With a skateboard tucked under his arm and long, blond locks flowing beneath a flat-brimmed hat embossed with his signature Perfect Gentleman logo, junior Cullen Bonham might stand out as an anomaly on campus.
The California native created the Perfect Gentleman trademark, as a brand-of-sorts, to label his music, clothing line and whatever else that might entail, he said.
"It's my legacy."
Bonham was cautious to not overly characterize the nature of his company and described it as more of "a lifestyle," he said -- one represented by the yellow scrawl of the Perfect Gentleman title and accompanied by the caricature of a small chicken.
"The chicken? Dude's just a strait shooter," Bonham said about the decision to use the emblem as the stamp for Perfect Gentleman. He said that he had been drawing the figure since he was 14 years old, but offered no other explanation as to how or why it had become the bona fide symbol of what he said he believed would become his future.
Bonham is passionate about music and spent the past summer working on tracks that would eventually wind up on his mix tape, "ME," he said. The final product comprises nine tracks and is available on Datpiff.com, where is has had a total of 2,394 views, 4666 streams, and 88 downloads, according to the site.
After returning to Richmond in the fall, Bonham celebrated the debut of "ME" with a release party at Gibson's Grill on Sept. 22, he said.
"Rocking a show is like high fiving God," he said.
Senior Mike Petrakis is Bonham's manger and said he had played a large role in organizing the event. Petrakis contacted the venue and made the arrangements from there, he said.
"I help through a promotional aspect and a managerial role," he said.
Bonham said Petrakis was like "the kind of kid you'd find on 'The Buried Life,'" referring to the MTV documentary-series that followed a pack of four friends traveling across North America with a bucket list and a mission to help a stranger achieve one of his or her dreams for every item they tried to complete on their list.
Bonham shares similar values to those of The Buried Life founders and finds strangers particularly interesting because of their openness, he said.
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"I really want to reach out and meet people and talk to people and see the world," Bonham said.
Petrakis said the most approachable way of having others understand Bonham's idea is that it was founded by the philosophy of rejecting societal expectations and "looking inward to yourself and following your own dreams and making your own path," he said.
Petrakis, who hopes to work in the music industry one day, assists in ways that would garner connections he could use toward his future career path, he said.
"I'm in it for the experience."
Petrakis is not the only Richmond student on board with the Perfect Gentleman initiative.
Senior Kadeem Fyffe, manages the clothing aspect of Perfect Gentleman and said the platform is based on the idea of striving for your dreams.
Bonham and Fyffe both said that they had first talked about working together over the summer. Flattered by Fyffe's interest and commitment, Bonham said his first reaction had been that Fyffe was possibly making fun of him. But that initial doubt quickly transcended in to Fyffe having an active role, Bonham said.
"Kadeem has been the greatest asset I could have ever asked for as far as the fashion goes," said Bonham. "Music is a science to me and fashion is a science to him."
Fyffe, a studio art major with a forte in fashion, took the idea and the Perfect Gentleman logo and transformed them in to designs, he said. Fyffe recently finished a line with different 20 pieces, compatible for both men and women, he said.
"We basically want anyone to wear it because the idea is that anyone can identify with the brand."
Fyffe's responsibilities have ranged from drawing designs to working with the manufacturer to ensure the legitimacy and quality of the clothing, he said.
Having a clothing line enhances both sides of the company by bringing more attention around the Perfect Gentleman brand and further boosting Bonham's music career, Fyffe said.
"Clothing helps the music and the music helps the clothing."
Fyffe said the music offers something for everyone and Bonham said that he liked making "balanced" albums.
"I think the best musical pieces have all range of emotions," said Bonham. "It's a ride."
Mike Posner has been Bonham's biggest musical influence, Petrakis said
Bonham said that Posner "also realized first mix tape during his junior year in college."
Bonham said he had the chance to briefly meet the artist and Duke alumnus about a year ago. He said Posner's advice for him was that, "if you want to succeed and do well in college, you just can't sleep."
Though proud of his West Coast roots, Bonham decided to come to Richmond in the pursuit of "something different," he said. But that reasoning extended into something perhaps more telling of the 20-year-old: "It means the world to my dad that I finish college."
A close relationship with his parents -- a bond continuously mentioned in his music -- was also influential for Bonham, a first-generation student who chose Richmond to study in the business school, he said.
"I'm definitely a lot smarter than people think I am, which is fine, because I don't try to be smart, just try and do it."
As for a concrete definition of what constitutes the perfect gentleman, Bonham said he has no idea. The name itself "just came" to him at the end of his first year of college, he said.
"Nobody's perfect but it's something you strive for. It's good to have goals and be a perfectionist.
"I don't know what a perfect gentleman is. I'm trying to figure it out."
The lyrics to Bonham's music are not a compilation of hollow rap but rather words with far deeper meaning for Bonham, he said. The inspiration for "ME" was simply "life," he said.
"Every track is different. Most people don't really talk about how they feel about life. I just tried to make it personal. Keep it real. Just me."
That value is also what has guided his success thus far, Bonham said. "People like it. It's doing pretty well I guess."
Fyffe particularly enjoyed the intro track, which "really gets at the spirit of PG," he said. "It's about just being yourself and striving for what you want."
As for the future of Perfect Gentleman, Bonham could not make any distant predictions because he does not know what the future will hold for him, he said.
Fyffe said he thought this year would definitely show what the future would bring.
The goal for Bonham is to be on tour by the summer, Petrakis said. "He's very good and he has a lot of potential."
Now Bonham is working on filming a music video and would continue to do more shows to promote the Perfect Gentleman, he said.
"I wanna get the whole campus rocking out to one of my beats."
Contact reporter Mara Lugo at email@example.com
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