Striving for greatness: A DieselDonlow story

Dreams. Aspirations. Goals. Considering the options of the future can be proven time and time again to be a daunting task. For Ben Donlow that dream was to be in the entertainment business, more specifically an actor. But growing up in Youngstown, Ohio, moving to LA and pursuing his talents as a career, seemed impossible.

But for Ben, nothing was impossible. In Fact, the dream of his being so impossible, motivated him more to work even harder to achieve his goal.

After years of work he finally achieved his dream. A man that grew up in Youngstown, Ohio, who went to Poland schools, got his Masters Degree, became a personal trainer, now a working actor in Los Angeles, California. Donlow as made multiple T.V and film appearances including Chicago PD, Chicago Med, Chicago Fire, APB (which is no longer showing), Exorcist, Ozark, Empire,  Fast and Furious 8, Outsiders, American Pastoral, some DC films, 6 Degrees of Murder, and not to mention a lot of commercials.

Sitting down with Donlow to talk about his brand and his experiences was truly an honor. The amount of dedication, the amount of passion this man has for his brand and his acting career is truly astounding. He never seems to give up, he never stops trying to improve in every aspect of his life. Before the interview even started he was talking about how he wanted to expand his brand to make it bigger and better. His ideas were incredible. It seems as though he is incapable of slowing down, his mind is always filled with new ideas and seems to be a constant motivator to him, telling him to keep pushing and to keep working harder and harder till there is absolutely nowhere else to go. And with Donlow, he’d most likely find a way to go even higher.

“My mind says go get it and if I feel like I can go get something, ya know I’m gonna try and get it.”

Donlow’s acting dream began when the wheels in his mind began turning.  “It really didn’t hit home till my God brother did a film down in Atlanta, and I was like ‘aw man, my cousin famous’. I mean he only did extra work, but still my mind said ‘oh, he was famous’. I was fascinated by it and I was motivated by it, and then I took an acting class in college in 2012. I learned how to study script, how to do a play, how to write a script, how to make a scene, and that’s when it all started.  I didn’t get started in the acting world till 2015.”

Like everyone when trying to achieve a goal of theirs there is always going to be those time where giving up seems to be the only option. For acting, obviously the giving up point would be in the event of the actor not booking any jobs. Or in more acting terms a SAG card. “I wanted to back out when I couldn’t get my SAG card (Screen Actors Guild). It’s the only actors union for all of the main actors. I’m obviously blessed to be in it now but at the time I was like ‘oh my god am I ever gonna get close to being on a set?’ or being on a union production. The union and SAG is something that I think all actors strive for. That’s when you’re serious. I feel like if you put your time in then you’ll get union”

Donlow, however didn’t start with acting, in fact he was a personal trainer. This was the beginning of his ‘brand’. His clothing brand started out, and still continues to be based on mainly fitness logos. “You gotta have an idea” Donlow explained.  “In the beginning I had to figure out how to make a shirt, how do you get someone to make whatever type of logo or shirt you like, and I just figured out how to get an idea on a shirt. You need to figure out how to manufacture and how to get people to buy the shirt.You need to know how to sell the shirt. Do you have people that are interested in the product? Is this a product that has already been done?  I feel like my stuff is different because I bring a different element into the brand so you gotta figure out exactly what you are bringing into the market. And how you are gonna sell the stuff.”

“First I started off with a fitness logo, and that was one of the first ones I had (Donlow’s classic “D” symbol).  I had one that said “Strong as an African Rhino”. I went through like 6 or 7 different logos to get to where I am now and I’m pretty satisfied with it and because that “D” symbolizes all the hard work I did the journey and the voyage of me creating the brand. And then it took off.”

