and externally probably another 600
people. I wanted to kill myself. You
don’t know anyone’s name anymore.
But, yes, you become the shrink.
Everybody comes to you with their
problems, right? And everybody
assumes you don’t have problems of
your own. Whether somebody has
to take time o; for something, or
they need more money, or whatever
the case may be, they have to tell
you about it.
Doesn’t that get lonely?
I’m an only child, so I internalize a lot
of things. Generally, no matter what, I
don’t share them with others. You can’t
talk about your problems with your
employees. I don’t want to take them
home, because I don’t want to think
about it there. If my fiancée, Heather,
says, “Hey, tell me what’s going on,”
I’m like, “Why?” Because there, I don’t
want to think about margins.
So how do you deal?
You drink. [Asks waiter for a vodka
and soda.] The other thing is that
people don’t realize that we still
need to learn. Startups believe that
Daymond John has all the answers.
No, Daymond John does not have all
the answers. If I had a golden wand,
Fubu would be called Ralph Lauren.
Let’s say tomorrow I have to close
the business. What am I going to do
with my people, some of whom have
been working for me for 10 or 20
years? They’re not my children, but I
want to know that they’re taken care
of. And if business is going bad, it’s
like, “Man, you guys are working so
hard for me, and I let you down with
In 2006, everybody thought the
business was dying. People wore the
same shirt 200 times instead of buying
a new one. I had to let go of dozens of
people. I had to fire friends I’ve known
since I was 11. Sometimes it was
their fault, because things had gotten
bad, and they could have worked a
little harder. But at the end of the day,
you’re still letting go of a friend. Man.
It was horrible.
[To his assistant] She’s gonna make
me start drinking some more, Danny.
She’s got me thinking about how lonely
it is, letting go of people.
Do you feel pressure as an African
American role model? There weren’t
many when you were growing up.
Yes. I feel there is a role I play. At first,
I accepted the job on Shark Tank to
diversify my holdings with great deals
and opportunities. I was nervous that
clothing was dying. Then I realized
the social impact that I was having.
It improved my personal brand, but
I also understood that as an African
American—and a minority, period—I
was showing other minorities that it
can happen. I also think I’m showing
the masses that there is no black and
white in business.
I’m happy that the crowd on Shark
Tank is so diverse. Hopefully, when
another minority walks into the room
and people want to talk business
with them, it won’t come down to their
gender or race or religion.
But surely you’ve experienced racism.
I’ve experienced racism, when I was
growing up and we got pulled over
many times by the cops.
My father left when I was 10. A lot
of people don’t know that my stepfather is Jewish. He came into my life
when I was about 14. He’d say that you
should always be pro-black, but never
anti-anything else. His brother was one
of the attorneys in the U.S. who was
on the case to free Nelson Mandela. I
realized then that while a lot of people
grew up not understanding other
colors and races, it wasn’t everyone.
When people acted on me or the cops
would pull me over, I knew it was
because they were ignorant.
I don’t necessarily experience
racism in business, but there’s always
going to be prejudice. There’s
prejudice because I’m short. There’s
prejudice because I’m really, really
handsome, like Alex Rodriguez. This
year, I couldn’t do all the episodes,
so they replaced me with A-Rod on a
couple of them, because we look the
same. I get a lot of prejudice because
I look like A-Rod.
[Laughs] Were you conflicted about
being the only African American on
I wasn’t conflicted, because I saw that
the producers were smart enough to
put somebody on the show everybody
could relate to. Everyone else on the
panel came from humble beginnings.
But most of America would assume
You see Robert [Herjavec], he’s
all slick. And Kevin [O’Leary], you
wouldn’t think he came from nothing.
But once you start putting on minori-
ties who aren’t athletes or entertainers,
people generally assume they came up
the more meager way.
Like I said: I’m the welfare case,
compared with some of these guys.
I always say if Bill Gates woke up as
Mark Cuban, he’d cut his wrists and
jump out the window. And if Carlos
Slim woke up as Bill Gates, he’d cut his
wrists and jump out the window. But
those are billionaire problems. I don’t
have those, and I don’t want them.
You just have millionaire problems.
ZOË HENRY is an Inc. sta; writer.
"Fubu got up to 200 employees, and externally another 600. I wanted to kill myself. You don't know anyone's name.