In 2014, Jeremy Meeks' mugshot went viral because, well, because he was sexy. Today, he has a thriving modeling career and is snagging acting roles left and right. And after famously dating an heiress to a fashion empire, he is happily single. The father of two's (yes, he's a Daddy and a Zaddy) gorgeous green eyes and eight-pack have popped up on-screen in a new project, Dutch. The star-studded release features a load of big names and has all the makings of a winner—a dirty drug ring plotline, a juicy urban fiction read for a script, and Lance Gross. "I read the book this film was based on when I was incarcerated. The Dutch trilogy was written by Teri Woods, back in 2003. It's just crazy how it's all come full circle now," he tells xoNecole.
It's safe to say a lot has changed since his humble beginnings as #PrisonBae (or Hot Felon, as some may call him), and to say he is blessed is an understatement. He knows it too. While we were all baking bread in quarantine, Jeremy was counting his blessings while heating up Instagram one thirst trap at time. xoNecole recently got the chance to chat with Jeremy about what's new with his career and his love life. Here's what he had to say:
xoNecole: You got to work alongside Lance Gross who played the lead character, Dutch, which the film is named after. We’re BIG fans of Lance here at xoNecole—how was it being on set together?
Jeremy Meeks: Lance Gross killed it. He is the perfect Dutch. I learned so much from him. You know he taught me a lot of things when it comes to acting and facial expressions. There was an entire incredible cast to learn from on set like Tyrin Turner. I actually wasn't able to be on set with Macy Gray. She's a legend too. That would have been dope. But there's James Hyde, O.T. Genesis, Michael Blackson...there are so many people in this.
Modeling or acting? What direction do you plan to take your career?
Modeling in some sense was just a stepping stone. It was a foot in the door. And then [I thought] how long can I model for? I was looking for longevity in the industry, and I didn't know what that was going to be. When I started acting, I knew instantly. I found a passion, and it feels really good. And so now I'm trying to sponge up every aspect of film that I can. I'm trying to learn how to write, direct and produce.
"Modeling in some sense was just a stepping stone. It was a foot in the door. When I started acting, I knew instantly. I found a passion, and it feels really good."
Was a career in entertainment something you thought you’d ever have?
Not really, I've heard it, numerous times growing up that I could, but in the lifestyle that I was living, that just didn't seem real. I used to see people on TV and think I could do that or hear rappers and think I could rap. I could do anything that anyone can do just as well if not possibly better. I just believe in myself, but I just never thought all of this was possible. Then when the mugshot went viral, I realized all this time I was supposed to be influential in some way. God waited until I was in the right spot mentally to take on this blessing.
It's been years since your mugshot went viral, but how do you navigate the “Prison Bae” thing? Do you respond when folks call you that?
I am so much more than that. but at the same time, I don't take it to heart. It's been a blessing, it's what got me here. So yeah, I respond, I embrace it. But I'm working hard to shed that nickname and just be Jeremy Meeks, a household name. I'm excited about the future. I know soon I'm gonna get that rom-com. [I feel like] that's my lane.
"God waited until I was in the right spot mentally to take on this blessing."
If you had your pick of Hollywood’s leading ladies, who would you want starring alongside you in a rom-com?
It would have to be someone like Meagan Good or Lauren London.
You had a very high-profile relationship spread all over the media in the past—anything you would do differently next time around? What’s your relationship like now with both mothers of your sons?
I would never change anything in my past because everything happens for a reason. My relationship is incredible with both of the mothers of my kids.
The last thing I read about you was that you were single, so how’s singleness treating you?
Incredible. I'm just at a point in my life where I'm very focused. I'm a relationship kind of guy, you know? I've always been. But at this point in my life, I don't want to get pulled in different directions. I just want to focus on my work, my kids, and their future to change that generational wealth gap. I want to create businesses and leave them. I just have a plan and [am] in a different headspace right now.
So you’re not dating, at all?
[I have] friends—very good friends. (Smirks) I'm kind of talking to someone, but we're just friends. We just appreciate each other's energies and each other's conversation.
"I'm just at a point in my life where I'm very focused. I'm a relationship kind of guy, you know? I've always been. But at this point in my life, I don't want to get pulled in different directions."
Best love lesson learned?
To communicate. Communication is everything. If you communicate, no one can get hurt because everything's out in the open. I think that's the key to every relationship. I had trouble communicating in the past and now I just really try to work on things that I know I need to work on because everyone can always improve in some way. So I've been trying to work on my communication.
