Actor, artist and athlete Terry Crews wanted Webster University students to know his personal life stories. He said stories are something that anybody can take anything from. On Monday, Oct. 15 he took to the Loretto Hilton Center stage to share his upbringing and what he has learned from his experiences.
“I don’t have all the answers,” Crews said, “But I am here to give you more questions.”
Crews reflected on his past 50 years from being a troubled teen to becoming an actor in his adulthood. He became emotional when recounting his days in high school when he was noticed as a talented artist by his teacher. Crews reflected on this experience with tears in his eyes, and he told how he came to believe in himself by just simply being appreciated by someone.
“One of the biggest lies that has ever been told is that you either have it or you don’t,” Crews said. “But no matter what you have, you can always get it.”
Crews grew up in Flint, Michigan during the crack epidemic. Along with stories of his religious mother and abusive father, he also looked back on his days in the NFL and his life now as an actor in Hollywood – telling tales of not just heartbreak, but love.
“In order to get love, you have to be vulnerable. But if you’re not vulnerable, you won’t be loved,” Crews said.
He said this is especially true when taking on toxic masculinity – a term used to describe men using dominance to get ahead in society or in relationships. He said vulnerability is difficult when men are clouded by their own masculinity. Webster student Rocky Pope said this part of Crews’ talk impacted him the most.
“It’s something I’ve thought about a lot, and it grabbed me,” Pope said.
Crews became heavily involved in the #MeToo movement last year. This movement was created by Tarana Burke to help share stories of sexual assault and bring awareness to them. When he came out with his own experience of sexual assault, he said he received a lack of support from his male followers and friends because he is a male accuser instead of female. He blames toxic masculinity for this reaction.
When he came out with his story, it became a lawsuit that almost cost him his family, friends and career.
“This is the hill I was gonna die on,” Crews said. “When you know you’re being treated less than human, go with it. That is your purpose.”
Pope said Crews’ involvement in the #MeToo movement was the right thing to do.
“I’m glad that he’s helping give a lot of other people a voice,” Pope said. “If he has to fight back when people are calling him out, I’m glad he’s standing up for himself, and standing up for everybody.”
A series of student questions followed Crews’ talk. One by one, students shared their feeling of how Crews inspired them as a friend, father and hero. Crews always answered their questions despite claiming to not have any answers.
University President Elizabeth Stroble said she has never seen any headliner answer students questions as warmly as he did.
“I thought he was one of the most skilled and personable speakers I’ve ever heard,” Stroble said. “He’s had such a life, so no matter what anybody asked him, he had a story to relate to it.”
Webster student Atem Richardson was particularly inspired by Crews taking a stand on sexual assault. During the question and answer, Richardson inched up to the microphone to share his own personal story of abuse. After the show, he said he was not expecting to relate so closely to Crews.
“I did not know I had so much in common with him,” Richardson said. “I am overwhelmed and I kind of feel like I’m on cloud nine. It was such a great experience.”
Crews intertwined words of advice along with his stories in hopes the audience would learn lessons from them. When it comes to trauma, he said, it is not Republican or Democrat. It is human.
“Everyone handles trauma differently,” Crews said. “My trauma is not worse than your trauma.”