If you ask someone at a local tuner show to list their favorite influencers, names like TJ Hunt, Adam “LZ,” Tanner Fox, or Collete Davis will pop up. You may notice a pattern. In the niche space of tuner car culture, there aren’t many high-profile influencers of color. Even fewer are African American. But easily one of the most recognizable among that small group is Hertrech Eugene Jr., or “Hert,” as his fans know him.
Hert found his way into car culture through video games and eventually made an indelible mark on the drift scene. Beyond being one of the only African Americans in his respective space, Hert is unique because of how he grew his following.
Hert does what he wants, makes no apologies for it, and encourages others to do the same. His “Twerkstallion” FC-chassis RX-7 is easily the most recognizable among his many builds. Under its hood, Hert’s RX-7 is equipped with an LS V-8 rather than a traditional Wankel rotary.
As you might suspect, Hert got a lot of hate from rotary purists. However, that didn’t deter him from building his car his way. Eventually, the Twerkstallion became so popular that it became part of major video games like Forza Motorsport, Forza Horizon, and the popular Thumb Drift mobile game.
Currently, Hert is part of Ken Block’s Hoonigan crew, serves as the brand’s content manager, and hosts a significant portion of its YouTube content.
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I’ve known Hert for years, as we’ve constantly crossed paths at events and while covering Formula Drift. Occasionally in our conversations, we acknowledge that we’re often the only two African Americans in the media meetings and photography zones. I wanted to learn more about his background and how being Black in car culture has shaped his experience.
Andrew: What initially got you interested in cars?
Hert: It was video games. No one in my family has been into cars. I had an uncle who had an old Cougar XR7 or something like that, but that’s literally the extent of my family and cars.
So basically, I would play racing games. Obviously Gran Turismo, Forza, and Need For Speed and just like anything racing.
Looking back at it. I never was like, “I could do this someday.” It was just a fun thing I liked to do. One of my best friends in high school, Louis Santana, his family was pretty into cars. They all had RX-7s and AE86s and stuff.
Hanging out with them kind of influenced me. Louis’s uncle was a big rotary guy. I have this vivid memory of him. He pulled his race car out of his garage. It was a rotary-powered race car. He pulled out of the garage, went down the cul-de-sac, turned around, popped a wheelie, and put the car back!
Being around those guys let me know it’s not just video games. You can actually do stuff to cars and have fun with them.
Andrew: It sounds like the love for RX-7s was planted early. Was your first car an RX-7 too?
Hert: My mom bought me a ’94 Accord. That was my first car ever. Like anyone does these days, it doesn’t matter what you have, you fall in love with it and do whatever you can to put an intake on it. When I say “put an intake on it,” I mean, I went to Home Depot. I went to Home Depot, got laundry ducting, and made my own intake.
That’s when you learn about things like idle air control valves, MAFs, and things like that, because it just didn’t work as well as it should have.
I ended up getting in an accident with that car, and it got written off. My mom helped me get another car, and it was the same thing, you know, put wheels on it, fart can, and just an intake filter this time.
I had bald front tires in rainy Florida. I spun out on the highway, and I learned that tires matter. At this point, my mom’s like, “I’m not buying you another one; you gotta figure it out.”
She did the best she could for me, and I needed to learn how to be responsible. I always loved the Civic hatchback, EG6. So, with my own money, I finally bought my own car, and I started to get a little deeper inside the modification aspect.
I put an actual suspension on it, like struts and springs. I took it to the drag strip almost every weekend and ran 17 seconds flat every time.
That car got rear-ended and totaled. When I got my insurance check from it, my friend was taking me home from work, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw a championship-white FC RX-7 on a lot. The check went straight to that used-car dealership, and I bought that car.
That was the beginning of my love for FCs and the beginning of my journey.
Andrew: You have certainly come a long way. In the earlier days of entering car culture, I’ve always noticed that there weren’t many people who looked like me. Was that something you noticed as well?
Hert: It was pretty much the same. There weren’t a lot of faces like ours in the space, especially on a high level. You know, back then, I was kind of naive to that kind of stuff.
I didn’t pay attention to that kind of thing. Well, I can’t say I didn’t because of my forum name. A long time ago, the same group of friends who taught me how to clutch kick, we had a weird inner circle joke because I was the only black guy. Naturally, I just made my forum name “black guy.”
So, I can’t say I wasn’t aware of it because I was literally the only black guy everywhere. When I got into the automotive space, that’s how the joke was derived.
I wasn’t really in a professional setting a lot, and everyone that I rocked with was really cool. I feel like I was given a lot of opportunities just based on who I was as a person, you know?
The position where I am now didn’t really occur to me. I get messages all the time saying that “it’s so cool to see a Black person in the position that you’re in and showing that we can do this stuff too.”
As I was growing and getting those messages, I realized I’m representing something I didn’t even know I was representing. It’s so much deeper than just going out and having fun. I didn’t have anyone to look up to that looked like me in this industry, but I just knew I wanted it so bad.
