From humble beginnings to soaring heights, Jovan Acree has beaten the odds and become a prominent model, founder, athlete, and film director. After recovering from life’s setbacks, he reinvented himself and not only became successful professionally but also in his community engagement endeavors. His latest achievements include a partnership with Rutgers University at Newark as the executive producer of Control The Narrative. Acree also remains an innovative force in fashion with his denim brand named Daekshinco. The jeans were worn by celebrities such as Cardi B, Wendy Williams, Tiffany Haddish, and many more. In a conversation with QG, he shares his remarkable life story.
How did life’s setbacks help mold you into the person you are today?
After living through two fires and being homeless, I learned to be prepared and be ready for any situation that comes your way. Never in a million years, did I think that I would see all of my personal belongings destroyed from a fire. After this happened, I was no longer a materialistic person. I learned that a person is more valuable than any materialistic objects.
How did seeing your mother open her cosmetology shop inspire you?
Before my mother owned her cosmetology shop, she worked at Burger King [and] then started working in small local shops as a shampoo girl. She did not want to continue to work for people, so eventually, she opened up her first business in 1987. I would come after school, and watch my mother run her business, and help her out around the shop. This all molded me to become the businessman that I am today. My mother showed me that there were no shortcuts in life and always told me that if you want to own something in life, you have to work hard for it.
What was modeling in runway shows such as BET’s Rip The Runway like for you?
Modeling for BET’s Rip The Runway was one of the most exciting experiences of my life. It taught me how to push for my dreams and not listen to what anyone [else] has to say. No one believed at the time that I could get on national television.
How has fatherhood positively impacted your life?
Fatherhood saved my life. I did not grow up with my father, so my greatest challenge was to show myself how responsible I could be by raising my son. I was now able to teach him the principles and morals that a young Black man should have that I was never given by my father.
Can you share a bit about your experiences working as a photographer for journalist Lisa Evers
from Fox 5 news?
It was an amazing experience to work with Lisa Evers. She taught me everything there is to know about being a reporter and conducting live segments in production. Ms. Evers taught me how to pay close attention to the people in the community that have no voices and tell their stories in a proper narrative. She encouraged me to produce my own stories and create my avenue in the news.
How did your organizations’ IMU (International Media Union) and Impact Universe LLC get started?
My companies came into existence after trying out for the New York Knicks, and not making the team. I landed on the couch unemployed, and I realized I had a son to feed. I was given a five thousand dollar investment from my sponsor 2 The Rim, which is owned by my Uncle Johnathan Gilmore and my beloved Aunt Yvette Gilmore, who later died of cancer.
How does your recent partnership with Rutgers University/Newark Express and The Positive Community align with IMU’s vision?
My partnerships with Rutgers University/Express Newark and The Positive Community magazine align with community-building, collaborations with businesses, college-student mentorship, and the love and appreciation of the arts. We all have a mission to inspire the youth to create a healthier environment in the community that will lead to building a legacy.
What are your plans for rebranding The Positive Community?
The plans that I have for rebranding The Positive Community magazine are to reconnect them with updated content and connect their demographic audience with ours. The Positive Community is known for its mature Christians, and it’s my duty to bring the youth and elderly together. This way, we can all share our experiences in the community.
How was being an honoree at The Positive Community’s 20th Anniversary like for you?
It felt amazing to be an honoree at The Positive Community’s 20th Anniversary. When they told me a few weeks ago that I would be included at the event, I didn’t know what to say, besides thank you. It was an honor to be among great figures such as John Harmon (CEO and President of the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey) Jean Wells, Adrian Council, and Mildred Crump to name a few. It was such a beautiful experience to show my mother and the rest of my family that when you reach for your goals you can achieve them, and hard work does pay off and is appreciated.
Why is community engagement so important to you?
Community engagement is very important because I care about the people and things that are around me. There’s so much we can accomplish once we come together. I like to know the elders, the youngsters, business owners, and people that stand for leadership and change in our community.
As an executive producer, how do you impart creative input in Control The Narrative (CTRL)?
As Executive Producer of Control the Narrative, I search for valuable sources of brands, unsigned artists, and companies to talk about taking their intake by storm with unique ideas. I feel it is important to be a legacy builder. So opening up the door for new influencers and brands are going to give fresh eyes to any saturated industry.
Be sure to check out his denim brand and follow him on Instagram.
Photo Credit: Bahlial Lott