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Secret to Success – Chris “Drama” Pfaff

As a young teenager all the way from Ohio, millions of people have watched Chris “Drama” Pfaff star along side his cousin, Rob Dyrdek, on MTV’s Rob & Big and Fantasy Factory since 2006. For almost a decade, we’ve seen Chris go from Rob’s assistant to becoming an entrepreneur on his own. If you’ve watched the last few seasons of Fantasy Factory, you may have noticed Drama’s rise to stardom when he launched Young & Reckless, a street wear clothing line. Leveraging the tools available at hand, Drama quickly grew Young & Reckless into one of today’s most popular and fastest growing clothing lines worn by countless celebrities and sold in retailers nationwide. It’s an honor to have Drama share his story with us today.
Most people know you from being on TV, how does it feel to grow up on camera?

It’s weird to say but it’s been about 10 years. There are parts that were really strange and very abnormal, but to be honest, it’s not like I’m Justin Beiber or One Direction here.

My life is still pretty normal all things considered. It’s fun. The good part about it is that you get to go back and watch a lot of cool, almost like family home videos that are really well formed and edited.

From moving across the US, to venturing into your own line of business, how did you know when the right time is to do those things?

I think my biggest gift and curse is that I’m one of those people that is never satisfied. Even today, I don’t feel like I’ve made it or I can kick back because my dreams came true. I’m always wondering what’s next.

When I moved to Los Angeles from Ohio, that was a huge step for me and that took me at least maybe two years of just settling in. I started working for Rob Dyrdek being his personal assistant.

I’ve always been very ambitious but when I was getting through high school, I knew that I was going to move to Los Angeles even though I didn’t really know why. I wanted a job in the skateboarding industry but I always just knew that there was opportunity here and so I followed that instinct.

It took probably a couple of years of living in Los Angeles when I really just realized that, “Okay, this isn’t it for me. What’s next? How can I leverage what I’m doing now to do something more?” Still to this day, I’m working with that mentality.

Was there something that inspired you to grow your personal brand and businesses?

As soon as I graduated from high school, I moved to Los Angeles. By being here, I saw that it was possible and that’s the single biggest thing that I try to tell kids and people; that it’s possible.

When I moved to LA, I saw that it was very real. I had friends that lived in big houses. I had friends that drove Ferraris and Bentleys. I had friends that, most importantly, ran successful businesses.

It showed me that it was possible and that’s when I really realized, “Okay, if this guy can do it, there’s no reason why I can’t.” So it was really just seeing it and thinking, “Alright, I like that. I like it. How do I do it?”

I’m also very competitive. If I see someone doing something that I wish I would have done or I wish I would have followed, my attitude isn’t defeated or “Man, that sucks.” It’s “How do I do it? How do I do it better or how do I figure it out because he is just a normal person just like I am.”




Over the last few years we’ve seen you launch and grow your clothing brand Young & Reckless. Tell us about why you decided to get in a competitive industry…

It was something that I had interest in. I saw the power. Once again, here is myself taking a good situation and trying to make it better. I love the television stuff and all that was great. That was beyond my wildest dreams but I also saw that it was a platform to market other businesses and I was always into clothing and how clothing fit.

I just thought there was a gap in the marketplace between the cool big city street wear and the mainstream that’s available in Ohio. As competitive as fashion is, I really thought I saw a gap that I could take advantage of and TV was the perfect outlet to do that.

Tell us what it truly means to be Young & Reckless…

It represents the boundaries that you face as a young entrepreneur, a young entertainer, or a young athlete. For example, when you walk into meetings or into a retailer to try to sell your stuff, people don’t necessarily take you seriously or want you to be there, or believe that your ideas are good.

You have to break the mold a bit every day when you’re trying to do things. People will tell you that it just can’t happen because it can’t. That’s just something that I don’t believe in. I believe that the world is yours to make however you want it.

You’ve amassed over a few millions followers on social media. Tell us about the impact around marketing on social…

Social media is 80% of the marketing that we do. Luckily, I was able to come with a pretty large fan base because of television and I was able to take them with me on this journey of creating a clothing line as opposed to the journey of being a reality TV star.

I feel like social media is really becoming everything. Every kid is on their phone all day long on social media. What it does is give you real insight on what’s really going on and that could either be really good for you and your business, or it can be horrible for it because it lets the truth out.

You also have to keep it updated every single day. The days of shooting an ad campaign and that lasting you for 3-4 months are gone. It’s a daily thing now. For us, we’ve really nailed it and it has been a great gift for us.

How does it feel to see tons of people from young kids to celebrities wear your clothing?

