This was one of my favorite interviews. A couple of weeks ago, I got a chance to chat with Chris “Drama” Pfaff. At only 26 years old, Drama is a successful entrepreneur and the star of 3 hit MTV shows, including the new season of Fantasy Factory which premiered this month. He also has a very well-known clothing brand called “Young & Reckless” which has been worn by celebrities such as Lil Wayne, 50 Cent, Zac Effron, Blake Griffin, and Kevin Durant. We discussed how he used $2,000 of savings to leave Ohio and build a massive entertainment brand, what his clothing company means to him, and his advice to young people looking to build a career.
How would you define your personal brand?
I really pride myself on representing and spreading the message that anyone can “make it.” Or that anyone can make their dreams come true and create a better life for themselves. I come from Akron, Ohio, which obviously has about the least amount of opportunity as anywhere. I think a lot of people want to say that some of my success is attributed to handouts or being on the show, but what I want my message to be about is how hard it was to make the transition moving out to LA from Ohio. When I came here I didn’t know anyone, I hardly knew Rob, he’s actually is my second cousin. I moved out here on the $2,000 I had saved from graduation money. And I didn’t know what I wanted to do, I just knew that there wasn’t opportunity in Akron, and I had to leave. I feel like kids get stuck in this idea of “You’re born in a small town or with no money so accept that nothing will change and you won’t ever be anything.” And that’s a shame, I want to be able to change that mindset. So personally, that’s kind of what my brand represents, and what I want it to represent.
How were you able to take advantage of opportunities that others weren’t able to?
For me, when I go back to Ohio, I was there for the holidays, and it’s a tough place. The recession hit very hard, and there is a lot of unemployment, some people have drug issues or are getting arrested. And these are all people who came from the place I did, they had the same opportunities I did. But people tend to ignore their opportunities because they’re afraid to take that initial leap. The biggest shame is that people just assume the cards are dealt to them when they’re born. And they accept, these are people I will see on TV or who are entrepreneurs, but I’ll never be that. And its a shame.
What do you enjoy about the entertainment industry?
What I like about entertainment is kind of the freedom and the way that constantly new ideas, companies, and artists are popping up. In LA it’s always new stuff, which can be dangerous because you can easily be replaced, but if you can stay in the flow, I absolutely love that every day you don’t know what you’re going to get into. It’s inspiring. There are a lot of young people doing some incredible things and it’s fun to watch. One of the guys who got Rob & Big originally produced went on to do Zombieland and Gangster Squad and all of these massive movies. Really we watched him become a huge movie director, and little things like that are crazy to see. It’s fun to see how these projects that impact the world actually go down.
How did you build your fashion brand, Young & Reckless?
So really how that came about was that I always had an interest in clothing and fashion. When we started doing Fantasy Factory which was our second MTV show, I realized that if I was ever going to do it I had to do it now. Because I had this great marketing vehicle, and MTV was asking what was next for Drama and my progression. So I realized there was no reason to put it off and so I jumped into it. My goal was, moving from Ohio to LA, I saw the difference in fashion. All of the brands that make it to the big stores have very watered down messaging, and in LA, I saw the street culture and the skating culture. These kids are really, really in tune with the brands that they wear. Many brands do limited releases of different styles and the owner of the clothing line will be there and there will be 500 kids lined up around the block for an exclusive T-shirt. That to me was really cool. So I wanted to create a brand that could be sold in malls or major stores but still held onto that feeling and depth that the street-wear brands have. When these kids put on a shirt they feel empowered, and that’s pretty awesome.
How do you juggle all of your projects? Do you have to turn down opportunities because you’re too busy?
First and foremost, I do have to say honestly I’ve grown to absolutely love working and making progress. It’s where I get my joy from. So I don’t do much partying or enough vacationing probably. But I do find happiness and purpose working, so if I’m not busy for too long I start to lose my mind a little bit. I definitely do have to say no to good opportunities, and really you have to just hedge your bets and hope you’re making the right decisions. It’s gotten fortunately to the point where I can choose the things I’m really passionate about or believe I can change or make better. I don’t have to do things just for the money, which is great. And I just got to that point maybe six months ago, and it’s been nice. When people come to me now with ideas, I can see if it truly makes sense for the brand, and if not, I don’t need to do it.
What advice would you give to young people looking to start or advance their career?
What I would say is, I guess it’s a little cliche, but my two biggest things are to figure out what you want to do, map out a realistic plan to get there, and then execute it. Sometimes it’s really that easy. People get discouraged, or decide they want something else, and that lack of focus is why people don’t make it to where they want to be. The other thing is to not worry about critics or what people say. Obviously I’ve faced a lot of that, when I was starting my clothing line. The reality TV thing is a blessing and a curse. Your message gets out there but not a lot of people trust it at first. So there were a lot of uphill battles, times when I thought I’d be doing club appearances for the rest of my life. But you can’t get down or tap out. You pick where you want to get to and do it by any means necessary.
If you could have any celebrity wear your brand, who would it be and why?
I think right now at this very moment it would be Rihanna. I know it’s pretty random, but obviously she’s a super star so you get all of that publicity. But for whatever reason, whether it’s real or manufactured, she’s doing a great job at balancing not caring what people think with remaining extremely successful, and that’s something I respect about her. I think not only is she a superstar, and I’m a fan of hers, but her lifestyle most blatantly reflects my message. It looks like she’s a train wreck, but she is able to get in the studio and put out hit records.
Thanks to Drama for taking the time to speak with me, and for continuing to build fun, entertaining, and inspiring brands. Check out his clothing line and watch the new season of Fantasy Factory on MTV!