Photos Credit: DeoVonte Means Facebook Page, DeoVonte Means with DJ Gucci Roxx by GlitterGut5.com; DeoVonte seated photo by and Mark Terrance Photography
DeoVonte Means is a Chicago based blogger and founder of the FlyyLife, a lifestyles e-magazine for the young and upwardly mobile. Means has been active in Chicago’s gay community for the past thirteen years. Influenced by Oswald Boateng, the English/Ghanaian designer of men’s suits, upon first glance, one might think that Means was a fashionista with a strong sense of style and an equally matched ego. The more he talks; it becomes clear that he’s simply an ambitious young man with high standards. He insists that his blog is meant to uplift others. Means chatted with about PrideIndex about what it means to be upwardly mobile, why he created the Flyylife.com, and what it means to have a men’s wear fetish.
PRIDEINDEX (PI): Thanks for agreeing to do this interview on the spot.
DEOVONTE MEANS (DM): Thank You. I am all about networking and helping others, so it is not a problem.
PI: Tell me about yourself and about your blog FLYYLIFE.com.
DM: I am DeoVonte Means; I was born and raised here in Chicago. I have been active in the community for about 13 years. I have been involved in every aspect of the gay community from the ball and club scene to the upwardly mobile business community. I have probably had my hand in all of it at some point in time. With my blog, I’ve tried concentrate on the young upwardly mobile citizens of the city. I do make sure that I tell everyone that I don’t define the word upwardly mobile from a financial aspect. Someone could be unemployed and still be upwardly mobile. The upward mobility is all about your mindset. My blog caters to those with a mindset of wanting to constantly perfect oneself and taking things to the next level. We cater to men and women of the community who are trying to perfect their craft. It’s about taking it to a higher level, networking, and being enterprising.
PI: What about your education, where did you attend school and what you did study?
DM: I went to Columbia College and studied Fashion Journalism. It’s kind of weird because I’ve never work in Fashion Journalism after completing school. I’ve worked in the finance sector for Northern Trust, the Federal Reserve, Zurich, and I‘m working for Norvax. I guess I was pretty much going in a career where the money was available. My professional background is in finance and technology. When I do go back on what I’ve learned at Columbia College, it’s to help me with my blog. Writing is something that has always been part of me – it’s in my blood. Writing is a joy to me. It does not take anything out of me. I can sit down and write a column in about five or six minutes at the most.
I really did not want to go into writing the FlyyLife initially. I was persuaded by several members of the community to start utilizing my writing skills so finally I jumped in. My first opportunity came with writing a column for the G-List Society. I was there for about five months. The FlyyLife is about two months old, and in the short time, it is going way beyond anything that I have ever hoped to accomplish.
PI: What do you hope to accomplish with the FlyyLife.com?
DM: I hope to create an oasis for a minority group within our community. It’s weird to think there is a minority within the black gay community, but there is. There is not a huge arena in our community for young men or women who are trying to do nice beyond the usual, standard or outside of what the average gay man or woman does. Think about all of those talented people or small business owners who are trying to make a name for themselves. There is not much opportunity for them. I hope the FlyyLife will become a platform and spring board for them to take off and excel. I want it to give these people the accolades, support, and encouragement that you need.
I know for myself when you’re trying to do something that’s different you need that support and someone who will publicize your work. I want my blog to be that voice.
A lot of people are intimidated to speak out about certain issues such as the bad conditions of (certain) clubs, the mentality of (certain) promoters, and we will be that voice. The FlyyLife.com will never be an entity that tears people down, spew negativity, or try to cause problems, but we will be somewhat controversial. It’s about providing a platform of encouragement for the young man or woman who is trying to become upwardly mobile as they journey through Chicago.
PI: What do you think is the biggest misconception about you or your work?
DM: The biggest misconception is probably that I am an elitist or that I can be a _ _ hole.
PI: Are you an elitist? Do you act like an asshole?
DM: I have very high standards. What do I mean by high standards? I mean standards for someone’s work or product. I don’t judge where people live or their financial net worth, but if you’re producing a product I feel that it should be at the very least the industry standard and there should be some kind of high quality and integrity. If the product does not meet that standard, then it does not necessarily say that you should not do anything. It simply says that maybe you should consider being an apprentice or go back to the workshop to perfect your skill set. I am not one that embraces mediocrity. When we find those people that are doing good things, we will tell everyone about them and try to pass the word for all to see on the FlyyLife.com.
Am I an asshole? At times I can be. In a big city like Chicago, you cannot just go along with the status quo and not challenge mediocrity. By no means am I judgmental or standoffish and not willing to embracing someone who tries to do better.
PI: You have a good sense of fashion style where do you get it from?
DM: It started when I was a sophomore in high school. Others chose electronics, band or home economics, but I choose to go into fashion design. I was known throughout all of my years in high school as Deo, the one who made everyone’s prom suits and dresses. In my senior year, I sponsored a fashion show. From there, I went to Columbia College, where I majored in fashion journalism. In the early 2000’s, I became involved in Chicago’s vogue ball scene. I walked the Labels and Best Dressed categories for about six years. While walking balls, I generated contacts with other fashion forward people like Shawn Prada. I also generated contacts with young black people who worked in the stores on Michigan Avenue such as Saks, Barney’s, and Yves St. Laurent. The clothes that you see me wearing are part of the labels collection that I gathered over the last 10 years. I do have a good sense of style; however, it only takes me about 20 minutes to get dressed to go to the club.
