Tyrese Gibson is known worldwide as an accomplished actor, platinum recording artist, and all-around entertainer whose energy and charisma is guaranteed to bring down the house. Yet despite being recognized for more than two decades as one of the faces of arguably the most successful fuel-injected film franchise, talking transmission still remains off Gibson’s long list of skills.
In order to stay in tune with today’s top tuner cars, Gibson has to rely on his close friend Cody Walker to help sharpen his motorsports skills. The teamwork between the two is sorta similar to how his Fast & Furious character, Roman Pearce, teamed with Brian O’Connor, played by the late Paul Walker.
“I never had a conversation about the size of a tailpipe or the horsepower of a car in my house,” he admits. “As many [Fast and Furious] movies that I have done, if Cody asks, what is the difference between blah blah blah, and blah blah blah, my response would be, blah blah blah.”
Since Paul’s fatal car crash in 2013, the unbreakable relationship between Gibson and Cody, the younger brother of Paul, extends well beyond casual car conversations. The brotherhood they shared with Paul—through both blood and bond—brought them together to create a purposeful partnership to keep Paul’s legacy alive.
Out of tragedy, the two helped create motorsports megaevent Fuelfest. The premise seemed like a no-brainer: bringing together F&F fans and all-around auto enthusiasts together for a day engine-related entertainment while serving a greater purpose: continuing the growth of Paul’s charitable work alive.
From its inception in 2019, Fuelfest has grown from two events to now seven in 2023, including the Sept. 9 show at New Jersey’s Motorsports Park, So far, nearly $400,000 have been raised to help relief efforts throughout the globe.
For Gibson, FuelFest is the ideal venue for which his showman skills outweigh his ability to tell you the horsepower in his F&F character’s 2010 Lamborghini. No matter the time or situation, he’s always there to lend his support to FuelFest, even as time in his busy and complicated schedule becomes more and more scarce. However, no matter what he has on his plate—including recording a new album and a highly publicized divorce—seeing the evolution of this project for Paul is beneficial for his own mental well being.
“It’s like, wow, we could have kept all of this stuff in our brains., and we would have robbed a world of experience in car culture and energy, family, and adrenaline on this level,” Gibson says. “So I’m proud of this for so many different reasons.”
Fueled by FuelFest
The blueprint for FuelFest wasn’t drawn up in a Hollywood boardroom, but instead Cody approached Gibson with his high-performance plan in a much low-key setting—a seafood chain restaurant.
“This all started for me and Cody sitting at Red Lobster and him mentioning this idea,” Gibson says. “I was like, this is gonna be crazy. It was a no-brainer. Then to be able to kind of see this all materialize and become something so big and very much a very small amount of time.”
Since its Los Angeles debut nearly five years ago, Fuelfest has reached global proportions, putting on shows in the U.K., Tokyo and Abu Dhabi. In addition to September’s New Jersey event, FuelFest will wrap up 2023 with events in Las Vegas and Scottsdale.
If you’re a gearhead, FuelFest has over 600 high-performance cars to go along with drifting exhibitions and other motorsports memories, including music performances, off-road demos, and interactive exhibits for every type of car-crazy attendee.
While fun is the objective, the duo created Fuelfest for a purpose: Reach Out WorldWide, the non-profit charity originally founded by Paul Walker in 2010 to help organize relief teams following a devastating earthquake in Haiti. Since his death, Cody has taken over that role, and so far has helped raise over $330,000. The organization has worked to organize recovery efforts in areas such as Tampa following Hurricane Ian as well as the massive earthquake in Turkey this past February. Currently, ROWW is contributing to the disaster relief efforts in Maui following the recent wildfires.
For Gibson, keeping Reach Out Worldwide as the event’s big picture goal was a priority. At the same time, getting an opportunity to interact with the fans who have helped the Fast & Furious series close in on nearly $8 billion in worldwide totals, makes the effort all the more fulfilling.
“These fans and supporters have grew up with the Fast & Furious now for 23 years,” Gibson says. “[Most] have never been able to attend any event other than a movie premiere, or an advanced screening of a film or sitting behind those barricades that’s normally taken…Now you’ve got me and Cody and other cast members showing up to these FuelFest events. And it’s like, ‘This is what we’ve seen for 20 plus years in the movies. And now we get to actually experience it in real life!’ You can’t put that into words what that means.”
FuelFest, Music, And Mental Therapy
As the low-key half of this duo, Cody Walker is quick to acknowledge how much he relies on Gibson’s showman expertise that has enthusiastic FuelFest crowds drowning out the sounds of engines roaring in the background. “When Tyrese is around, the electricity is magical,” he says. “This guy is the most incredible entertainer you have ever seen in your life. That’s his world. Put him on stage and give him a microphone, and even if something is going wrong, he’s got it.”