I wasn’t going to let anything stop me from being in the industry because my life was defined by this stuff, you know? I know it’s different for a lot of people where it’s intimidating. I’ve definitely walked into rooms where I’m like “oh . . .”
Andrew: I’ve had that experience many times.
Hert: It is a thing, but everyone is different, and it is all about how you handle it. I’m from Florida, man. I’m sure you’ve heard stories. Florida is a “special place.” Racism and that kind of thing didn’t affect me in the sense that I was never the type to let that kind of person or that type of attitude bring me down.
I saw it more as a challenge. Like, “I’m going to make you feel otherwise.” I think I’ve always had that on my shoulders.
I used to live in a neighborhood where the house on the corner had a bunch of, I don’t know if you’re allowed to say “redneck” anymore, but they were a bunch of redneck dudes. I would drive by the house, and they would just yell the N-word at me, and it was just “whatever” to me. I don’t know those guys. I don’t care about those guys. They don’t affect my life in any way, shape, or form.
I’ve experienced things in Florida. I’ve had friends who would slip the N-word out and then say, “Oh, I didn’t mean it like that.” It doesn’t matter how you meant it, but I’m going to let you know that that word doesn’t reflect on any one of us. You don’t get to pick and choose how you use that word, you know?
I always saw it as a challenge that I’m going to make all of these people love me. I’m not going to let anyone stop me. If you don’t like Black people, then I’m going to make you like Black people.
That’s how I think, and it’s all while I’m being myself and doing my thing. So, those moments when you walk into a room in the automotive industry, and you’re the only Black person there, you get that initial shell shock, but then you think, “Well, I’m going to be myself, and I’m going to do my thing, and I promise you not a single one of you is going to have a problem with me.”
Thankfully I was able to make it work.
I can’t say that I’ve had a lot of negative instances that affected me directly, and as the industry and society have changed, it’s one of those weird things that sticking out like a sore thumb worked out in my favor.
Andrew: It’s inspiring to hear you come at those situations from that perspective. It was different for me. Whenever I found myself in those situations where I am the only Black person in a room, I sometimes get anxious and make a conscious effort not to do anything that would confirm a stereotype.
Hert: I totally understand! There was a phase when I wouldn’t even touch a watermelon. I wouldn’t even look at a watermelon. So, I totally get that.
And I may have felt that early on, but no one should live in this world and not be able to be themselves. I think my passion for [car culture] just overcame it all.
Andrew: You have over 600,000 followers on Instagram. Do you think your passion is what helped you grow such a large audience?
Hert: I think a big part of it is just being myself. The RX-7 was also pretty popular for a while. The way I treated it and the way I drove it was popular. I love preaching automotive violence and preaching automotive violence on a regular basis in my own car, going to events, and being part of the culture.
I didn’t do it for other people but showing that I’m really about this life. Having the creativity to put it in videos and social media in a way that it translates to more people than average, you know? All those things mixed together helped me grow to where I am today. Social media is a weird place.
Andrew: What would you say to someone that is African American, BIPOC, or LGBTQIA+ who wants to get into car culture as a creator but may be anxious or scared of how they will be received?
Hert: I think the biggest thing I would say is being self-aware, right? You have to look at it a couple of different ways. What kind of growth do you want? How do you want to grow? Do you want to be part of a system? Do you want to create your own system?
Early on, I had no filter. I was a wild dude, and I’m not saying that was a “Black thing,” we just lived in a different time back then. Video games partially raised me; Tom Green partially raised me, so we used to say and do some silly shit.
I have this creative openness that works for people like Tom Green, but it doesn’t always work on a broader scope. It all really depends on who you are, what you want to be, and what you want to do. This feels like the biggest piece of advice to us is to be self-aware of the goals you want to achieve.
Andrew: What would you say the industry needs to do to be more inclusive?
Hert: Be self-aware and look around you. See who’s representing your version of the automotive space. Is it making everyone feel comfortable? I’m not saying it’s your job to solely pick people to fit a narrative, but there are so many people in this world. So many people are capable, and there are so many personalities and so many talents.
There may be tons of people who can do exactly what you need. When you’re thinking about adding more, just think about the other types of people who could fit in to help you.
Andrew: Where do you want your career to be in five or 10 years?
Hert: I just want to be happy. I’m not worried about putting my face on Mount Rushmore. I’m not worried about being better than anyone else. I don’t care about having more money than anyone else. I just want to be happy. I want to be able to take care of my family, and I want to drive race cars.
Do I have goals? Yes. It’s hard to be in the position I’m in, with the reach I have, and not utilize it. So, opportunities will arise, and I will take them. I like having a voice in this industry, and I want to maintain that for as long as I can, whether it be through Hoonigan or another outlet. I just want to produce awesome content and provide a wonderful voice to inspire people for years.
This story was created as part of Future Rising in partnership with Lexus. Future Rising is a series running across Hearst Magazines to celebrate the profound impact of Black culture on American life, and to spotlight some of the most dynamic voices of our time. Go to oprahdaily.com/futurerising for the complete portfolio.
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