Our community is often erroneously portrayed in cyber space as a culture that comfortably recline in the depths of poverty, while being guided by the sophomoric inclinations of sex, drugs and Rock & Roll. Statistical reports attempt to argue that we are a demographic that has increasingly become dependent upon and complacent with government resources. They argue we overwhelmingly utilize these handouts to live a daily/nightly “turnt-up” lifestyle in the dilapidated sections of the city. Staying true to our brand, The Flyy-Life decided to produce a quarterly segment, entitled “We Dem Boyz.” In this segment we directly challenge these blanketed assumptions by alluringly highlighting some of the most vested and upwardly mobile stakeholders within our community and the City of Chicago. These are the fellas that are making noise and making moves. We define vested stakeholders as those who are utilizing their marketable skill-set and resources to add a vested footprint on our city/community. Our intent is to illustrate, we are not all consumed with a lifestyle of impoverished frivolity. There are men within our community that are making waves in the community and the world at large. Nothing is freely given, but the future belongs to those who believes in the beauty of their dreams and make it happen….Here we go…
Blake Martin – The Agent
Blake Martin was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois and started off as a backup dancer for R&B artist B2K and Ciara. He is also credited with doing commercial background work for Kobe Bryant, The Gap, Missy Elliot and Madonna. Blake is a graduate of Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina, and holds a Masters Of Arts Degree in Talent Management from Governors State University. Blake wrote, directed and produced the film “Trouble With Love Is…,” which won Best Script at The Gay and Lesbian Indy Film Awards. Blake is a proud Chicagoan and vested stakeholder in the fashion community. Locally, he has produced fashion events since 2009 and have been an active participant in New York Fashion week for the past five years.
Blake is the founder of Men’s Fashion Week Chicago, the second largest men’s fashion week in the United States. His shows have brought in hosts such as acting superstar Brian White, acting legend Morris Chestnut, Shangela of VH1 RuPauls Drag Race, Andrea Kelly, and a slew of models from America’s Next Top Model. Blake has produced 17 shows that has drawn celebrities such as Victoria Secret runway model and Vogue cover girl, Sessilee Lopez, Broderick Hunter and Terrell Carter. Blake was named #18 on the list of The Most influential African American Gay Men in the US by the National Youth Pride Service organization. In 2012 he was also awarded Top 30 under 30 in the Fashion industry in New York sponsored by RED BULL. Blake is a survivor of Testicular Cancer since 2004. He founded the Renee Rose foundation for suicide awareness. He states, “As a multiple suicide attempt survivor, it’s important to me to give back and help raise awareness for this disease of depression and suicide.” Through Blake’s mentorship and guidance, he has single handedly launched the careers of hundreds of models whom are now signed to prestigious and industry lauded agencies such as, Ford,Wilhelmina and Chosen. Blake can be seen on runways all across the world. As of August, Blake was hired as the Newest Model Agent and Chicago Talent Scout for SMART model management based in NYC.
Kelly Robinson- The Marketing Guru
Kelly Robinson have been a Chicago’s native since moving to the Windy City in 1988 from Michigan to further his formal education at Columbia College. Kelly graduated from Columbia in 1990 with a B.A in Marketing. Upon graduating Kelly quickly made his presence known on Chicago’s exciting and diverse social scene. Kelly, being the outgoing person he is known to be, quickly went to work carving out an exciting career in the music business. In 1990 Kelly jump-started his music career at A&M Records. Kelly say’s he knew that his new journey in life was going to be exciting when on his first day at A&M Records, his boss instructed him to view the new and unreleased Janet Jackson video, Love Will Never Do. Kelly quickly went to work with the promotion team to spread the buzz about the new video. Kelly states he couldn’t believe this opportunity to work on the newest album by Janet Jackson (Penny, and Ms. Control). At A&M Records, Kelly also enjoyed working on new albums for Berry White, The Go-Go’s and Herb Albert (Label Founder). Throughout Kelly’s 25 year music career, he has met and worked with many great artists and music professionals. This work ethic earned Kelly numerous Gold & Platinum sales awards for his contributions to the worldwide success of many artists CD sales.
