Businesswoman, model talks about ventures new and old
HeavyMMA's "10 Questions" feature is back, and this week Megan Olivi chats up Charis Burrett. Burrett is a designer, model – including a Playboy Playmate – and businesswoman. She and her husband Luke are formerly the team behind the Silver Star apparel line, but now have focused their attention on a new project – Panic Switch Army.
Burrett talks to Megan about the business world, the MMA world, the modeling world and more.
1. Everyone in MMA knows you from Silver Star. Let's start with your history before that brand – what businesses were you involved in?
Before Silver Star, I was on the East Coast and I owned a company called Primacy Companies, which was a corporation that owned at any given time between eight and 12 nightclubs and restaurants. At one point, we had the largest super club in the U.S. We had about 3,500 people there every Friday and Saturday night. It looked over the Capitol in D.C. and we did the largest foam parties and the biggest DJs in the world at that time. That was 1998 to 2000. It was a live music venue, as well – everyone from James Brown to Metallica and Jay-Z. We did that all the way down to little loungy nightclubs and 200-person martini bars. Right before I left the East Coast, I had spent about a year and a half on a restaurant that ended up in Architectural Digest. So really I am also a commercial space interior designer.
2. Is that something you always wanted to do or something you realized later in life you were good at?
I have always been a creative person. I went to the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and I was a metalsmithing and jewelry major. I realized I didn’t really want to be a starving artist, so I kind of took my creativity and I literally fell into these different worlds. Whether it be nightclubs, commercial space and interior design or clothing and fashion, I have always been interested in everything I wear every day and all of that kind of stuff.
3. And becoming a Playmate is no easy feat. How did Playboy change your life?
For me, it’s been completely life changing. I wouldn’t say I’m a different person, but something like Playboy is such a huge organization. Hef (Hugh Hefner) himself is such an icon and the business is such an iconic corporation that it’s just a real amazing thing just to be a part of. And considering there are only 500-600 women in the world who have been Playboy Playmates since Marilyn Monroe in December of 1953, it’s a pretty cool little group to be a part of.
4. Let’s talk about MMA. Do you remember the first time you encountered the sport? What initially attracted you to it?
I mean, I was watching the UFCs all the way back in 1999-2000 – early days. Whenever you could find something on a pay-per-view and watch, I did. I’ve always been a huge fan. My initial interest in it was because it’s an amazing thing to watch. I absolutely love knowing that two people have spent so much time conditioning themselves for a particular form of martial arts, or wrestling or boxing, to go into the ring against an opponent with another kind of background to see which one prevails.
5. Since you have been a fan and around the sport for so long, what do you think about the evolution of MMA?
I think it’s come quite a long way. The rules and regulations are fantastic to keep people safe. I think it (helps) the viewers and us who love the sport to know that you might see blood and things that are very aggressive, (but) you know that there’s rules and regulations and people are being taken care of. At the end of the day, I love watching two different types of people compete and battle it out.
6. What made you and your husband Luke decide that MMA was something you wanted to get into with your Silver Star brand?
Luke and I had no partners, nobody else but he and I and our funds. We were the only ones putting money into the company. In the early 2000s as fans, as we were watching, there really wasn’t an outlet to sponsor fighters with clothing. There was no way to sell clothes based around the sport at that time. Back in the day, we sponsored Kimo (Leopoldo) and put our name on a few fighters here and there. It was never something that with the amount of funds that we had, combined with the different action sports and other things we were doing, that we were able to get that great of a return from. It was more or less a passion sport for us to put our name on. Until UFC and the brand itself starting growing so much – then we were kind of pulled into it.
7. Talk to me about Silver Star – the growth the brand experienced from when you started it to when you parted ways. (Silverstar was acquired by Authentic Brands Group in 2010)
As it stands right now, we do not own Silver Star anymore and are no part of Silver Star whatsoever. In the past when we talked about growing the brand in the UFC and how we grew it, it was really knowing how to pick the right guys and a combination of a different things at the right time. Knowing who to pick, at the right time, right when UFC and its business were growing and knowing how quick all of the viewers and people wanted a piece of it. Whether it was a t-shirt or a signature from a fighter or whatever piece they could get from it, they’d want it. They were ravenous. It was really just a timing sort of thing. And obviously that we were a brand that was already known – I mean, look ... Luke started Silver Star in 1993 as an action sports brand. So the brand had been around. MMA was another sport that was kind of added. But now Luke and I are in no way affiliated with the Silver Star brand.
8. Is it emotionally difficult for you and Luke at times when you think about how you are no longer attached to Silver Star at all?
It was extremely emotional for us, just for the fact that what our dreams were for the brand were difficult to see other people come in and have completely different ideas for the brand itself. That part was hard. Other then that, where we stand now, it sounds crazy but we have a new brand that we have already started that we are already rockin' and rollin' with. Silver Star was a great brand and we loved being a part of it, but at the end of the day and in this life that we lead here, it’s really about the relationships you make with people. A name is a name – quality product, and flavor, and style that people like, that comes from the people doing it – not within the name.
9. Can you tell us about this new project?
Yes! It’s called Panic Switch Army. We are an action sport-moto brand. We will be going into production in about a year’s time. We are going to build the brand out of UFC and MMA for now. It is launching at MAGIC in Vegas in August. We have already signed Mike Mason, who is a freestyle motocross rider and X-Gamer; Phil Dixon, who is a three-time world champ stunt bike rider; and we’ve also signed Duane Peters, who is a vert skateboarder and punk rock singing legend. There are quite a few more coming down the pipe. PanicSwitchArmy.com will be the new site once the brand is up and running. We always have products on us because this is like our new baby. If people see us, they should definitely come up to us. We always have product on us from Panic Switch Army, so they shouldn’t be shy!
10. And finally, you have accomplished all of these incredible things and you essentially work in a very male-dominated world. Do you ever feel it's difficult to get respect or be taken seriously by your male counterparts?
I will come across every now and then someone who maybe makes me realize that people don’t always respect women. Most of the time, I am pretty much in my own world and cruise around where people either know who I am or if they don’t I make sure to introduce myself to them. I like to talk a pretty square game so that they know what I am about from the get-go. I’m not really paying attention or looking for that type of demeanor or attitude. I don’t really notice it very much unless there is someone who is very blatant about it. I haven’t really come across anything that I haven’t been able to do or accomplish because of that.