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How to Enjoy Life: Advice from Actor Alfonso Ribeiro

It’s not unusual to find actor Alfonso Ribeiro making the most of a rough 2020. You could spot him high-tailing it around the country in a tricked-out RV, filming The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reunion show (he played the hilarious prepster Carlton Banks), or refusing to exercise and play golf instead.

In fact, if there’s anyone we should be emulating to get through this crap-of-a-year, it’s Ribeiro. The Manual sat down (more than 6 feet apart) with the actor, director, dancer, and game show host to talk optimism, road-tripping, and how to have a career doing only things that make you happy.

The Manual: So, to summarize: You’ve been in the industry since the age of eight, starred in a Broadway musical, danced in a Pepsi commercial featuring Michael Jackson, released a rap album, hosted the game show Catch 21, starred alongside Will Smith in Fresh Prince, won season 19 of Dancing with the Stars, and even took over hosting ABC’s America’s Funniest Home Videos.

Alfonso Ribeiro: Being in this business for 40 years, I’m lucky to have the luxury of deciding what I want to do. My belief is that if it’s not fun, why do it? I love making people laugh! If there’s any feedback I love getting it’s, ‘Wow that makes people feel good.’

We are not-so-secretly obsessed with AFV. It does make people feel good. How has it been hosting that and other game shows?

AR: Definitely. I don’t need to make people think I’m smart; I want to make you smile — my career choices have always been centered around that.

And you recently filed The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Reunion Show. Our 90s selves are quietly screaming right now.

AR: Yes, we did a Fresh Prince Reunion Special— talked about the billing of the show and the changes we made in television. The impact we had, it’s huge. That will air around Thanksgiving.

Do you ever get tired and say f*** this?

AR: The thing for me is that I’m a glass half full type of guy to start with. I pick the projects I want to do based on that simple concept. Ask yourself: How can I have fun doing what I love to do? That saying, ‘If you do something you love, you’ll never work a day’ is true. I never feel like I have to ‘work.’

Of course, it helps to be naturally talented. Can we talk about how good of a dancer you are? “The Carlton” was just the beginning.

AR: When I did Dancing with the Stars, I won, but it was very difficult. I would do five hours and go home and do two more hours. Every week if I outworked everyone else and thought nobody can beat me. Will Smith gave me that piece of advice; if I’m working while you’re sleeping then I’m so far past you by the time you wake up.

Outwork everyone, check!

AR: You outwork everyone but then you make sure you go home. I would pick up my little one and hold him while doing all the steps. Find ways of including your loved ones and again, it won’t feel like work.

It’s safe to say you are the Michael Jordan of Ballroom Dancing. And recently helped Dairy Queen with their #DQDanceChallenge also.

AR: This was a great campaign to support the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. With the pandemic, nonprofits are in need of funding more than ever. Their longtime partner DQ put together a dance challenge to fundraise: the Dip & Curl Dance. You post it, using the hashtag, and DQ will donate a dollar for every share.

2020 really has been a crazy year… how do you see the state of the world?

AR:  We’re so divided. We’re all in our own little bubbles. No-one wants to listen to the other side. We need to stop talking and start listening. There’s a way to come together.

How do you keep truckin’ through the tough times?

AR: I don’t need to dive into the misery. Ask yourself what is something you enjoy doing? For me, I spend a lot of time with my kids and family. We’ll hit the ball at the golf course — it doesn’t matter how many shots it takes. We’re together, outside.

Do you get out in nature a lot?

AR: Right now, I’m literally in an RV in middle America. I take the kids and family and we go and see historical places. Social distance while still being social. I wanted to turn 2020, for my kids, to a year that they saw as positive. Instill the ‘glass is half full’ concept for them. That when something bad is happening there’s a way to turn it into a positive.

BTW: Here are a few tips to plan a socially-distanced road trip. 

Road trip! What spots have you hit?

AR: We did a big figure-eight around the country: Mount Rushmore, an RV resort on the Oregon coast, Lake Powell, Mesa Verde, Grand Canyon, Greenbrier in West Virginia, then the Ozarks.

A lot of driving. What’s on the radio?

AR: 80’s. Michael, Sting, New Edition, Jeffrey Osborne, Earth, Wind, and Fire.

Wake up early, listen to Earth, Wind, and Fire. Check!

AR: And I listen to my wife. Your wife knows best. As a guy, it’s hard when we want to take care of our family and go out and conquer the world. You still will, but make detours. If age is anything, it shows you at the end of the day, sometimes you’ll have bad time and sometimes great times. Keep putting in the work and keep trucking away.

We heard you don’t like to work out.

AR: I’m not a big exercise guy — for me, I can walk 18 holes in five hours of just move my body. Getting up, move, and keeping moving. Plus, you can go to the gym and workout but if you’re putting bad fuel into your body, it won’t matter.

What other final tips do you have for simply feeling good during s*** times?

AR: I’m a major golfer, a major race car driver, and even enjoy the get-up of a good Tesla.

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