In 2007 Kelly, left Capitol Records-EMI Music Group and launched a new career in the beverage industry. Starting with launching the new Courvoisier Cognac Exclusif, brand with media agency giant Burrell Communications. In 2008 Kelly joined energy drink leader Red Bull. At Red Bull Kelly artfully synthesized athletic events and collegiate marketing strategies to further the sales of the iconic brand. In 2010 after leaving Red Bull, Kelly joined Conjure Cognac and the brands co- owner Ludacris as the Regional Marketing Manager. In 2012 Kelly was asked to join a 3rd international spirits brand, BH Group, but this time as Partner and Regional Director of Marketing & Sales. Kelly quickly launched the BH Group USA flagship brand, Passion XO liqueur in Illinois & Indiana. Quickly establishing Illinois as the #1 sales market for Passion XO. In addition, to working with BH Group USA (www.Bhgroupusa. com). Kelly now currently enjoys working for Bai5, a new antioxidant infused beverage to further enhance his healthier lifestyle. Kelly says, change is happening again and he is so excited for the future. When Kelly is not working, he enjoys his passion for art. An established abstract artist in his own right for the last 11 yrs, Kelly’s unique take on creative expression is in high demand and displayed in private homes around the world. Kelly says of all his career success. The best part is being able to share his opportunities and blessings with music, artist’s fans, his friends and family.“Seeing the joy on their faces is the best reward. Making some ones day is just the best”.
Corey Rae- The Voice
Corey is a gifted young artist who captivates his audience with a soulful R&B sound as he sings from the heart! Born on August 10, 1990 in Chicago, Illinois, Raé discovered his vocal skills at the tender age of 4 and loved choiring for his neighborhood church. By the age of 8, Raé entered local voice competitions, performing songs such as the Jackson 5’s most popular hit, “Who’s Loving You”, and “People Make the World Go Round”. This inspired the young artist to journey cross-country to compete in over 22 talent pageants, including Apollo Kids and America’s Most talented Kid. With the love and aid of his dedicated mother, who contributed more than her heart to her son’s budding career, he is now a “protoge” for successful singing and songwriting. These pivotal moments were a catalyst in Raé’s musical life, as he was first inspired to pursue his dream, realizing the magnitude and potential of his God-given musical talents.
For the past 16 years, Raé has amazed audiences throughout the Chicagoland area with his melodic vocal abilities; capturing the attention of noted artists and famous musicians, such as Saxophonist, Producer and Songwriter, Ray Silkman. As an aspiring Pop/R&B singer/songwriter, Corey Raé signed his first management and production contract with Silkscreen Productions LLC in January of 2014, and is now embarking on releasing his first CD entitled, “As I Am”. The release is scheduled for late summer 2014 and his audiences will “bear witness” to the gifts of this up-and-coming performer. The “coming out” engagement, hosted this past July, showcased Raé’s new CD (As I Am), to impressive reviews and overwhelming support. His musical talents may be heard and seen as he continues to perform with legendary musician Ray Silkman, at City Gate Grille, Pinstripes Bistros. Raé credits the multi-talents of Michael Jackson, Prince and Beyoncé for being his biggest musical influences and inspirations, as “music” has become one of the most significant passions in his life! Rae’s faith, determination and work ethic will elevate and escalate his career, and soon the name, “Corey Raé” will be a household name.
Julius has always been destined for fashion greatness. Graduating from Howard University in Washington, DC with a Bachelors of Arts degree in Fashion Merchandising, Martin then moved to the fashion mecca, New York, studying at the Fashion Institute of Technology. He is currently studying at Harrington College of Art and Design in Chicago. Once in New York, Martin worked as a designer for Sean John, Fishman & Tobin, Liz Claiborne, Calvin Klein, Steve & Barry line inspired by New York Knicks player Stephon Marbury and Steve Harvey’s suit collection. Through Martin’s collective experience, he mastered boys and menswear, which ultimately inspired him to launch his own brand. A men’s intimate apparel line called the Berdan Collection New York, based in Chicago.