Best career lesson learned?
To really just take your time and not jump the gun. Do your homework on people and see what they've done and who they've worked with and in this business. Everyone will tell you what you want to hear. It's on you to do due diligence and make sure that all your T's are crossed and your I's are dotted.
At the end of the day, it's business and so you have to make sure everything's professional on your end.
Featured image by Cheryl Fox, courtesy of Jeremy Meeks
Jazmine A. Ortiz is a creative born and raised in Bushwick, Brooklyn and currently living in Staten Island, NY. She started in the entertainment industry in 2012 and now works as a Lifestyle Editor where she explores everything from mental health to vegan foodie trends. For more on what she's doing in the digital space follow her on Instagram at @liddle_bitt.
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After college, I successfully landed an entertainment news role. I was passionate about my work and grateful for obtaining a job in my desired field. But like most entry-level positions in the creative industry, the pay was left to be desired. I quickly realized that I needed a second job to pay my bills.
Multiple career fairs later, I started a position with an insurance company.
My new role felt like my first “big girl” job because it had full benefits, and I couldn’t have been more excited. Plus, I could work this job during the day and my other gig at night. I excelled in my new role – exceeded the required enterprise accuracy score, received several cash awards, and was consistently selected to train my team members on different learning variances.
Everything was great initially, but unfortunately, the job that guaranteed financial stability became a nightmare after a while.
The first red flag was that this insurance company had an extremely high turnover rate primarily due to the relentless workload; therefore, teams were forced to consolidate and change leadership constantly. I was quickly burning out but overlooked the deteriorating company culture because it allowed me to keep my journalism gig and offered endless overtime. Also, the manager I had at the time was great – he provided opportunities for growth and mentorship.
It wasn’t until I reached my fourth manager that I had my first experience with a hostile work environment.
After several months on her team, my manager started the process of “quietly firing” me despite excelling on the team.
Team Building refers to quiet firing as a “passive-aggressive approach to performance management.” Supervisors will create unpleasant work conditions, which can cause an employee to suffer mentally, emotionally, and sometimes physically.
She stopped providing feedback, blocked promotional opportunities, and eventually denied my yearly raise. I felt hopeless. I couldn’t properly do my role some days because my manager spent most of her office hours avoiding her team. All issues on the team were ignored, and any work-related questions went unanswered.
Whenever I walked into the office, it felt like a dark cloud was cast over me because most of my day would consist of doing others’ jobs or explaining to other managers why I was reaching out to them instead of my own. It wasn’t until I worked myself nearly to death that I realized this job wasn’t worth it.
My health declined rapidly. I started to experience excruciating body aches and fatigue, and my hair was falling out. Clocking into a job where I was just a number, and work still had to be completed despite my failing health was exhausting. I ignored constant pleas from friends and family members to get help out of fear of being unable to pay my bills.
The last time I was admitted to the hospital, my manager called me, and instead of asking how I was, she asked when I was returning to work. The team’s numbers decreased drastically, and upper management wasn’t happy. My manager couldn't care less if I was okay as long as I made her look good. I’m not sure why it seemed like a shocking revelation at the time, but it did. The next time I went into the office, I resigned.
After a few years of forcing a working relationship that wasn’t meant to be, I finally left.
And in all my years of working, that job was the only one I ever walked away from. Although the toxic environment influenced my decision, something about quitting made me feel like a failure. Truthfully, I felt guilty for quitting at first. I believed it was irresponsible to quit without a backup plan. However, I later learned that my manager's hostile tactics, which I loathed, ended up being a blessing.
The entire experience made me realize that God had repeatedly shown me to leave that toxic job, but I was too afraid. It wasn’t until He made me sit still that I learned that this door was meant to close. Strangely, I’m happy my manager acted the way she did because I would’ve never had the courage to leave since that job equaled stability; I was complacent because I could pay my bills.
And that’s the life of so many currently – staying in an uncomfortable position because it offers stability.
That job also taught me the importance of pivoting. It doesn’t matter what your plan or backup plan is; you must be able to pivot at any time – be flexible and adaptable. The last lesson it taught me was never to settle for a job regardless of pay. I am no longer afraid to turn down a job if it’s not a good fit.
My physical and mental health is far more important than a job that can easily replace me at any moment.
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Feature image by FG Trade/ Getty Images