It's been 40 years since Tim Reid played DJ Venus Flytrap on "WKRP in Cincinnati," but his attitude refuses to get older.
"People are always surprised at my age," explains the 74-year-old actor, director and founder of Legacy Media Institute. "I live in the spirit of the moment because the spirit is eternal. It's the body that dies."
To prove his point, he tells a story about his friend Clint Eastwood, who, when asked how he still accomplishes so much in terms of career and personal passions, had a simple anti-aging philosophy: Never let the old man in.
Reid is on the same page. Twelve years ago, he founded the nonprofit Legacy Media Institute as a way of connecting young people who aspire to work in the entertainment business with professionals who can mentor them and pass on lessons learned. For years, he has spoken at historically black universities, only to find that while many young people aspire to work in the business, they don't come out of school with the requisite skill sets to get hired.
His solution for having some impact on their futures was to connect them to the business of Hollywood by offering internships and workshops that allowed young people with drive and enthusiasm to get a leg up by acquiring real-life experience.
"Skills you can teach, so passion and focus are what I look for," he says.
Over the course of more than a decade, he's brought on students from London, Ghana and Nigeria as fellows, offering them scholarships while they're learning the business. As a result, all are now working in the entertainment industry.
"I started out doing this because of passion and found out it was good business," he says. Rather than bring his own crew when he goes overseas to shoot, he can call on the African filmmakers he knows and trained.
To help fund the scholarship program, Reid presents an annual cultural fashion showcase, working hand in hand with Ethiopian designer and model Salome Autolino. This year's event takes on a global beat with the collections of 10 fashion designers who hail from Panama, Ethiopia, Puerto Rico and the U.S.
"These designers are taking the styles, fabrics and hand-crafted workmanship of their countries and urbanizing them," Reid says.
Both Autolino and Reid's wife, Daphne Maxwell-Reid, will have new collections in the fashion show, but for the first time, so will Reid. His menswear collection of jackets, pants and T-shirts are intended to appeal to men of a certain age who, like Eastwood, refuse to let the old man in. "This is fashion that says you haven't lost your mojo yet," he says with a chuckle. "I came up with a collection that mature men can relate to, men who want to be sharp-looking still."
Unlike first-time designer Reid, this is Autolino's fourth collection and like its predecessors, all the clothing is custom-made in Africa by women who were formerly abused or homeless and then taught to sew so they could earn a living. Reid's line will also be handcrafted in Africa.
The fashion show will be videotaped for future broadcast using fashion, art and film students from Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia State University, Morgan State and Norfolk State University.
"It's a practical opportunity for reality training," Autolino explains. "By giving up-and-coming young people the opportunity to work with designers, Tim is opening doors for them."
She says it's also an opportunity for models of color, who often find far fewer job opportunities in a field with a notoriously short career span. Among the 22 models in the show are models from New York, Panama, Ethiopia and Virginia.
In addition to the fashion show, the event will include a vendor marketplace where anything shown on the runway will be available, cultural activities such as an Ethiopian coffee ceremony, food, drink and giveaways, with regular and VIP tickets available.
Reid is quick to admit that he's in his element working with as many creative minds as possible to make the cultural fashion showcase a reality. As for what attendees can expect from the debut of his first menswear line, he's succinct: "It's gonna be a show."
Tim Reid's Cultural Fashion Showcase, April 27 5-7 p.m. is at RVA Eventspace, 1 E. Fourth St. Tickets are available at Eventbrite.