By Erick Johnson, Chicago Crusader
The weeklong trip back to his hometown, Chicago was over. The delicious outings at Harold’s Chicken and Beggars Pizza rekindled many childhood memories. There was also the big interview with disc jockey GSkee on Chicago radio station Power 92.3.
For Brian E. Sibley, the biggest and most important part of his trip would be told inside a small room at the Chicago Crusader, where he sat at a conference table. Sibley had a story to tell. For nearly two hours, he told it to the newspaper in a sit-down interview.
He has met famous people, rubbed elbows with powerful executives and mingled with some of the most beautiful models in the world. In his relatively short career as model, actor and impresario, he has met model LisaRaye McCoy-Misick, television superstar Nick Cannon and NFL star Terrell Owens. The list keeps growing. His 6’2” frame and face grace the website Elecktra Star Models, one of the biggest modeling agencies in the country.
Sibley is often compared to Cannon and one can see why. In addition to his style and youthful looks, Sibley has an energetic personality and the larger than life attitude that can keep a show fresh, lively and entertaining.
But nearly a decade ago in Chicago, Sibley was selling drugs and using stolen credit card numbers to fuel a fast lifestyle and that could have landed him in places where many young Black males end up nowadays: in jail or six feet under.
Instead, this 27-year old and King College Prep graduate, who’s bubbling with energy and excitement after a string of achievements in a brutal industry where there are far more failures than victories for aspiring artists. It’s a life story that’s fit for fairytales, except this one doesn’t end at the stroke of midnight. To Sibley, it’s a story that continues to evolve with twists and turn, as he gets closer to living a dream that once seemed impossible.
Sibley has a clean-cut appearance. On this day, he is well groomed in a stylish long-sleeve red shirt with matching sneakers and a cool pair of jeans. Tall and sociable, he would easily mingle with Jamal, Andre or anyone from Lyons clan from Fox’s hit television drama, “Empire,” a fantasy and elusive dream for millions of fans. Sibley’s life however is for real.
An athlete, Sibley wanted to be a basketball player. Gregarious and gifted, he was captain of his basketball team in elementary, middle and high school. In Chicago, he played in neighborhood parks on weekdays and weekends. By his junior year at King College Prep, Sibley said he decided not to become the next Stephen Curry or Michael Jordan.
“I don’t think I had enough work ethic at the time,” Sibley said.
Sibley cemented his goals after his mother, Karen Wilson, called him one day about photos of him in the “Native Detroiter” magazine, a well-known publication in the “Motor City.”
In high school, Sibley then volunteered to host events and realized he had a talent for entertaining and engaging an audience.
A stint in the Navy was on Sibley’s radar. After graduating from King College Prep in 2007, a military recruiter told Sibley that he would have to wait nearly five months since his term in the Navy began that November. With five months of waiting, Sibley tried to get a job at McDonalds, but his application was turned down from a manager who didn’t want to hire someone who would leave months later. After being rejected, Sibley got into trouble with other teenagers on the city’s gritty streets.
Somehow, Sibley managed to stay on course to fulfill his goal to enroll in the Navy.
“I needed the discipline and the integrity, “ he said. “In the Navy, they break you down and build you back up.”
After the Navy, he moved to San Diego and stayed there briefly before moving to Los Angeles in 2012.
During this time, Sibley lived in The Jungles, a notorious apartment complex that for years has been infested with drugs and gang violence. It was featured in “Training Day,” the movie that produced a Best Actor Oscar win for Denzel Washington. From his training in the Navy, Sibley remained disciplined and stayed out of trouble.
Then came the interview on Melrose Avenue to be the model for 2013 Men’s Fashion Week in Los Angeles. It’s a five-month long job that would have him featured in glossy ads and appearing at high profile special events. Major media outlets also interviewed him, including the Los Angeles Times.
What made Sibley’s victory bigger is that he slept in his car the night before the interview after his roommate locked him out of the apartment.
“I was feeling nervous for the interview,” he said.
During the interview, Sibley was asked in what neighborhood he lived.
“I was embarrassed,” Sibley said. Then, his voice cracked and tears ran down his face.
“Something in me said, ‘man you have to tell them the truth,” Sibley recalled. “I said I live off La Brea and Coliseum.”
Sibley said one of the interviewers said in disbelief, “You don’t live there?” Before another one said, “we have to get you out of there.”
“I had a clean cut image,” Sibley recalled. From that day on, my life changed.”
Since the gig, Sibley has hosted an event for BET and filmed a pilot for a new reality show on the Oxygen Channel. He served as a pop culture correspondent for CBS’ “The Talk” and VH1’s new reality show “The Next 15.” In addition to Cannon and Owens, Sibley said he also met film legend Robert Townsend and Director Keenan Ivory Wayans.
Sibley’s path to success wasn’t as smooth as he thought it would be. Despite his high-profile job as a model, he did not get paid a salary. To survive, Sibley in 2014, worked at the local labor union 721. He has also sold Gucci belts and other items he took home from a Las Vegas Convention on Ebay.
In several weeks, Sibley will roll out his new clothing line Iconic Moves, Powerful Transitions (ICPT). He showed a reporter the logo for the brand. In addition, Sibley wants to be the new face of Bossard Cognac VS the high-end brandy from France.
Despite his success, Sibley, the youngest of two children, said he has yet to achieve his dream.
“I’ll achieve my dream once I buy my mother a house, “ Sibley said.