer the gatekeepers. Jake Paul came in, walked past the gatekeepers, and said, ‘Here’s how I’m doing it. Are you in, or you’re out?’ If you want to be out, you’re out. I don’t need you because he had his own following. He had the masses following him.
Daso: I’m happy you mentioned Jake Paul because he’s such an interesting specimen, right? The fact that he came from Vine, then blew up on YouTube, disregarded the mainstream as he was on Disney. Most people tend to forget that. Now he’s pioneered his own path in boxing. The point where I feel like the question of is he a boxer? Is he not a boxer? That’s irrelevant to the fact that he’s now sitting at a table with Eddie Hearn face to face. Did you see that interview? I was thinking of texting you about that. I found myself thinking, ‘This is just absurd.’ Right? Eddie Hearn, one of the greatest boxing promoters of his generation, maybe of all time, sat down with an upstart social media star. This relates to my point: when Paul’s sitting at that table at Hearn, who benefits from that?
Is it Hearn recognizing Paul, or is it Paul having a seat at the table? Or is it both?
Centineo: Jake’s proving his ability to get the attention of somebody who is a gatekeeper and has the “authority.” Still, he doesn’t need that gatekeeper because he got into the game alone. He got into the venue without the gatekeeper. Now the gatekeeper wants to know him because it’s all about money.
Think about it. He leveraged Disney for his next venture. If Jake is brilliant, some of the Kardashians are another great example, and I love the Kardashians because they did what they’ve done by starting with basically nothing. I’m not saying they don’t have talent. What I’m saying is it was a sex tape. Kim was an assistant to Paris Hilton. She leaked a sex tape. That is what got her eyeballs. It got the world’s attention. Everyone criticizes them, and they say they have no skills. They don’t do anything. Okay. Yet they built a multi-billion dollar enterprise with no talent, quote, unquote, you have talent and haven’t done shit.
Daso: I’m glad you brought up the Kardashians. I’m glad you brought up Paul; let’s return to him. What should professional boxers learn from someone like Jake Paul? Because I feel a lot of them are so captured in the fact that he’s a gimmick versus the fact that he commands more in pay than what most of these professional fighters will command throughout their entire career. The Logan Paul Floyd Mayweather fight is a great example of this. The fight was interesting, but I also watched Mayweather’s press conference. He told people, ‘I’m making more from this one fight than I made throughout my career.’ How can boxers learn the financial lessons from that fight? How can they learn from what Jake Paul has pioneered and leverage that to command their highest pay while they’re still in their careers fighting?
Centineo: Let me say this, and I don’t want this to be misconstrued, but slavery has never been abolished. Okay? It happens every day, regardless of your color. The industry only promotes the fight event, not the boxer. When the fights are over, no one talks about the boxer again until there is another upcoming fight. So they’re a slave to the system. Jake and Logan Paul opened the curtains and the shades, and the boxers need to look and realize that they’re enslaved to the gatekeepers. This is a system—every single industry, including the acting industry. You become a slave to the industry unless you understand where your power sits. What Logan and Jake pulled in financially was impressive. They showed that while they don’t have the technique mastered by boxing professionals, that’s not what the audience is looking for or desiring.
They want to be entertained. They built a brand that is entertaining. These guys are working hard to become great boxers. I have spoken to many pro fighters who were really offended by the Mayweather/Paul fight. I said, ‘What are you offended at?’ I said, ‘First of all, it’s called an exhibition. It’s not a fight. They’re not fighting for a belt because Logan can’t fight for a belt. What you should do is learn how Logan is building what he’s building. How the hell did Logan get to where he is so fast? Try and apply those principles to your career, given that you spent your entire life fighting, and yet you’ll never achieve what Paul achieved financially in one fight. He’s not even a boxer, quote, unquote. Step back and start studying what he’s doing.’ That’s my message.
If you wake up to that, you’re not a slave anymore. McGregor’s another great case of that. Brilliant case of a human being that understands he’s not a slave to the system and where he was coming up. He understood the power, which was his personal brand. That walk. He got me. I see this walk. I’m going, ‘Who is he?’ His ‘arrogance,’ which I don’t call arrogance anymore.
It’s his confidence. His authenticity. His dimension as a human being. I drink Proper Whiskey because McGregor drinks proper whiskey. Because I identify with McGregor on many levels, one of which is his distinctive. I think the masses must stop and look and ask, ‘Why is this working?’ The reality is eight billion people want to be entertained. They want value. They want content, give them content, and give them value with your content. I promise you; money will follow. Always does.
Daso: Many boxers that I’ve talked to tend to get confused because they’re so focused on perfecting their craft, as they should. Yet, they forget that it’s not their craft that brings in the big dollars; it’s their brand. I think there’s this tension between your craft and your brand. There are few Mayweathers, McGregors and Alis who have both the craft and the brand. That’s why we’re still talking about them today. Returning to Hammer, how do you get him to focus as much on his brand as his craft?
Centineo: It’s hard because it’s a different mindset. His mindset in boxing is on point and disciplined. He’s doing everything he’s got to do to be the best. That same mindset must be applied to building their personal brand. But sometimes, it doesn’t translate. That becomes my greatest frustration. After all, if it doesn’t transfer, I can’t help you because I will not do it for you.
