Kindhearted and spontaneous, a relaxing conversation with creative Alfonso Gonzales-François is the embodiment of a beam of light. A man of words dedicated to art, culture and philanthropy, François, also known as Fonz Franc, is a writer, social commentator, and the creator of FonzFranc.com. New to the interwebs and one of his first interviews, I got the pleasure of speaking with this talented wordsmith as the featured Scribe on the Rise for The Writer’s Block here at For The Scribes.
Willie Kinard: Instead of asking you where are you from or where’s home for you, we like to get in our guests heads a bit. Thinking outside the box a bit, where are you a local?
Alfonso François: I’ll say New York City. You can define New York City in so many ways. It’s one thing to be from a small place not growing up in diversity, but thinking back [to my neighborhood], that’s about as diverse as it gets. Looking at my family, having Western Caribbean roots, there’s a lot of culture here that I grew up in that feels like home. So I’ll just say New York City.
WK:As a millennial black queer writer and creative, who or what were your artistic influences growing up?
François: I think the day-to-day conversations and people that I [would come in contact with] growing up were influential. A lot of my writing started as journaling on those encounters and how I would reflect on them so ordinary things are probably what give me the urge to jot it all down. Almost anything gives me a reason to write. I’m always thinking heavily about who I talk to. As far as work ethic goes, as corny as it sounds, I’m gonna have to say Beyoncé. I’ve never been so moved by someone’s drive and urgency to be as perfect [as she appears]. She really tries to perfect her craft. That might not work all the time, but she ends up putting out amazing things that we get to take so much away from.
WK: How does a writing session go for you?
François: If there’s a procedure that I have to go through, the only thing that I would say is that I have to have everything quiet. I have to have solitude. It’s usually a freewrite of sort for me. I just go in and start chipping away at [topics] that I’m thinking of. It’s kind of like sculpture. I’m careful about how I write. I want my words to feel like they’re being read to you.
You don’t have to be an expert to produce quality content.
WK: How does social media and culture play a role into your writing and your mission?
François: In college, I studied film and media. One of things that I loved learning as much [as I could] about the media was something called Web 2.0. One aspect of it is user-generated content, basically where you don’t have to be an expert to produce quality content. You can produce these inexpensive versions of major blockbuster films and gain a cult following and make content that other people can access, whatever your lane is. As far as it goes, the world is really small when it comes to social media. I wanted to be another voice that people could listen to. Across platforms, you have a lot of people that are influential and I want in on that by doing that my way. As my senior project, I built a website as a forum for LGBT student to give them more access and support. I didn’t know that it would stick with me. It kind of lingered. I wanted to give another outlet for art and culture and being queer.
WK: As far as you and your brand goes, where do you see yourself in the future?
François: Hopefully as someone that’s respected as a writer, someone that’s better as a writer. I’m happy and confident in what I do. Right now, I work in PR and that’s a very fun job, but with [my brand], I could travel, work remotely, work from home, take a day off, I could take time off [as I want to]. I kind of want that flexibility. I would love for this website to become my sole source of income. I’d like to be very comfortable, married, to be a good mentor to young queer boys and girls. I’d like to invest and give back to the neighborhood I grew up in, Crown Heights Brooklyn. It’s super gentrified right now and I’d like to help [restore it] to the community that I’m used to.
WK: Thinking on mentorship, giving back, and to your site being a space for artists, creatives, and philanthropists, what special projects or initiatives would you want to create with your brand?
François: I think pushing people to channel their frustrations creatively. I know for me, it was writing and dance. There are so many different ways to channel frustrations and if your are a man of color or an LGBT person, we don’t always have that opportunity. We don’t always have an army around you to support you or coach you. If there’s a physical space that I could take part in, a website or if I could travel and give workshops, that’d be great.
WK: So there’s a strong chance that we might see a FonzFranc Art Therapy Foundation?
François: That sounds really, really, really good. [Laughs] I like that. I just need the resources and the tools, but I’ll get there.
Use your own mind. You are capable of making good—and great—decisions. Be your own person as much as possible.
WK: We are coming up on our lightning round questions so I’m going to quickly fire them at you and you answer as the spirit flows. Cool?
François: Are we? Well, okay. [Laughs]
WK: What fictitious character would be your best friend and quickly, why?
François: Aladdin, I really loved him growing up. I liked the idea of rising through the ranks by being rebellious and following his heart.
WK: Handwritten or typed?
François: I have a horrible carpal tunnel and my wrist sometimes locks up, so typed. There is something so personal about a handwritten note or letter, but typed for personal reasons.
WK: Early morning writer or night owl scribe?
François: Night owl scribe.
WK: Who are you listening to right now?
François: Currently a mix. I call it my Euphoria playlist. The other day I was in this Uber—it was so corny, like something out of a movie—and I’m listening to it and I’m leaning against of the window. Whenever it plays, it feels like no bad things can happen. So I’m currently playing it.
WK: Last lightning round question: What are three words to describe Fonz?
François: Ready. Optimistic. And, fun.
WK: It has been great talking to you Fonz. Thank you so much for your time. Before we wrap up, what advice or words of wisdom do you have for queer and LGBT children of color that are watching you and those of us creating spaces and doing the work we do?
François: It’s really important to have your own mind. That can be kind of difficult when you’re surrounded by folks following the crowd. Take a step to figure out what aspects make up you. I won’t say something cliche like “be original.” Use your own mind. You are capable of making good—and great—decisions. Be your own person as much as possible.