It’s amazing. There has not been one moment when I haven’t seen a kid wearing it walking down the street and act like of course he is because my line is huge. It’s still, to this day, a crazy feeling.

There’s nothing like truly creating something in your living room and watching it translate around the world. Celebrities wearing it is cool but to me when you go to a random state and you see a kid walking down the street wearing a Young & Reckless shirt, it’s a pretty powerful thing. It’s still the same feeling.

What steps are you doing to ensure people understand the brand better?

A big thing of mine moving forward is doing a lot of content pieces and mini documentaries on the people that we support, meaning, the people that represent our brand and live the lifestyle that we’re trying to promote.

I think for us, it’s just about showing it and really, the beauty of Young & Reckless is, you can take it however you want. I don’t suggest that you throw on a Young & Reckless shirt and go rob some people and steal cars. I suggest that you use it in a more powerful, positive way obviously.

That’s the message that I’m trying to show. We’re working with a lot of artists, a lot of athletes, and a lot of these people to show their story and what they had to do to get where they are and show the disregard for the rules that they had to have in order to make it where they made it.

For me personally, when I go have dinner with someone like them, that’s one of the most inspiring conversations I can have, so the least I can do is try to tell that to the world. Let the world have that conversation.

What’s the secret to getting so many celebrities to rep Young & Reckless?

I’d say it was more of just being annoying. I think people might trust me a bit more because I’m on TV so they look at me as one of them, but it’s really just being persistent and being annoying.

I’ve seen Jimmy Iovine chase Pharrell down a sidewalk to try to get an iPhone photo of him wearing Beats by Dre headphones. So everyone is doing it and people have too much pride and think, “Oh, no that’s not how you go about it.”

You have to be annoying. You ask them for their addresses and send them clothes over and over. You ask them for pictures. You ask and once you do it for a little bit, you find that the rest of the work does itself.

There have been celebrities and people wearing Young & Reckless that I never even knew, whom I never had contact with. I never even knew who they were. You got to do that initial groundwork, be annoying, get the message out there, and let the rest do it itself.



 



 

Is there a celebrity you would love to have wear your clothing or one that shocked you to see that they were wearing it?

I don’t know if I have one person really in mind that I’m trying to get to. It’s more about getting as many people as I think are right for the brand that I could get to.

I will say the big moment for me when I first started was when 50 Cent was wearing it just because of growing up in Ohio and wanting to be a gangster. 50 Cent was like my favorite artist of all time.

That was probably the biggest moment for me but there was never one person that I just had to get through. It was more like anyone who wears it, well, let’s get them to wear it.

Tell us about the good and the bad about the clothing industry that people don’t realize….

The good is that it’s very, very, very fun in the sense of not having a weird desk job. The great thing is what comes with clothing, which is music, going to events, and throwing parties. It’s a very cool, fun, ‘in the center of everything’ business to be in.

The negative is that you have to stay in the center of everything that’s new and everything that is going on. If you fall off for a little bit, then somebody else is going to figure it out. The other bad thing is it has become insanely competitive.

Similar in music, you used to have to have a record deal and that was the gatekeeper. You had to get a record deal and that was the only way that you even had a chance of becoming a real artist and putting an album out.

Now, you can make YouTube music videos or put yourself on iTunes and you’re an artist. For example, look at Macklemore, he did it himself.

It’s the same in clothing in the sense of you can have Instagram, you can get people your clothes, you can make cool videos, you can do all that and you can sell your stuff through PayPal until you get retailers to pick it up. Retailers are constantly looking for something new. You have to constantly stay on it or else somebody is taking your spot.

There’s a misconception that celebrities have it easier or success is handed to them. What has contributed to your personal success?

A lot of people make excuses as to why Young & Reckless worked and why my businesses have worked. They are almost making excuses for themselves, not for me, in the sense of it was easy because I was on TV.

The true fact of the matter is if you know my story, I came from a very small town in Ohio, called Akron. There was nothing going on there. I thought there was no way that any of this could ever happen to me honestly. Even though I hoped that it would, I never thought it was possible.

There was nothing going on there. Everyone there marries whoever you went to school with and have a family. Instead, I worked my ass off every opportunity that I had.

All these kids are sitting at home complaining on social media or doing negative things because they are bored and don’t think they ever have a chance of making it, but you do. You just have to put some effort in it and like I said, everyone is human at the end of the day.





You were initially really into music production as we saw on a few episodes. What ever happened to that?

It’s more of a hobby now than a way to pay my bills at this point. The music industry is terrible. It’s a little bit like the Wild Wild West especially right now when nobody knows where it’s going or what’s going on.

