Photo by Carin Baer/Dr Drew’s Lifechangers
Paul Carrick Brunson, the first African American matchmaker, starts beaming into homes this week as a regular guest on Dr. Drew’s Lifechangers. The new CW show, which premiered on Monday, features segments from special experts – or “lifechangers” – in a variety of fields, from travel and finance to mental health and DIY beauty. Brunson will be bringing his unique matchmaking expertise to a regular spot called “Love Lab.”
Brunson, sometimes called “the real Hitch,” strives to bring modern elements to what some may consider the second oldest profession in the world. He educates with YouTube videos with thousands of views, and he communicates with hundreds of lovelorn people each week using his Twitter account, @PaulCBrunson. But as a graduate of Georgetown University’s business school and a former investment banker, Brunson certainly did not plan on becoming a matchmaker from the start.
Brunson was inspired to found his matchmaking business, OneDegreeFromMe, by a real need he saw while working in the non-profit sector. Facilitating a summer camp for underserved youth in 2008, he and his wife Jill were stunned to realize that of the 100 children at the camp, not one came from a two-parent household. So husband and wife sat down to brainstorm what they could do to save what they called “the Black and Brown family.”
At first, they tried throwing parties to introduce single Black men and women – which is how Brunson ended up at a matchmaking conference at the end of 2008, only to come across another revelation. “I looked around the room and realized that not one [matchmaker] was under 40, not one was African American, and there were maybe 5 men. So that’s the moment when the light bulb went on and we started matchmaking,” he said in an interview with the L.A. Sentinel earlier this month.
In 2009, Brunson went to Denver, Colo. to study under Rachel Greenwald, a prominent author and matchmaker. He also gained certification as a professional life coach, and began taking on pro bono clients. By the end of 2009 he was ready to start his business, but he wasn’t quite sure how. “Quite frankly, I was embarrassed,” he said, comparing the idea of matchmaking to his friends’ high-paying jobs on Wall Street. His wife spurred him on, suggesting that he introduce himself through a YouTube video.
The video blew up across the Black blogosphere, which Brunson says is what really launched the business. OneDegreeFromMe developed the Modern Day Matchmaker video series, dedicated to bringing knowledge to the public – which Brunson says is one of his biggest goals.
“Relationships are the cornerstone of humanity, and it’s not just romantic,” he said. “If we can learn to better relate to one another, we’ll have better lives.” As the first Black American matchmaker, Brunson constantly thinks about the importance of his role as an educator.
When asked if he thinks it’s harder for Black people to date, Brunson disagreed. But he said that African Americans do face “a unique set of challenges,” pointing to both the lack of tools to connect people within the community, and the abundance of negative messages in mainstream media.
Brunson sees his involvement with Lifechangers as “an unprecedented platform” to talk about issues around dating and marriage and to dispel those negative media messages about the African American community. And outside of his Love Lab segments, he thinks that the topics covered by Dr. Drew will appeal to Black viewers – Brunson himself is a self-proclaimed “hardcore fan.”
And as far as the lack of tools to connect people within the African American community, Brunson has been innovating continually to close that gap. One way he’s done this is through hosting Modern Day Matchmaker Wednesdays on his Twitter account. Each week he introduces an eligible bachelor or bachelorette and encourages his followers to ask questions about that person via Twitter.
Another project of his offers a new twist on speed dating, originally created by a rabbi to bring Jewish singles together. His “Flow Dating” events, held in sophisticated venues across the nation, not only give singles the chance to broaden their social circles – a key step towards finding Mr. or Ms. Right, in Brunson’s view – but also offer a unique chance for feedback.
Participants write helpful notes on cards as they cycle through 4 minute conversations according to changes in carefully-picked background music, and they receive an email with all of their comments after the event so that they can improve their conversational skills in the future. The events are usually packed with good people and great conversation, and according to Brunson’s statistics, about 80% of attendees go out on at least one date with someone they met there.
Brunson’s rapid climb to success in the industry has definitely come with its own challenges, not least because his son was born last year. But he still finds time to be a family man and run Give Love Build Hope, an educational non-profit, on the side.
Catch this rising star on Dr. Drew’s Lifechangers (KTLA Channel 5 in Los Angeles), this Friday at 3 PM.