Alfonso Ribeiro

alfonso ribeiroMost of us know him as the smug, slightly nerdy, but lovable Carlton Banks from the sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. But Alfonso Ribeiro is far more than Carlton and his goofy dance—in fact, he was never really that at all. Alfonso Ribeiro and his amazing celebrity journey is characterized by talent, resilience, dedication, and commitment.

Natural-Born Talent

Alfonso Ribeiro grew up in the Bronx in the 1970s and 1980s. His grandfather was a calypso singer and was known as Lord Hummingbird, and his aunt danced on the sketch comedy show Laugh-In. His parents recognized that their son had natural talent and ensured that his skills were given opportunities to develop talent.

Ribeiro described his father as his manager. His father once told him, “The more eggs you have in the basket, the more opportunities you have for one of them to hatch.” He encouraged his son to learn everything he could—act, dance, sing, talk, read, and so on.

Alfonso Ribeiro began his career at a young age. He had an instinctive passion for performance and a natural gift for dance. In 1983, at the age of 12, he took center stage in the Broadway musical production of The Tap Dance Kid.

In an interview with Jimmy Kimmel, Ribeiro said that he didn’t even know how to tap dance before he started working on the production. With his natural ability to pick up performance skills, he had no trouble learning tap dance within a year to perform the role professionally. His performance captivated audiences and laid the foundation for a career in entertainment.

While performing on Broadway, Ribeiro caught the attention of none other than Michael Jackson, who recognized the young performer’s potential and invited him to collaborate on a Pepsi commercial. The iconic advertisement showcased Ribeiro’s magnetic charisma and impressive dance moves, further setting the stage for his future achievements.

In 1984, Ribeiro transitioned seamlessly from the stage to the screen when his breakout role came when he joined the sitcom Silver Spoons. His portrayal of Alfonso Spears showcased his comedic timing and natural charm, endearing him to audiences.

The Carlton Banks Phenomenon

For better or for worse, Ribeiro’s portrayal of Carlton Banks on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air would truly define his career and leave an indelible mark on American pop culture. In this iconic role, Ribeiro captivated audiences with his impeccable comedic timing and physical comedy. The character of Carlton Banks quickly became a cultural icon, beloved by audiences around the world and virtually synonymous with Ribeiro’s name. And the now-infamous Carlton Dance became a cultural phenomenon. Fans of the show would eagerly anticipate it during almost every episode.

But the popularity of Fresh Prince didn’t come without a fresh price for Ribeiro. Despite the overwhelming success of the show, Alfonso Ribeiro found himself grappling with the burden of typecasting—a fate all too common for actors who become associated strongly with a single role. Even worse, for years, he couldn’t seem to go out in public without being asked to do the Carlton Dance. However, Ribeiro refused to be confined by one particular image or talent.

“People automatically thought I was [Carlton],” he said, “but I couldn’t do that type of guy anymore. I’ve had to reinvent myself and change the entire narrative. I’m no longer able to act. I’m a host. I’m a director.”

Beyond Fresh Prince

In the spirit of reinvention, Alfonso Ribeiro launched into a journey to take even greater advantage of his natural entertainer’s abilities. He ventured into directing, hosting, and philanthropic endeavors. He began hosting America’s Funniest Home Videos in 2015 and is still going strong. And after showcasing his dancing talents on Dancing with the Stars (which Ribeiro won), he eventually became a co-host and then the main host of the show. He has also hosted other television programs, including the game show Catch 21 and and Food Network’s Unwrapped 2.0.

And here’s something that you probably didn’t know: Alfonso Ribeiro loves golf! The sport has played a significant role in his life, and Ribeiro is currently a PGA TOUR Champions Ambassador.


“I love being an entertainer,” he said, “and I feel like I don’t have to work a day in my life. I go to work, but I don’t feel like I’m working. I don’t feel like I’ve got to struggle. But I don’t feel like I’m ever going to squander that. A day a job ends is the day you look for your next job.”

Alfonso Ribeiro serves as a reminder that the American Dream can be realized when we take full advantage of our talents and when we don’t allow others to dictate how we can use those talents. Ribeiro could have sat on his laurels. He could have decided that he would never move past his iconic role on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Instead, he refused to be pigeonholed. His ability to transcend barriers and redefine success underscores the potential within each of us.

“Life is a journey. It’s a long road with many ups and downs and speed bumps and potholes and magnificent days. I am very much a glass-half-full person. I think passion is such an important part of success, and that’s translated to my career.”