After graduating from Howard University and living in New York for over eight years, Martin relocated to Chicago. Martin states, “it’s important for me to design a line and introduce it to the Chicago area because I wanted to know how well it would be received in the Midwest. There are great designers here in Chicago and I wanted to bring my innovative and creative designs to the Chicago fashion community.” Martin feels as if the Chicago architecture landscape helps to inspire his collection. “The Chicago architecture is really distinctive because of the combination of old historical buildings and modern world-class skyscrapers. I think my fashion line is a fusion of the old and new. I look at my line as having two different concepts; traditional because of the durability of the fabrics I utilize but, with modern touches and details enabled by new technology.” Martin has built his line on a strategy that infuses the old and the new, and this is what Chicago is all about. The Berdan man is a man who works hard and strives for success every day. He also strives to look fashionable and modern while doing so. The Berdan man is knowledgeable about trends, but also appreciates clothes that are well constructed and durable. Much like Chicago’s landscape, Martin starts with the traditional concept and design of boxer briefs and then adds modern and innovative fabrication while incorporating intricate detailing for a tailored fit. His trunk show is scheduled for August 23rd at Red Kiva Lounge.
DeoVonte “Deo” Means- The Journalist
Born and raised in Chicago, Deo first came to acclaim over 13 years ago through the “Golden Age” of Chicago Ballroom scene as a 4x time winner of The Midwest Best Dressed and Labels award, consecutively. Deo has successfully transitioned his talent and experience into the upper echelons of corporate America and was most recently selected as a 2014 delegate to the Conference of Chicago’s Young Professionals. His corporate journey has led him to be hailed as a vested stakeholder in the compliance business-line of prestigious companies such as the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, Norvax and currently his tenure at PricewaterhouseCoopers. It is here that he refined his business strategy, professionalism and implementation skill-set that he has become legendary for. Deo’s allure and charm has enabled him to become one of the most visible men on the social set while also opening up doors and opportunity that allows him direct contact with some of the most respected stakeholders and leaders of the community.
Deo’s penchant for being confidently honest and outspoken, led to his position as Founder and Editor-in- Chief of this very same entity, “The Flyy-Life.” He drew upon his natural talent for prose composition and his training at Columbia College Chicago as a Fashion Journalism major. As editor, his perspective, guidance and strategy has allowed the platform to consistently break new and refreshing grounds. Often labeled as the unmitigated, sophisticated and articulate voice of a generation, the Flyy-Life continues to exhausted due-diligence to profoundly highlight, promote and encourage the sexy and upward mobility of Chicago and beyond. With a dedicated following of over 2500 in 89+ countries, his cyber footprint has been deemed “provocative”. He is no stranger to controversy, but his opinion is a respected and popular voice. Most recently, Deo recieved professional and public acclaim with his highly popular interview with legendary Jennifer Lewis. Deo’s 5 year tenure as President of Chicago Urban Socialites has allowed him to further his connections, perspective and following on a national level. He most recently appointed four national leaders representing the four dominate regions of the international group. This move allowed him to strategically recruit a more selective group of national members, while improving the management of the entity. Deo’s mantra is simple. “Life is not about where you are today. Life is about your ability to consistently challenge yourself and remain upwardly mobile for tomorrow. Life is about the constant and successful transition from one stage to another. If you are still of the same mindset, doing the same things, and entertaining the same crowds you did 10 years ago; well then, your life has become complacent and success is not found in complacency”.
Randolph Bailey- The Make-up Artist Extrodinaire
Randolph Bailey also known to his friends and family as, “Randy” is a humble guy brought up on the South Side of Chicago, only later to move away to the Lone Star State and reside in Houston where his grandmother raised him at the age of 11. From Houston, Randy traveled east to attend, Howard University where he obtained his education while discovering his passion for make-up. “A lot of people don’t know this but makeup fell into my lap. Figuratively speaking.” After college, Randy went looking for work and it was a tough market. Randy majored in Fine Arts and minored in Psychology so he had no clue make-up would be in his future. “I went to a store at the time that was, Hechts (now Macys) located in D.C. to apply for a visual merchandising position. Only to find out that it was filled. The HR rep suggested I apply for the shoe department which had an opening. Me needing a job I agreed. While waiting to be interviewed, I walked the store and stumbled upon the Cosmetics Department. MAC, a pretty well-known brand was there and had a ‘now hiring’ sign. I inquired. The manager at the time, asked me if I had ever done makeup. Ha! I had never done makeup on another person in my life but I told her, sure. I’ve done a few weddings and private clients. Lying but strategic, she set me up for an interview shockingly. Long story short, she had a model for me to do makeup on during the interview. I then discovered that I had a natural talent for beauty. I got hired and my friends were shocked.” MAC isn’t an easy cosmetic brand to work for, especially with little to no makeup and sales experience. Randy reflects back that he would have never guessed, way back then, that his career would be in the beauty and fashion industry. He’s living a dream and confident that there is so much more to come. “I am very excited. Stay tuned for future developments.”