PI: Why did you stop designing clothes?
DM: At the time when I started to design clothes, Chicago was not a good market for garment construction. I was into garment construction, and I knew Chicago was not just a good market where I could make money fast or on a continual biweekly basis. It just made more sense for me to go and get a regular nine to five job with a guaranteed set amount of money versus trying to establish clients and so forth. Garment construction is a long tedious process, and for me it was not the right time.
PI: Are any of the clothes in your photo album on Facebook your original designs?
DM: No! Over ninety-five percent of the clothes that you see me wearing were by European designers. European designers are my favorites because I have a smaller man’s build, and they fit me better than American designers. I may get a shirt made by an American designer or from a certain store.
I have not worn anything that I made in about six years. The last time I wore something that I designed was back when I was walking for the balls for Best Dressed.
PI: If you were given the chance to launch your own line what kind of clothes would you design, clothes for men or women, street wear or formal wear?
DM: I would probably go into men’s formal wear or high fashioned wear. I love suits. Suits are my fetish. I draw my inspiration from Oswald Boateng, the designer who is one of the few black tailors on Seville Road. Boateng’s suits are colorfully and well-polished. Jamie Foxx wore one of Boateng’s suits at the opening of the film Django. I would do something like what Oswald Boateng does if I could.
PI: As I thumb through your photos, they are editorial. I see the potential for you to be a Calvin Klein, pardon my French, “skinny bitch / bastard” model. Have you considered modeling as a career?
DM: (Laughs) No! Looking at my weight, I am right, but I am only 5’8.” That is too short to be a runway model. I see so many other guys out there that have the look, but I don’t think I do – no not me. And that’s not to say that I have low self-esteem or think that I am not handsome enough. I know what I am good at and I know that my calling would be to write about or critique it (fashion). If I had the opportunity to design clothes, maybe I would, but I do not see myself as the face of fashion.
PI: How come?
DM: (Pauses) Modeling can be a very cut throat industry. Most male models don’t make that much money unless you are someone like Tyson Beckford. I am an analyst and don’t see myself like that. I just see myself as a lifestyle person covering the scene.
PI: A little birdie whispered in my ear that you have a video. Tell me about that.
DM: I have a video?
PI: Yes. You do have a video. I am not talking about a sex video or anything like that. I am not here to judge anybody. Sometimes folks have to do what they have to do. (E.g. something strange to make some change, take care of bills, etc.)
DM: (Laughs) Since January I been on this mission to support talent here in the city regardless if it were a photographer, jewelry designer, or videographer. I have been committed to supporting artist. I have been doing these projects to show others’ talent. I did was a video called The Flyylife produced by a local blogger name KenLikeBarbie (William K. Roberts). Ken is one of the most humble men in Chicago. His work is extraordinary. We meet over a period of two months to discuss the theme of my video and we shot it one Sunday afternoon. The video has over a thousand views – way beyond what I expected it to do. Ken captured my essence to the tea. Everything I wanted to do with my video to deliver the audience of the FlyyLife he did. I was very pleased.
PI: As I listen to you talk, it sounds like you were already doing those things with your column you wrote for G-LIST Society. Why did you leave?
DM: I love G-LIST Society. Working with Waddie Grant I‘ve learned so much. He gave me the opportunity to do what I wanted to do, which was to simply write. It was just time to for me to do something on my own. It is like when the baby bird leaves the nest. I wrote a column once per week and I don’t think it was appreciated by the general public. We departed and two weeks later the Flyylife came.
PI: If you were reincarnated as an animal, what animal would you come back as?
DM: I would come back as a silky carrier.
DM: A silky terrier is a small domesticated animal that has a joyful personality. It’s the kind of dog that makes you fall in love with it and it gives back unconditional love. It’s very refined and it’s smart. It was bred to keep mice out of the house. And it’s the kind of dog that will crawl under the bed and just sit there quietly all by itself. But it is still protective. It could hear anything at the door, and it will be right there at the door before you even know it. And a silky terrier can tell when its owner is walking down the street before they get home. And it’s beautiful.
PI: I guess you have a lot of guys who walk up to you and try to come on to you. What was the craziest line you’ve ever heard someone say to you?
DM: Can I have your frames? (Sunglasses) It was the weirdest thing. (Laughs)
PI: Some folks are intimated by well dressed men (or women) and would not dare approach them. If you were approached by someone who was not physically attractive, how would you handle it? Are you approachable by all in the club?
DM: Yes, I am approachable. I am not high maintenance like folks would be lead to believe. Just walk up and say “hello.” Furthermore who am I to say that someone is not attractive? Someone might think that I am not attractive. I’m much more into folk’s inner spirit or mindset. Some of the most beautiful people turn out to be airheads. It’s about what’s inside.
Visit DeoVonte’s blog at FlyyLife.com