When asking Donlow about any memorable moments on his acting career he definitely had some stories to tell. One that stuck out the most was when he had an encounter with Denzel Washington.  “We were on set and it was one scene where we had to be in a house and the actors are all in there. And I was a stand in actor, which is an actor that’s before an actor, an actor that does all the lighting positions. Basically so that when Denzel comes in they are ready to go. And Denzel was there and he was the director and the main actor. He was just…his attention to detail was so great that he was doing both! He knew where everyone should be and he knew everyone’s lines. Man, that really impressed me. At the beginning of me being an actor and seeing him doing it all was incredible. Right after one of the takes we were sitting in a tight room, and Denzel was on the couch a little ways away from me, and I’m talking to this gentlemen about my masters degree. And I didn’t get it yet but I was getting it very soon. I was explaining to him why I did it and blah, blah, blah, and the entire time I didn’t realize that Denzel was listening to me. So after the fact I was like ‘Thank God I didn’t say anything stupid’. So he was like come over here, and I was like ‘oh shoot’. He was like, man look I love it when brothers get their degree. He was really for real about that. He was like you know education is really important. And at the time I was like oh why is he saying this but it didn’t really hit home till I saw him do a speech at one of the universities about how important he felt education was. So we weren’t talking about acting and about the education and how proud he was of me. He was really trying to see where my mind was at. And I was telling him ‘well I’m still in school and I have a clothing brand’ and he was like ‘ok let me see’. And he grabbed my phone and he looked at all the pictures and was ‘ok bring me this one, bring me two of them’, So I brought them in with me the next day on set and that was my experience with Denzel and that was a really great experience for me. That was one of my best days on set.”

With his clothing brand thriving, to this day Donlow still comes up with ideas and some have been inspiration and really mean something to him.  “It took me a long time to figure out a missions statement. How am I gonna get you to like it? That took me a long time because I’m like ‘well it’s me everyone likes me, I’m an actor’, but it’s more than that. You have to have details and details and the meat and potatoes and I didn’t skip them, but I almost died. Because I wasn’t worried about that because I was like ‘well I’m an actor, I’m a big name.’ But I’m no better than anyone else. My favorite one is the “.25, 1.00, 5.00, 10.00” that’s my favorite because in life you have to learn how to make money and i fell like that is where entrepreneurs and anyone who wants to make money they can relate to that shirt I don’t care what field of life you are in or what brand you do or whatever you do. You need to learn how to make the levels and the motivation to make money it’s the motivation to save money.”

Donlow doesn’t have this brand all to himself. He adds new people to help promote his line and one person is very special to him, his girlfriend Courtney Purfey. Purfey was a children’s pastor at RUSH Church. He was inspired by her story of going to Romania to help orphaned children then becoming a local children’s pastor he wanted her to join his “DesielDonlow” Brand.  “You need to use your platform, being a children’s pastor, and put out some shirts. So I started it based on that to see where it goes and then people actually started to like it. I was shocked because I never thought that someone would wear a shirt that was representing me and things that I believed in. I just wanted to inspire people to truly love themselves and truly love other people. What inspires me is the Lord of course and especially to see people transformed in their life, and doing things that they never thought that they could do before and never thought would be possible.  To live out their dreams that God has created them to do, so that inspires me. If I could say that I helped someone get there then that means the world to me and I would do anything to make that happen.”

Upon asking what inspires Donlow, he simply smiled. His eyes light up talking about his passion. “I love seeing people making it from here (Youngstown) and I wanna help people make it here.  I always try to help other people get better. I always wanna see people go to the next level, and I feel like God has put me in people’s lives to help them make it to the next level. I just recently learned that I love seeing people do good. Like you can give people money, but you don’t see what the do with it. You can’t see the pride in them making their own money and I’ve helped probably a handful of people.  Some are successful and some are not, and some people that aren’t is because they didn’t follow the game. The ones that are striving right now I’m really proud of them. Helping people is my greatest motivation.”

If you are interested in any of these products, or are just curious in either Ben or Courtney’s brand go to: or check them out on Instagram: @cpurfeyclothing or @dieseldonlowbrand