Years later, Randy’s makeup work has graced the covers and pages of magazines in Paris and the US. He have been blessed to work with CEO’S, celebrities such as Fantasia, Mary J. Blige, Kim Kardashian etc, and with major cosmetics brands such as MAC, NARS and fashion houses including, Dior. Relocating back to Chicago, Randy quickly transitioned into the elite social scene where he has become one of the most visible and respected figures. His humble personality combined with his strikingly beautiful face and charm, has allowed him to alluringly establish connections throughout the city in both public and private entities. He has effectively established himself as one of the crown jewels in the crown of Chicago’s upward mobility. Randy has proven that all things are possible and doors open when you embrace the upwardly mobile and hard-working mindset. “My objective is to not fall in the typical realm of being just another Make-up Artist. I would like to set trends, break records, win accolades, be an innovator and exceed all mediocre expectation. I’d like to be an inspiration to a lot of people around the world. An educator. Make people and my clients happy and feel their very best. I get an authentic high from it.”
David Dodd- The Public Relations Expert
If there is anything going on in the city of Chicago for the community, David is somehow always involved and connected. David Dodd, as he is known by everyone, is an award-winning executive with over a decade of marketing, public relations, communications and community relations experience. David has worked at some of Chicago’s leading Public Relations and Advertising agencies. He has an unprecedented reputation for spearheading integrated marketing communications initiatives for numerous Fortune 500 companies and well-known consumer brands. Even though David was quite successful, he still felt there was something missing. He wanted to find a way to combine his passion for marketing and community. So after much thought, David decided to take a leap of faith and establish his own agency, D Squared Communications. As the company’s Chief Communications Strategist, he has been instrumental in developing branding and communications strategies for small businesses and grass root not-for-profit organizations throughout the city. In addition to his corporate responsibilities, David and his team of pals decided to hit the social scene with the ultra fab marketing and special events firm, K Dock Media. K Dock Media quickly became an iconic and well respected brand within the city and are legendary for bringing out some of the most elite and diverse of the city while also setting the standard for upscale and sophisticated events. They have produced some of Chicago’s amazing soirees that include the highly anticipated and attended annual White Party and Masquerade Ball. David has given much time to support community organizations such as Windy City Black Pride, National Youth Pride Services and the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. Currently, he serves on the board of the Chicago Black Gay Men’s Caucus, an organization that works to improve the health outcomes of African American gay and bisexual men. He is also the Director of Community Engagement for the Black Alphabet Film Festival, Chicago’s first international film festival dedicated to showcasing film and works that explore the lives of LGBTQ people of African descent. David holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing from Chicago State University and will be pursuing a Master’s of Business Administration at National Louis University in the fall. David’s mantra is, “The answers to your truth is inside of you. When you know your truth you can truly live life more authentically.”
Darius “Dee” Nix- The Perfectionist
Darius “Dee” Nix grew up in the Chicago urban area known today as “The Village” on Chicago’s near Westside. Born to teenage parents and a notorious yet highly successful Chicago family, Dee is very familiar and in tune with urban life and upward mobility. After an early life in the urban areas of the city, his family relocated to Chicago’s upscale “Beverly” area, and this is where the change began. Dee Nix has an earned Bachelor’s Degree from Roosevelt University. He also earned a Certificate of Advance Studies in Education Administration and an MBA from Keller Graduate School- Chicago. Nix has 10 years of experience with top tier Public Charter Schools. In his most recent position as Director of Student Engagement & Strategic Planning, he implemented strategies to improve teacher effectiveness and efficiency as it pertain to planning and engagement.
