FRIDAY, May 8 — A celebrated Michigan State University alumnus and beauty industry executive apologized today for several racist remarks about Vietnamese business owners.
Larry Gaynor, an MSU graduate with an entrepreneurship program bearing his name at the Eli Broad College of Business and the CEO of Farmington Hills-based TNG Worldwide, made several obscene remarks during a recent business webinar for salons and beauty shops.
“There’s a few enemies in the business,” Gaynor said. “And if you’re in the nail business, the biggest enemy is the Vietnamese salon. I cannot support any partner that supports the Vietnamese. There’s just nothing I can say good for what they’ve done to our industry.”
“What they’ve done to our industry is nothing but less than destroy it. Their sanitation, their pricing, the way they talk,” he continued, mocking the sound of the Vietnamese language. “I mean, we’re in America. We talk English. We’re not in Vietnam. We’re in America. Talk English.”
“They sit back and talk Vietnamese to each other,” Gaynor continued, listing off names of Vietnamese brands that he believes nail salons should avoid using at all costs. “I mean, give me a break. Who needs that crap? This is a new world society. We want to be treated with respect.”
Gaynor reportedly made his comments only to Diamond Partners, an exclusive membership tier of his company that can only be joined by businesses vowing not to use brands used in Vietnamese salons.
“That is not OK,” Velez-Miggins posted to Facebook after watching the clip that was later shared with City Pulse. “How can anyone sit in on that town hall and think this behavior is acceptable?”
Gaynor apologized today and said that is no longer required criteria.
This morning, he told City Pulse that his recent comments were a “mistake.” He has since apologized individually to those with concerns over his remarks and plans to host another webinar at 11 a.m. today to offer yet another apology to the general public.
“It came off wrong. I have a factory in Vietnam. I have many customers there,” Gaynor said. “I apologized for the remarks I made. I did not make any knowingly racist remarks. I don’t even know what that word means. I’m not that type of guy.”
Gaynor also detailed his company’s 25-year history with the Vietnamese community, noting he also has many Asian friends, colleagues and customers — none of which view him as a racist.
“I said everything poorly, and I apologize,” Gaynor added.
A spokeswoman for MSU said Gaynor has apologized for the "unnecessary harm" caused by his recent remarks, noting they "in no way represent or align" with university values.
Gaynor graduated from MSU in 1977 with a bachelor’s degree in accounting and went on to create TNG, a leading full-service manufacturer and distributor to salons, spas and other retailers, according to reports in Crain’s Detroit Business. The company gave a $3 million donation to MSU in 2017 to create a program in his name.
That gift led to the namesake of the Larry and Teresa Gaynor Entrepreneurship Lab, the “front door for entrepreneurship and venture creation on the campus,” as MSU describes it, at the Eli Broad College of Business. Statistics show that about 5% of undergraduate students are Asian.
TNG has been in business since 1985 and manufactures more than 2000 products including brands like ForPro, EMMA Beauty, Ginger Lily Farms, Pure Essential Oil Works, Pure Himalayan Salt Works, Scentworks and XHI Professional Tool Works, according to its website. Those brands are sold to national retailers and distributed through “The Industry Source.”