My production team and I had some good records on some albums and it was really fun. When the clothing stuff started taking off, I didn’t want to try to be Puff Daddy at age 21 and try to accomplish everything under the sun.

I wanted to focus on what was really working and have fun with it. It’s just more of a hobby to me now and I really want to make sure that I take care of Young & Reckless because it deserves the attention.

Now that Fantasy Factory is a wrap, will we be seeing Drama more on TV at a later point?

It’s to be determined at the moment. I’m in a few different discussions and we’ll see which way it goes. There’s a chance you could see me back on TV. There’s also a chance you could only see my name under the executive producer section.

I’m happier producing TV and letting other people go do the crazy things to be honest but I don’t dislike TV. As long as we do it right, it is a lot of fun. It could go either way or maybe both ways, we’ll see.

What are three actionable tips for anyone reading this?

I would say my three quick, easy tips would be:

A) To believe in yourself, believe that it’s possible first. If you don’t and if you doubt that, you’re instantly dead in the water.

B) Come up with a plan, not only any plan but a realistic plan. Educate yourself on the business that you’re trying to get into and figure out honestly how you get it done. Part of the problem is a lot of these kids just say, “Oh well, I’m just going to run up in offices and hand them my demo and I’m going to be the next rapper.” No chance. Figure out how to do it.

C) Do it. Most of the time, it’s really that simple. Figure out how to do it and do it.

I think what’s wrong with young people in our country is this idea of overnight success and that you can get rich fast. None of that is true. If you dream, you’re just going to be dreaming a lot. Dreaming gets you nowhere. There’s no magic.

That’s just not how it goes. There’s no such thing as an overnight success. There’s no such thing as getting rich overnight. Everyone that seems like they blew up overnight actually put years and years of working to be told that they blew up overnight.

Truly educate yourself on the business that you’re trying to get into and figure out how you get it done. It’s the same as if you were trying to paint your house. You would learn how to paint a house and then you go do it. It’s the same thing.

So learn realistically how to get what you want and then just simply follow your own steps by any means necessary and accomplish it. Like I said, it’s really that easy. Don’t let anyone tell you no.

How did it feel to work under Rob Dyrdek and then eventually next to him?

Every time I talk to Rob he is incredibly busy and still working very hard. Every time I talk to him I’m like, “Damn it. Okay, I have to work even harder because your shadow just keeps getting bigger.”

I’m constantly working but I don’t really work with the motivation of getting away from him and I don’t even really think about it that way to be honest. He was a huge inspiration to me and I think we’re going in separate paths anyway.

In the end, it will all be where we wanted to be but I don’t think there was a moment where I hung it there and said, “You know what, this is going to be it. I’m a sidekick for life.”

You obviously have great days and you have horrible days. There has been days when I’ve questioned what the hell I’m doing and if maybe I should just move back to Ohio. The next morning, you drink a lot of coffee and get back to work. There has never been a depressing moment for me.

What are some lessons you learned from Rob Dyrdek being that he’s a serial entrepreneur?

While working for him I just paid attention and when it came time to do my own thing, I went to him first and said, “I want to start a clothing line” and he said “Okay, then go start a clothing line.”

At that time, I was crushed but now, I’m so incredibly thankful because what he accidentally did was give me all the tools and then made me do it on my own, which was amazing because now I know what I’m doing.

The biggest thing I learned from him is just how to navigate this crazy world of being an entrepreneur. There really are no rules and you just do what you feel. That’s what I really learned from him; how to go about it and how to not take it too seriously. I have taken a lot of what I learned from him and I’ve also learned a lot of what not to do from the way he does things.

Observing and watching others is such a huge part of any business, of anything, that you can’t learn from school. There are so many x-factors with how you deal with people and how you treat these weird random situations. Being an entrepreneur has no rules and you’re really reinventing everyday if you’re doing it right.

Any last remarks?

I would say it’s that Young & Reckless mentality that I preach which is just do things your way. Educate yourself and then do things your way. There are no rules.

I hate to quote Steve Jobs here but he said, “Remember that everything in life was created by people that are little smarter than you are.” and it’s so incredibly true.

You learn that the more you go along that it’s just people. It’s other people who are creating everything. We’re creating these make believe rules, we’re creating everything, so just educate yourself first. Don’t just be ignorant and go run wild. Educate yourself and then do things the way you want to do it, and I think that is how you’ll find some sort of happiness.

We want to thank Drama for taking time out of his day to share his incredible thoughts and journey with us. You can connect with Drama at the following places:

Young & Reckless
Drama on Twitter
Drama on Instagram
Watch Drama in the Secret Academy




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