Most recently, Dee united with his long time off again on again beau Dr. Anthony. He is currently managing his husband and his long time mentor Janice Preston, both educators, with their education consulting business. Besides education Dee has taken to the LGBT community and is in the process of partnering with the “Center on Halsted” to provide GED classes and mentoring to the young. Dee is also no stranger to the Chicago social scene. He has been a vested stake-holder and supporter for over 13 years. You will see more from Dee in the next 12 months as he enhances his not-for-profit organization, Friends in the City (FITC). FITC vision is to become a resource to the Chicago urban community, with a heavy and concentrated focus in the areas of education advocacy and Black American LGBT Reform. The organization is set to spear head an arts and music program focusing on educating students on the history of black music from slave spirituals to the current genres of rhythm & blues and gospel. The nominated board consist of doctors, attorneys, educators and philanthropist throughout the Midwest region. The organization is set to launch this up coming winter. Dee Nix’s life mantra is, “My purpose in life is to empower, enhance, embrace, and encourage my fellow man.”
Jonathan Abernathy- The Hair Master
Jonathan Abernathy owns Chicago’s premier beauty and image styling firm, Platinum Images. His path to the beauty industry began more than 10 years ago when he was recruited to style his very first fashion show for the South African Aids Foundation. He then embraced his true passion in life, full fledge ahead. For the next five years, Jonathan worked endlessly to open doors in an industry controlled by talent and modeling agencies — booking his own jobs as a stylist for Mayor Dwight Welch of Country Club Hills, IL, Chicago’s very own WGN TV, and Dr. Mona Khona of Fox News. He has also conducted regular seminars on professional attire at The Illinois Institute of Technology and various Chicagoland businesses.
Since 2009, Platinum Images has evolved as an image development agency offering a variety of services including personal and professional makeovers, employee development, and pageant prepping. In 2011, Jonathan’s expertise was sought out to style pageant contestant Imani Josey, who went on to be crowned Miss Black Illinois USA 2012. News quickly spread of his amazing work, making him an instant hit in the pageant industry. Jonathan served as a stylist with Miss T.E.E.N. Illinois 2013 and Assistant Director of the Miss Illinois Continental Pageant. Platinum Images has been named the official beauty sponsor of the 2015 Miss Illinois USA and Miss Illinois Teen USA pageants, and will have a contestant competing in the televised Miss USA pageant. Jonathan has been named a rising star in the image styling business by N’Digo magazine and has been featured in countless blogs. Jianni, as he is called in the community has also lent his presence, style and support to many of the elite social events in the events. He can be counted upon to walk thru the doors in a high fashion and provocative style. His presence has often been deemed the solidifying factor for the success of an event. Jianni is gracious yet hardworking spirit that effectively highlights the successful product of entreprenuerism and marketable talent.
Terrence Chappell- The Society Columnist & Philanthropist
A native to the city of Chicago, Terrence surfaced on Chicago’s media scene as UR Chicago Online’s fashion contributor where he implemented the magazine’s premiere fashion photo shoots with local Djs, boutique owners, and other tastemakers. Since then, he has contributed to such luxury titles such as Michigan Ave. Magazine, CS Magazine, and The Men’s Book, and he writes for The Huffington Post. Currently Terrence manages social media for Walgreens. In addition to this, Terrence serves as the editor-at-large for ChicagoPride.com, the Midwest’s largest LGBT entertainment and news website. As ChicagoPride.com’s editor-at-large, Terrence has interviewed community leaders including charity heads, activists, and other business leaders, brought in a signature lineup of contributors, and has overall created a presence for the site among mainstream audiences in the city.
