Two very successful and focused Black men, doin' in good in Hollywood and the 'hood. Some of you may be familiar with Vernon Davis, the star tight end for the San Francisco 49ers. He is a beast on the field, strong and fast with a great knack for finding the end zone once the ball hits his hands. You may not be as familiar with Antone Barnes, but that will soon change. Antone, a former record executive, has worked with the likes of Jay-Z, Lil Wayne, and Nelly, helping them to bring their musical visions to fruition. These two brothas have joined their creative minds to form an interior design company called Modern Class Design. Additionally, Vernon and his Miami Dolphin brother Vontae, have put their resources together to establish the Vernon and Vontae Davis Family Foundation. Both of these businesses are focused on leadership and community both in the the business and social arenas. Bossip was afforded the pleasure of speaking to the unlikely tag-team to get their take on what it means to be at the forefront of their field and what MCD and VVFF really stands for. Flip the page to read the interview.
Modern Class Design Bossip: Okay, MCD, What was your inspiration that caused you to leave the music industry and pursue the interior design career and life style vs the music industry. Antoine: To be honest with you, I have been in design for over 10 years, designing homes, I have designed my prior homes and friends and families and its something I have always been very intrigued by driven by for the past 10 years while I was in the music industry because with design, I have always been a creative individual, I have always had that creative gene in me, even when I was in the music industry, I came in working for Roc-A-Fella, when people couldn’t even pronounce Jay-Z’s name. I have always been driven by something that is different and not cookie cut. Even with the design company, that is what kind of made me loose the love for the music industry and really see the love I had for designing, lets be honest, the music that has come out the past for years hasn't been that great, its been cookie cutter, people are following trends instead of setting them, the creative block is not how it use to be. With that being said, with the music industry dying the way that it is, I had to make a transition. Vernon was like a blessing because me and Vernon were friends prior to formulating this company. He was a rookie, and I would always bump into this guy at parties and concerts. We were building that bond, he's a good dude, good people, By randomness, he came over to my house for a fight party, he was amazed at what he saw, like lot of people. I always knew that I could design but I didn’t think I could do it on a professional level. Your friends and family are always going to tell you the good stuff even though in their mind they may really being thinking this is just "okay". When I started getting outsiders saying things, Like people who would deliver things to my house, they would ask who designed your house? Outsiders would be in shock when they came to my house. So it was kind of planted at that time when Vernon came to my house. He was like, "Damn, who designed your house?" I was like, "I did". He was like, "Get the hell out of here". He didn’t believe. It brought some disbelief to him and he as kind of pissed because he just hired a white lady to design his house and she ripped him off. He came up with most of the scheme of the house but she made him pay all of this money. He was like, my brother, Vontae Davis, is about to get drafted, and when he buys his house, you are going to design it. I was thinking, "Yeah, Vernon, you are full of s***." I was thinking I am not going to hear from him, I doubt it. Lo and behold, 9 months later, Vernon called me.
The Creative Process Bossip: One of the things we were amazed at as we were looking on YouTube, was Vernon talking about his love for art and painting. Antoine: Yea, you would be surprised. People think it's Antoine doing all the design, but no Vernon comes with ideas as well. I pass everything by him and ask him, "What do you think?” He will put his artistic touch to it. I am not going to sit here and lie, I have a great eye for actual art and color but I can't actually paint. I can’t paint anything. He has that painter’s eye and is like "Let’s do this at this angle, and put this color in there." Bossip: He is very hands on. Antoine: Yes, he is very hands on Bossip: Sounds like you two have great synergy. Antoine: Definitely, it has to be there in order to be partners. We don’t agree on everything but most of the time we do. The synergy is a great a feeling. We both have a vision, a lot of designers have a different vision then ours. If you go onto our website you’ll see we design with flare. We want to set trends, not follow them. We want to bring that inner creativity out of our clients that they may be scared to do, because everyone is society want to be followers. No. Let’s be honest here, your home, your business, your car, are the three main entities are some of your most prized possessions. So its something you invest a lot of your hard work, time, everything, money. Why not let it stand out, show your personality, show your spark.