Revving up FuelFest audiences is sometimes a welcome retreat from the recording studio, where Gibson has been spending a good portion of his time lately, working on what he calls his most challenging very challenging record. While his R&B ballad “Dont Think You Ever Loved Me” a collaboration with Lenny Kravitz, recently hit No. 2 on the Billboard top 100, the Grammy-nominated artist admits that this time piecing together this album has been mentally draining, especially as it comes in the middle of his much-publicized ongoing divorce.
“There’s nothing there’s nothing more uncomfortable than being without that family dynamic,” he says. “We can all be serial entrepreneurs, but to come home to an empty house with no kids. I wouldn’t wish that on some of my worst enemy.”
He admits he can’t musically and lyrically separate his feelings and emotions come out in his lyrics. “It’s been the most challenging album of my life because it’s an album about an unexpected divorce,” he says. “I feel everything and when I go through things, I carry it and it lingers, and it’s on me. So when I go to the studio for this specific album because my vulnerabilities are so raw, I’ll take five six days off after trying to do one song because I’m putting so much into the music.”
Even if it’s just for a weekend, getting out of the recording studio and in front of the throng of Fast & Furious fans oftentimes has been the break he needs to keep his mental edge, if only for a few hours.
“It’s like Disneyland on steroids,” he says. “Like, how can you not be happy when feeling all of this happiness that’s around you—with cars and adrenaline and kids and people and the energy of the fans and the excitement. It’s been life altering…the energy is so infectious, it gets me through at least two months at a time of happiness.”
Staying FuelFest Fit
Since Gibson’s schedule includes traveling worldwide for FuelFest (the event was recently held in Japan) as around-the-clock recording studio sessions—Gibson’s latest song, “Love Transaction” was recently released on Apple Music—finding time to maintain that shredded physique that moviegoers got a glimpse of in 2 Fast 2 Furious has become another regimen challenge. But he’s trying. “I don’t really have any routines,” he says, “I’m just existing.”
Even though he says he can sprinkle a gym session or two every now and then, the day to day grind has become both a physical and mental workout. “I feel like I’m physically running around [in life],” he says, “Every day I’m lifting, pulling, grabbing, running around doing something. When I’m able to hit the gym, I just go forward.”
Even though the gym may not be at the top of his priority list at the moment, Gibson is all about getting a sweat on. Whenever he can, Gibson will hit the sauna to help unwind. However, one area you’ll never find him is on the other end of the temperature spectrum, especially ice baths. “I hate anything cold, other than cold water,” he says. “I don’t take cold showers—I normally use fireplace even in the summer. And I love heat. But I don’t care if it’s private or for the cameras, you can never sell me the benefits of jumping in a bucket of cold water. I don’t care.”
Gibson does, however, maintain a relatively diet, he says. His muscle-maintaining mealplan consists of loads of fish and vegetables, which he says helps him keep as much lean mass as possible.
“I love fish for the taste versus how healthy it is,” he says. “I love sea bass and salmon and you know I also love spinach and broccoli and green beans and vegetables and all the healthy stuff that that one’s mom would hope to instill in their child.”
Performing for the Preservation of Paul’s Legacy
Gibson clarifies his automotive knowledge, sort of: “[Cody and I] don’t have long conversations about this car or that car, engines and RPMs,” he says. “I never had those types with Paul either. They understand this stuff and speak the language. With me, after two minutes of ‘uh, yeah, got it,’ and no other response, I don’t know what the f*** I’m talking about.”
Gibson and Cody relationship, in part with their FuelFest partnership and also the common trait of their past relationship with Paul have them relying on each other.
“I look down and I go, I’ve walked 10 miles,” Cody says about their conversations. “That’s when you know it’s real. We may see something a different but we’re always able to follow through. Like, I got you. I see what you’re saying. But trust me this one time. And vice versa.”
One such conversation: How fast to build FuelFest. Although more progressive in most elements, Gibson admits to wanting to take a slower, more conservative approach to expanding FuelFest. Now with events worldwide, and 15,000 to 20,000 fans in attendance, he admits to the muscle-car miscalculation, while giving Cody the credit for the success.
“At first I was like, let’s just slow it down and not do that many of these per year,” he says. “Now, every time we show up and we’re onstage, I’m forced to look over at Cody and his wife and go, I was wrong. I don’t know what I’m talking about.”
What both Gibson and Cody Walker agree on at all times, is that their bond in keeping Paul’s legacy through FuelFest is a team effort.
“Reach Out Worldwide is literally everything Paul represented—I don’t really know if I would be a part of FuelFest if it wasn’t for that component,” Gibson admits. “Yes, I’m excited about the experiences and all the energy, but just knowing that 15,000 to 20,000 people are showing up and it’s contributing to a greater good—something Paul was extremely passionate about before he passed, I can sleep really good at night. We both can sleep good at night.”
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