Hawkins on “New Black Overclass” Doc: “This is in Line With What We Do at CNBC”

By SteveK 

Where can you see basketball star LeBron James, hip-hop artist Baby and controversial NFL receiver Terrell Owens discuss wealth? On CNBC tomorrow night at 9pmET.

Wall Street Journal reporter and CNBC contributor Lee Hawkins hosts, “Newbos: The Rise of America’s New Black Overclass,” which profiles these and other superstars with the term he’s dubbed the “black overclass.”

“There was an interest from the beginning from Mark Hoffman and Jonathan Wald in doing this project because they found it to be very interesting,” Hawkins tells TVNewser. “This is in line with what we do at CNBC. We study wealth. It didn’t matter that only this time it was pertaining to African Americans.”


Through the profiles, Hawkins chronicles how the “overclass” has amassed and kept their wealth or, in some cases, nearly lost it all. “Let’s face it, money is a proxy for success in America,” says Hawkins. “When people who haven’t traditionally had money or access to credit, they’re going to splurge. This is one of the great problems with our society — a culture of consumption.”

And then there’s King James — putting up big numbers on the court and when it comes to money management. “For a person his age to have that level of understanding of the importance of his brand, how every action he makes affects his bottom line, is very impressive,” he says.

And what about Hawkins, who is hosting his first documentary for CNBC. Is there enough diversity in the TV business?

“There needs to be more diversity on the TV side, particularly on the financial side of the business,” said Hawkins. And with the documentary, “This is step in a positive direction.

“Networks are starting to realize that this was a side of African American reality that people don’t know about.”

In June, Hawkins’s book, which shares the same name as the doc, will hit store shelves. “The book addresses the sociological argument and the special deals more with the economic reality,” he said.

With the documentary wrapped, Hawkins says Hispanics and wealth will be the frontier to tackle in the next decade. “If I get the chance, yes certainly. I’m not someone who would run away from a story like that,” he says.

For now, Hawkins thinks having documentaries like the one premiering tomorrow night is a step in the right direction. “Editorially there is an appetite for these types of stories,” he says. “And I hope it continues.”