Andre Brown has graced the covers of some of your favorite fashion publications and has been featured in major campaigns by the likes of Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, and Tommy Hilfiger. We've had the pleasure to get to know another side of Andre - as an entrepreneur, father, and husband, he shares some of his secrets to success in love and life.
When was the moment you realized you wanted to follow your path? And, what were some of the obstacles you encountered?
The idea of being a model was actually introduced to me by an up-and-coming photographer who sold me on the idea. I started learning about the industry and paying attention to advertising. I realized that it was a huge financial opportunity and looked at the market. I saw Tyson out there and thought, “why not me?” Who DOESN’T want to fly around the world and have their face on billboards and get paid well doing it??
Obstacles: Some people thought my lips were too big. That my look wasn’t marketable enough. They didn’t see it. Plus most agencies had “their black guy.” Like any new business getting people interested in your product can be a struggle. I am the product and it took a little time and a few tries. It takes ONE casting director or agent to see the potential then it was like a domino effect. Everyone wanted me. Even the ones that shut the door on me. Back then dark-skinned men were still struggling to get a foothold. There was Tyson ... but he was one man.
My journey was wrought with bad examples. My father was a rolling stone and abusive in every way possible. My parents married really young (at 17) and it was a rocky road. He was a bad example of what a man should be so ... it was easy for me to DO and BE the opposite of him. I saw what it did to my immediate family — he abused my mother and even abused himself (with hard drugs). It affected my brother and I in different ways. From a young age, I set out to make sure I was a source of healing and happiness. I always wanted to be a good provider, husband, and father — everything he wasn’t.
My grandfather on the other hand, was a pretty upstanding guy. He was a bar owner with a 3rd-grade education doing better than most men he knew with college degrees. Everyone who knows him, loves him. He was my only example of a good man. (He also rolled a stone or two, but my grandparents are still married — it’s as close to a good example I had).
What are some of the things you are struggling with right now?
As far as personal growth and struggle goes ... I’m pretty settled, secure, and happy with who I am. I like the trajectory my life is on. I don’t have inner demons, turmoil, or struggle. I’ve made some great decisions in my life — I feel fortunate. I’ve learned all my lessons and look forward to teaching them to my kids.
If I were to pin down a real struggle though I’d say… TIME is my biggest struggle. Balancing work life with home life has been hard. I’ve spent the last few years transitioning from modeling to finance. I’m also in the midst of building our dream home in Connecticut. With all of the study and work that goes into mastering a new field, clients still booking me for shoots and overseeing this enormous project, my family suffers. They are right there with me — I take my son to the job site every day after school. My wife sees my head in the books — I’m there but not always PRESENT.
I remember when my wife was pregnant, the fellas would say, “Now you really have to turn it up/ gear up/ get your act together.” And I remember thinking, “That’s not really my issue.” Never has been. I don’t really have any vices. There are a lot of idiots raising kids and if they can do it confidently, I feel like I have nothing to worry about!! Hahaha.
I wasn’t a young man when I had my first child — I was 38, married, divorced, owner of multiple homes and properties, had already traveled the world, remarried. I lived. There couldn’t have been a better time to bring life into the world. I was ready to pass it all on. You know what? That’s not all true — Grinding is what I do. It’s my vice. I’m up with London Market (4am) and in bed after everyone else. I grind. Because my biggest fear is not being able to provide the way I want to. I think that’s every man’s fear. Right? I want my family to have everything I didn’t have growing up, financially and emotionally. That fear drives me.
What is your recipe for a healthy relationship?
Being kind to people. Treating everyone with love and respect. Not being sarcastic or negative. No shadiness is key. If you asked around the industry about me, unanimously, people would say I’m a nice guy. I am. I try to be. I show up for people. I’m a good listener. I am genuinely interested in people’s lives and stories. I don’t like to talk a lot. So naturally, I’m fascinated by very talkative people.
Romantically? Again, knowing how to talk to your spouse is key. Healthy Communication is the main ingredient. Knowing what NOT to say.
Having a spiritual connection is also a key ingredient. I don’t know if I can explain that. There has to be something that draws you to your spouse that you can’t explain. It isn’t cerebral. It’s magical. If you’re going to marry someone, find someone you can’t replace. Having a healthy sex life is also a main ingredient. Laugh together — a lot — and you’ll have a pot of goodness!
How do you define masculinity?
This is a hard one…
Masculinity is raw, aggressive, powerful Mars energy. It’s ACTION. It’s MOVEMENT. It’s the opposite of femininity, which is soft and beguiling, calm and hypnotic — it draws you in — and that’s powerful in its own right. It’s a thoughtful energy.
My ego wants to tell you that I am all caveman masculinity. I practice MMA, very few could probably take me in a fight ... But, I recognize that calm, hypnotic thing people attribute to me. And as much as it pains me to say the words (I don’t know why), but I have possession of both energies and it’s like ... having a superpower. My masculinity is wrapped in this beguiling, soft feminine energy and I know how irresistible it can be. But I promised to use my powers for GOOD a long time ago.
What would you say are the successes and shortcomings of the media's portrayal of men of color?
Traditionally, television made it seem like we couldn’t do anything except run and jump. Now I’ve noticed a shift. I see more black male faces in intellectual spaces. Commentary, hosting shows, panelists, on Bill Maher, on hit shows ... we still mostly run and jump, but it’s getting better. That may have to do with more black producers and directors in play right now.
What is a current topic or news story that most resonates with you at this moment?
Right now the only stories that resonate are the murders of unarmed black men. Trayvon, Philando ... they lodge in your throat. Those men are me. Those boys are my son. They don’t see my degree or bank account when they see me, so, something I thought could save me from police harassment WON’T. A lot of these guys were not on the corner causing mischief. They kill us indiscriminately and no one is held accountable. I can’t shake their stories. What nonsense Trump does today doesn’t resonate the same way as a life or death situation with the people you call when you need help.