I’m going to help you create the trajectory. But You’ve got to walk it. So it has to transfer. If it doesn’t, I can’t help them. That’s when they stay as a slave. He lost that fight. He went from ranking number one to fifth. It’s like losing your job at work. You don’t have job security. Now Hammer has to fight his way back to the top on their terms. He’s no different than a guy working in a cubicle. There’s no job security. You’ve got to create your job security by creating your brand and tapping into your audience. You have access to eight billion people to build that following. Go for it.
Daso: I’m so glad you said that because I want to bring it back to my day-to-day work. I’m talking with founders all the time. All hope to be the next Facebook or Google. It’s the essence of having a story that moves the needle in the early stages of them getting funding or not. I always tell these founders, “Look, your greatest asset is not your product; it’s your narrative.’ Now to generalize my point in a question, how do you help your talents create a narrative? That narrative will last long after you know they are working and actively perfecting their craft. Tyson’s probably the greatest or a great living example of this. He hasn’t boxed in decades, but we all still care about him because of his brand and character.
Centineo: There’s not enough boxing audience to go around. So how do you expand your audience? How do you expand your demographic? Right. By identifying with your audience’s greatest need and desire, I say, not a million people, not two million, but eight billion people. You, me and everyone in this room have similar desires. Every human will ask, ‘How do I win in this world? How do I succeed?’ Our man Lubin is trying to become the best at what he’s doing. So let Lubin tell his story of what and how.
What was he up against? People tell him he is crazy and will never succeed, but he does it and succeeds anyway. Now, look at that success because it will identify with those eight billion people in the world, people that have been oppressed by culture or parents. You now can relate to Hammer outside of boxing and can find inspiration.
They’re going to relate to the story. And it doesn’t matter what you’re selling. They will want what you’re selling, what you’re wearing and eating. That’s how you build a brand identity. For my clients, it’s not about what they’re doing. It’s about the why behind what they’re doing, how they’re doing it—the identification with 8 billion people worldwide, not the boxing community. You went to the championship. I want to know what it took to win that championship. You lost in 2017 round one. You were defeated. How many people can relate to that in the world? Oh my gosh, me, me, me. How did you get up again? How did you find the motivation and inspiration to fight again? How did you get back on the horse again?
People will sit at the edge of their seats listening because they need inspiration. They need hope and inspiration. When you give perspective to people, it gives them hope. This means that they saw that you did it, which gives them hope from the perspective you gave them and inspires them to get up and try for themselves again. That’s the formula. There’s not a human being breathing that doesn’t want that story, doesn’t want to be inspired to find hope, to get back up and keep trying to get what they want in this life.
Daso: What you’re saying reminds me of one content creator I’ve recently covered, Viddal Riley. He’s currently undefeated out in the UK. What I find so inspiring about him is that he’s overcome so much in his life to get to where he is today, but he has the skill to prove it. What’s more compelling about him is that he’s a boxer that I’ll go out of my way just to watch in his daily life. I relate to and identify with him in some aspects, not only in boxing success. I identify with his character and personality. Those things about him make me want to light up because he shows that in himself, and it unconsciously allows me and others to do the same.
I have one last question for you. You’ve done it all. You still have a lot more to do. What’s one thing in your career, when it comes to managing people and working with them and pursuing your own projects that you haven’t done yet, that you want to get to at some point sooner rather than later?
Centineo: When I was 21 years old, my dad came to Los Angeles to become an actor. I didn’t find this out until he died in 2013. He wanted to be an actor, and he was doing well. He was waiting tables, hustling, getting auditions, getting little roles here and there. At the time, he was engaged to mom and phoned her while he was in LA; she was still living in Brooklyn. He said, ‘Louise, I want you to come out to LA. Things are going well.’ She said, I’m not leaving my mother, I’m not leaving my family.’
So he left, and he went back to Brooklyn. He lived a successful life by all basic standards, but he was never happy. He gave up on his dream and the life he was supposed to live. I didn’t know that story when I landed in LA for a six-week trip when I was 18. I felt something deep in my soul when I got to this city, and I didn’t know what it was, but it was a connection. I came back in 2004, and I felt the same thing. When the wheels touched down in LA, I felt that same feeling when I was 18. I believe there was a connection with my family within the entertainment world.
Today, several of my kids are in the entertainment industry. My nephews and cousins are all launching into entertainment in some capacity. ‘Centineos’ belong in the industry. My dad abandoned his dream 70 years ago and delayed the upcoming generations from their entry point. Before I die, my goal is to establish a strong presence where our name is synonymous with entertainment.
I have tried to exit entertainment, but I continue to get pulled back into entertainment. I think what I’d like to see happen is we just tie the two ends of the sneakers together by pulling the laces and bringing them back. What I believe our family was supposed to be doing. We’re doing it in a way that I feel like our family should have been doing.
Daso: To sum up, your goal is for the last name Centineo to become synonymous with Hollywood. That’s a beautiful, grand vision right there. Love it.