In the past he has hosted events that raised money for the Center on Halsted, AIDS Foundation of Chicago, Chicago House & Social Service Agency, Howard Brown Health Center, and Joffrey Ballet. Terrence has found his niche and become legendary for attending and covering people and places of interest in the city. His latest project is writing for the Black Youth Project where he will write about LGBT racial issues. In addition to being named one of The Flyy-Life’s Most Flyy & Eligible Bachelors, Terrence is sophisticated, yet humble and down to Earth. Humorously, Terrence life motto is “make it rain!!!” but even in that capacity, he is always the perfect gentleman. Terrence footprint and connections within the city are epic and he is on quick incline to being one of the most sought after faces and names behind some of the most philanthropic events throughout the city.
Adam McMath- The Strategist
Adam McMath is the Director of Programming for the now annual Black Alphabet Film Festival, held here in Chicago. After graduating with a B.A. from Columbia College Chicago, Adam started his film career as an intern for several major motion pictures and quickly learned that Hollywood was not telling the stories he wanted to see on the big screen. He caught his first major break when he was hired to produce and direct two music videos for Homo Hip Hop artist Tori Fixx. Both videos immediately took off and gained notoriety after appearing on Logo. He then moved on to produce and direct a music video for Cyon Flare (a Billboard charting dance artist). From there Adam became the in house video director and Producer for Music Plant records and produced videos that made appearances on Logo, VH1. MTV, dance clubs, and malls worldwide.
After being intrigued, he joined Black Alphabet which is a non-profit organization formed in Chicago, Illinois. The premier program is the Black Alphabet Film Festival, a film festival established in 2013 and named precisely because of the mouthful naming LGBTQ/SGL inclusivity can be. Black Alphabet (BA) is a non-profit Chicago-based collective of black sexual and gender minorities committed to art, culture and entrepreneurship in the “Black Alphabet” community. Its mission is to empower the African American LGBTQ/SGL community by celebrating, promoting and nurturing untold stories that are often forgotten in the broader LGBTQ/SGL landscape. In its inaugural launch, BAFF featured a combination of 15 shorts and features from around the world. Adam is also partner in the wildly popular Cocktails and Cufflinks social, which brings out the upward mobility of city to diverse locations monthly, in an effort to facilitate networking and conversation. Adam states, “Anthony (Galloway) and I started Cocktails and Cufflinks to create a space for community within the black LGBTQ/friendly community.” This monthly event is held at a central location within the city and brings in 50-100 people per event at some of the Chicago’s most respected yet intimate venues. In addition, Adam has also taken on additional responsibilities of running a citywide campaign for Chicago City Clerk where he serves as campaign manager. Meeting with local and national government officials and civic leaders on a daily basis is quickly serving as an asset in Adam’s extensive skill-set and connections.
Eddie Pierce- The Author
Eddie S Pierce is a two time self-published author and Chicago native. Eddie has been writing from a very early age crediting influences such as Richard Wright, E Lynn Harris and James Baldwin. “Their ability to give life to such vivid characters while exploring the complexities of the world in which they lived more than entertained, they inspired me to take a more critical and very necessary look at reality. I read their works and thought this is what I want to do with my life and talent,” said Pierce. Nearly three years ago Pierce began doing just that when he simultaneously self-published his first novel Love: Something Infinite, while launching his own publishing company Rainbow Room Publishing LLC.
Since that time, Eddie has been on a campaign of self-acceptance and tolerance telling stories of loss and love, defeat and redemption in his second work Love: From Behind. “One of the most gratifying moments of my writing career was receiving an endorsement from James Earl Hardy an author whose works I have been following for years as I myself learned what it is to be an African American SGL male in our society,” Eddie commented. The bestselling author of the B-Boy Blues had the following to say about the central character named for and inspired by events in Pierce’s life: “Seron is on a journey to embracing love, realizing that it is not judgmental or conditional, that one’s capacity to give and receive it is endless… [He] stands in as an (Black SGL) Everyman. Struggling to define manhood–and, by extension, himself–in a world that too often refuses to recognize him as a man.”“Hardy welcomed me into the literary brotherhood. I knew I was on the right track,” Pierce concluded. Eddie is planning a much anticipated return to the literary scene with Love Changes, a four part eBook series scheduled for a September release.
Very inspiring!! So proud of you guys!!
Great story on ALL of the GENTLEMEN! It’s always good to hear positive happenings in the life of strong-minded brothers….very encouraging story for more young men trying to come out of the slump.