- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
Humble Lukanga is a Beverly Hills business manager with a six-month wait-list for new clients. He won’t discuss his growing slate of Hollywood stars, but THR has learned it includes Insecure creator Issa Rae, television director Melina Matsoukas and a seemingly endless roster of professional athletes like NFL wide receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins. Still, what’s unique about Lukanga isn’t where he’s going. It’s where he’s been.
Just over 20 years ago, Lukanga was living in a mud hut in a Ugandan village so remote that not even Google Maps can locate it. He grew up amid genocide and starvation, escaping with his family at age 11 after his two sisters and a slew of other relatives were killed by war, poverty, accidents and illness. His mother and father, an economics professor in Uganda, were able to get political asylum and bring Lukanga and his older brother to the U.S. In Denver, Lukanga’s dad got a job as a janitor to support the family.
“To come from Third World poverty and manage first-world opulence is a really wild thing,” says Lukanga, now 32. “Sometimes I feel like it’s a dream.”
Lukanga’s interest in management was sparked as a teen, when he read about how most professional football players go broke after retirement. “That’s what inspired me to get into the business — to see how I could turn around this epidemic,” he says.
By 23, he’d earned an MBA from the University of New Mexico. After spending a few years learning the trade at an established firm based in New York, he set up his own shop, Life Line Financial Group, which now has 15 employees and offices in both Denver and L.A. There, he represents a group of clients he describes as the “mavericks and renegades, dynamic thinkers.”
“I decided to work with Humble because he was young, ambitious, genuine, knowledgeable, earnest and also black,” says Rae, who met Lukanga when she was just starting her career. “He really believed in me as a long-term business. Because I’m so impulsive, I value that.”
Lukanga looks at wealth behaviorally, and bases his guidance on what his clients value. “When you want to buy your second Ferrari, that’s not consistent with the financial freedom you wanted for your family,” he says. “We help clients stay consistent with what they tell us is important.”
He often reminds clients they’ll hate him for being strict in their 20s, but they’ll love him for it in their 30s. Four-time Pro Bowler Arian Foster tells such a story on his Now What? podcast, on which Lukanga was a guest last fall. When Foster signed with the Houston Texans in 2009 after going undrafted, he had only about $2,000 to his name — but Lukanga was just as serious about his finances as any other client.
“I get a call from Humble and he goes, ‘Who do you think you are, man?’” Foster recalls. The running back didn’t know why his manager was so worked up. “You spent $37 at Applebee’s?!” Lukanga said, livid. “You don’t have that luxury. Go get some bread. Get some lunch meat.”
“That is the landmark story for me,” says Lukanga. “We laugh about it now, but back then I had to question his commitment.”
Lukanga says clients are often “floored” when they hear about his background, but it helps them know he can really relate to what they’re going through. “We come from the same impossible beginnings,” he says. “When I give advice, it’s coming from my experience. We’re the people to change the trajectory of their family. With that comes a lot of pressure.”
The value of his unique perspective isn’t lost on those around him, like talent lawyer John Meigs Jr., who shares clients with Lukanga. “It’s nice to see people from other backgrounds at the table,” he says. “Humble is attentive, meticulous and cares deeply about the welfare of his clients.”
Adds Rae, “He has his fingers on the pulse of things because he’s very much in it. He’s experienced having everything taken away from him and managed to build a lot from very little. He also manages to be extremely optimistic and very cautious at the same time, which is a delicate balance.”
He’s come a long way in the two decades since leaving East Africa. Now Lukanga, who has a 3-year-old son with his former partner, is looking to pay it forward. In addition to volunteering in Uganda (he goes back twice a year), he tries to inspire young kids in tough neighborhoods. They don’t have to be the next LeBron James to rise above their circumstances; they could be his accountant instead.
“I want a young kid in Compton who’s going to school and thinking about business to say, ‘Oh my God, I can have that life?'” he says. “They can look at my journey, and say, ‘If Humble can go through all that, I can make it too.'”
A version of this story first appeared in the Oct. 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day