It’s hard to think of a man who personifies the idea of masculinity more than Terry Crews—I mean, he’s literally in ads for Old Spice. Maybe that’s why it’s particularly exciting to hear him, of all people, decry the effects of “the cult of masculinity.”
“That’s the only way to effectively describe what’s happening so you can really understand it. It’s a cult no different than Jim Jones or David Koresh,” says Crews, 49, of the toxic sexism now being confronted by the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. “As a man, I was taught that I was more valuable than my wife and kids. That’s deep—and I didn’t even realize it until I dissected it.”
This enlightenment didn’t come easy or early to the Brooklyn Nine-Nine star who, after a stint in the NFL, moved his family to L.A. 20 years ago. He landed his first audition—for the short-lived series Battle Dome—in 1999, and has been acting ever since. But while he was achieving success in his new career, Crews’ personal life was falling apart.
In 2009, his wife Rebecca King-Crews told him she wanted out of their marriage, a devastating decision for the couple and their five kids. In response, Crews sought help for an addiction to pornography that he says impacted his marriage in numerous ways and, with the help of therapy, set out on an intense journey of self-reflection. The pair reunited, and with no more secrets between them, Crews says they are now closer than ever. “My wife has always brought the wisdom,” he says. “I truly believe you don’t see your own faults. There were so many times I just knew I was right and my wife was like, ‘Uhh uhh.’”
Crews says it was also his wife’s influence that informed his decision in October 2017—in the wake of multiple actresses going public with their stories of sexual assault by Harvey Weinstein—to reveal online that he, too, had been groped by a Hollywood executive at a party in 2016. As one of the first men to speak out about his own assault experience in the wake of the Weinstein scandal, he was named one of the “Silence Breakers” in TIME’s Person of the Year issue, and he has been an ally of the #MeToo movement ever since.
Like many of the women silenced in the wake of sexual assault by powerful men, Crews kept quiet about being groped at first because he was afraid of both career backlash and legal repercussions. “My wife had seen me almost get arrested for beating up a grown man for bumping into her,” explains Crews. “She told me, ‘You can’t do that.’ I had to practice walking away from confrontations. That night [of the party], she told me, ‘I’m proud of you, Terry.’”
Reflecting on what would’ve happened if he’d responded violently to being groped, Crews says, “I’m a 240-pound black man. If I’m defending myself and knock this guy out, there’s not going to be any mercy for me. Just ask all the brothers who’ve been shot down. I would’ve lost everything.”
By Sabrina Ford
Photographed by Elisabeth Caren
Stylist: Angel Terrazas
This article originally appeared in the April/May 2018 print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!
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