Giving Back to The Community Bossip: I was told, you guys are building a community reach room in a housing project in California Vernon: Yes, we are redesigning a recreational center in the projects in Richmond California and we are going to do a few parts of the building. It’s not a huge building but its enough for the kids to do some studying and do some recreational activities. Its going to be something really special. I know the kids are really looking forward to it and we can’t wait. I know Antoine is even more excited than myself. Bossip: It sounds like a lot of work, how did this come to be? Was there anything in particular that made you choose this place to want to put the MCD touch on it? Antone: Our publicist brought this to our attention. He made a connection with Union Bank, which is one of the largest banks on the west coast and they are actually going to help part of the project. It's in Richmond California, as we all know that is one of the top most five dangerous cities in the county. It’s no joke. With Vernon coming from Washington DC and I am coming from Jersey City, we both grew up with situations where are friends were getting murdered, jails, drugs, just all the downside of living in the inner city. To see where the DC and Jersey are now they the urban renewal project, the revival of these cities, unfortunately the people that were living there during the bad times, are getting pushed out and don’t get to enjoy the revitalizing of the neighborhoods, just because they are not in a certain tax bracket. We thought there was something wrong with that. Not everyone that lives in the ghetto or the project is a bad person, they just don’t have the money, so when you start pushing these people out and building these skies rises and condos, they just don’t have the money to afford to live there and you push them out, we saw something very wrong with that. MCD wants to give back to the community, because we both have truly been blessed. It doesn’t take a lot, just a little contribution of something to show these people, especially the kids of the community, we want to drive that and instilled that into these kids. Vernon is a prime example, he always loved art but he was kind of scared because he was a star athlete and even one would be like, you’re a painter? They knock you down if you want to do something different other than a rapper, athlete or a drug dealer. We want to instill that into the kids, its cool to be into art, it is cool to want to do interior design, its cool to design clothes. If you want to work on cars, or you want to be an eye doctor, or whatever, you don’t have to be a rapper! To be honest with you, the odds are against you, the percentage of you going to the NFL is very low, the percentage of you being a rapper is very low, there are other outlets for you, broaden who you are, don’t just be cookie cutter like everyone else.
Perceptions Bossip: There are those in the Black community that will often have a negative attitude towards people that want to do things that are considered "outside of the box". Have you had any of those experiences? Antoine: I’ll be honest, you have a lot of people out there that loves us and support us but you also have your doubters. You have two black heterosexual males that are designing, you have people question it. People don’t think we have the talent, Vernon is a pro athlete and I am an ex-record executive. When we work, we shut them up. You are going to have people outside our race and people inside our race that just doubt it just because it’s not the typical thing you hear, but it also sparks an interest. We have so many people interested in our work and our story because it is something that is different, it’s intriguing. For example, Vernon was talking to Michael Strahan and he told Vernon he has never heard anything like what we are doing before. He wanted to hear more. Everyone starts a record label or a clothing line. Bossip: Something typical. Antoine: Right! People are always like, wow, that’s different, that what we want to do, we want to set trends not follow them. We want to give back to the community and touch these kids at a young age and actually give them a chance. We have so many family and friends that didn’t make it, we just want to give back. Bossip: Vernon, can you remember the first thing that you painted and felt comfortable showing it to someone else? Vernon: Well, the first time I did anything with art was my sophomore year in college. I didn’t want to associate with art because I was afraid. I dint feel free until I was in college. The first time, I ever did a painting, a buddy of mine, named Patrick, who is also a teammate, he said, Vernon, “that’s unbelievable” I didn’t know you could do anything like that. He was like, man, you should really get involved with this and I said,” you really think so?” and after that, I took off. Bossip: Part of MCD is giving back to the community and getting the youth involved with the arts and the movement to interior design, can you speak on the influence as far as the kids go? Vernon: Growing up in the inner city, kids are afraid to paint, or get into art. My whole philosophy is, don’t be afraid, do whatever it is. It doesn’t have to be sports, or law, it could be design, a lot of kids get afraid of that field. They think if I am big, strong, a basketball or football player, I can’t do this, they will laugh at me. It's not like that, it's one the best things you can put your hands on, its art. Art to me is anything.
Upcoming Events Bossip: Tell us a little about this event you are going to do here in Atlanta in a couple of months. In June I believe, isn’t it? Antoine: Yes, It is June 9th. I believe at the international design building. It’s going to be our first official east coast launch, the west coast launch was in San Francesco in December. We are doing a couple of east coast launches and from what I understand the ESPN 360 is doing some behind the scenes coverage on Vernon. The feature is about his actual lifestyle and his achievements, and MCD. Atlanta housewives is going to be filming, I’ll put it in Theodore words, a fabulous event. Bossip: It sounds that way. Antoine: Exactly, its spouse to be a big splash, because Atlanta has so many affluent African-Americans in that city and a lot of people are excited and intrigued in our company. We are looking to spread MCD.
The Vernon and Vontae Davis Family Foundation Bossip: Vernon, what made you and your brother start this charitable foundation? Vernon: I always wanted to give back to the kids, and I knew just from growing up in my neighborhood that feeling I would get to give back to my neighborhood and see those smiles on those faces. I never had a celebrity come around and show their face. I saw a police man, a fire fighter, or something like that. It would change some of these kids lives, you change lives by doing things like that. We don’t think about it as athletes, some of the things we can do, to make an impact on someone else’s life. To me that is very important, especially where I came from. Bossip: We see giving back has also taken you overseas. We saw you have been doing some work in Africa. Vernon: Going to Africa was just a whole other feel. I went with another foundation to Africa, and I had never been there, but I always heard of the problems and some of things that went on. I got a whole new outlook on life from of the things I saw while I was over there. To see how kids try to get their food and what they are willing to do to get food, it makes you think about how good we have it over here in the united states of America. It also touched me in a way that when I came back to the states I could do more, you can always do more. Bossip: We think what you guys are doing is extraordinary. We looked at the website and after hearing everything that's going on with the foundation we think there is a very positive energy about it all. Thank you for speaking with us today!