Just sit right back and you'll hear ... the truth
'Real Gilligan' star is a phony psychologist
Reality TV star Tiy-E Muhammad's résumé has more holes than the S.S. Minnow after the weather started getting rough and the tiny ship was tossed.
The former Clark Atlanta University associate professor turned castaway on TBS' "The Real Gilligan's Island" has called himself a psychologist on his Web site and book jacket covers, yet he is not licensed to practice psychology in Georgia or anywhere else.
Kara Sinkule, a spokeswoman for the Georgia secretary of state's office, said Muhammad, known as "The Love Doctor" on a local radio station, could face misdemeanor criminal charges.
Claiming you are a psychologist without a license is illegal, she said.
Muhammad, 35, says he's a doctor, but he didn't earn a Ph.D. in psychology at the school from which he has said he graduated, school records show. In fact, he attended Southern Illinois University for just one semester as an unspecified graduate student, said SIU spokesman Tom Woolf.
Muhammad said he left Clark Atlanta, where he was an associate professor in the psychology department for four years, because he wasn't paid enough and he "no longer felt that spark" from teaching. School officials said he left after they discovered his credentials were bogus.
A nonprofit that wasn't
Muhammad said that in 1999 he founded a nonprofit organization called "Man II Man Inc.," which his Web site states is "dedicated to uplifting, motivating and educating inner city youth." Actually, the organization is a for-profit company, said Cara Hodgson of the secretary of state's office.
Muhammad said he had not "filed the paperwork" to make the corporation nonprofit. "I'm still forming the board of directors," he said. On Tuesday, the Web site was changed to describe the organization as "community-based," rather than nonprofit.
Muhammad has said he was a psychologist in Illinois, where he was originally from, but a search on the state's Financial and Professional Regulation Department Web site and a check with the department's spokesperson revealed no evidence to support that claim.
On Saturday, a nattily dressed Muhammad was signing two of his self-published books, "The Secrets Men Keep," and "My Mind, My Body, My Spirit," at a Barnes & Noble in East Point and dishing dirt on his stint on "The Real Gilligan's Island."
Advice about love
The "Survivor"-style show, which airs Wednesdays on TBS, pits two teams of castaways against each other for a top prize of $250,000. Muhammad fills one of the two "professor" roles. The heavily promoted show debuted June 8 and will run through June 29. It was taped in 2004 and has an average weekly viewership of 1.7 million people, studio officials said.
Wearing crisp white pants, an embroidered denim blue shirt and black leather Gucci sandals, Muhammad signed two of his books on relationships — published under his own Man II Man Inc. imprint — and autographed black-and-white headshots of himself labeled "Dr. Tiy-E Psychologist/Author" in large letters.
"If you go to bed at night not feeling comfortable with who you are, I feel sorry for you," he told the group of about 20 women, flashing a dimpled smile. "Everyone should love themselves."
In an interview with a reporter Saturday, Muhammad said he decided to leave Clark Atlanta in the summer of 2004 to pursue a career in modeling and acting.
"The job became a chore. It was a stale routine. It wasn't a challenge anymore," he said.
Asked Monday if he left the university because officials there questioned his credentials, he hesitated, then said, "I don't have a problem with that."
When pressed about the discrepancies, he said, "That is not anybody's business."
'Ricki Lake' regular
Charismatic and handsome, Muhammad first attracted national attention as a regular on the syndicated "Ricki Lake Show" as a "resident relationship expert" in 2002. He made numerous appearances on the talk show over the next two years while teaching at Clark Atlanta. School administrators would not comment on how Muhammad got his job with a faked résumé or why he was allowed to teach for so long.
Both Jet and Ebony magazines quoted Muhammad as a psychologist and relationship expert in articles dating back to 2001. In 2003, Ebony named him one of 26 "Best Bachelors of the Year." Ebony officials declined to comment this week, saying they had not had an opportunity to check into the matter.
Turner Broadcasting officials released a brief statement: "Tiy-E Muhammad met the professor criteria for the production company to cast him as a contestant on 'The Real Gilligan's Island.' They felt he was a good reality character."
Laura Mandel, a spokeswoman for Telepictures Productions, the show's producer, said, "We do not discuss the casting process."
Deception is unethical
Marietta psychologist Mark Roland, a board member of the Georgia Psychological Association's independent practice division, called Muhammad's use of the term psychologist "the worst kind of betrayal of the public's trust."
"This is the first time I've heard of someone taking it to this level," Roland said. "It raises legal and ethical issues."
Muhammad, who received a master's degree in guidance and counseling from Eastern Illinois University, said Monday he was unaware that claiming to be a psychologist without a license was illegal.
"I checked it out when I moved here. It's not against the law," he said.
But when a reporter read Muhammad the Georgia Law Code that relates to psychologists (Sec. 43-39-7), he said, "I'm a life coach, I say I'm a life coach. It makes things simpler."
On Tuesday, he changed his Web site, dropping the description of himself as a psychologist. He later acknowledged he had not graduated from Southern Illinois but said he had a doctorate from an unaccredited online university. He did not provide immediate documentation.
His own radio show
In the last five years, Muhammad has spoken on dozens of college campuses around the country, from Georgia Tech to Notre Dame. He said he gets 50 to 75 e-mails a day through his Web site, www.onelovepoet.com
, asking for relationship advice.
He's turned "Secrets Men Keep" into a play that is scheduled for Sept. 6-11 at the Bois-feuillet Jones Atlanta Civic Center, backed by local theater promoter Preston Elliott. Muhammad ran his own casting call in May and will play the lead. A promotional flier says the play is a "Man II Man Development" production.
Muhammad co-hosts with Ramona Debreaux on HOT 107.9 a Wednesday morning radio show on relationships.
General Manager Wayne Brown said the station does not refer to Muhammad as a psychologist or Ph.D. They call him "The Love Doctor."
"I don't think you need to be a doctor to have a male opinion," Brown said.
Former Clark Atlanta University student Ivory Jones, who graduated with a minor in psychology in 2000, said students often questioned Muhammad's teaching methods.
"It seemed more like he wanted to come across as a ladies' man and not as a legit professor," Jones said. "He's really attractive and well-spoken. I guess that's why he was able to carry it off for so long."