Chris “Drama” Pfaff first started his reality TV career when he was 19 years old and known as “Rob Dyrdek’s shy little cousin.”
“I never ever in my life had dreams of being a reality star; there’s a really low ceiling set there, and it runs out real quick,” Drama said of being on Rob & Big. “I just rode the wave. When we were first filming the pilot for Rob & Big, there were MTV cameras in the house; it was crazy. The producers kept saying, ‘Once this thing airs, you’re gonna be famous’—it seemed ridiculous.”
Eight years later, Drama—now 27—has leveraged his screen time into a multifaceted empire. He’s built a successful career as a music producer and studio owner; he’s worked with everyone from Yelawolf to Kelly Rowland to Trey Songz.
Drama also has a multimillion-dollar clothing line, Young & Reckless, that’s been worn by Justin Bieber, Kevin Durant, 50 Cent, and a ton of other celebs. Nas has even named Drama’s clothing line as one his favorites.
What started it all is coming to a close—Drama is now wrapping up filming for the final season of MTV’s Fantasy Factory.
The actual Fantasy Factory is a 25,000 square foot warehouse in downtown LA. It’s home to a skate park, a zipline, and pretty much anything you can think of that’s wild, fun, and downright ridiculous. Oh—and business offices, don’t forget the business offices. Here in the Fantasy Factory, amongst the madness and in between shenanigans, is where you’ll find Drama, Rob, and the team working.
“We get extra ridiculous when the cameras are rolling,” Drama explains. “We come up with these crazy ideas, and then MTV just finds a way to do it. It gets really, really, ridiculous sometimes. We’re jumping out of buildings, jumping cars, doing all kinds of crazy stuff.
“With all of the controversial stuff happening on the show, I’m surprised we haven’t received a lot backlash,” Drama continues. “We’ve even had a grizzly bear wandering around the place. A candy eating grizzly bear! Rob’s sister was getting married, and he wanted her future hubby to prove his manliness, I guess you could say, so he brought in a grizzly bear. The bear was really mellow and the future groom ended up feeding him candy, mouth to mouth. As long as you fed him candy, he wouldn’t rip your face off.”
Drama then talks about the time he and Rob went scuba diving with the aim of having Rob get bitten by a shark.
“Rob and I were in the car, with the camera crew of course, and Rob was just joking around, asking me how much I’d have to get paid to get bitten by a shark,” Drama said. “I’m like ‘Uhhhh, no thanks’ and Rob is like ‘You know, I think I wanna try that.’ The next thing I know, we pulled over for a pit stop— this is literally 15 minutes later, I kid you not—and the MTV crew already had a place that let us do it! There are sharks everywhere. They’re face-to-face with you, bumping you. Rob had on protective gear, because his whole goal was to get bitten by a shark, but I didn’t have any on. I didn’t even think about it until I got down there. Rob did get bitten, luckily. He walked away with only a bruise.”
Although this is the last season of Fantasy Factory, you won’t be seeing the last of Drama thanks to his music career and clothing line.
“Growing up, I was always into music and clothing; my dad was a drummer in a band and I played the drums,” Drama said. “Back where I was from though, in Ohio, there was no cool way to do music. There wasn’t a home studio set up with a laptop and piano keyboard. I just assumed the only way to do music was to be in a marching band or do something corny. That didn’t interest me. Once I moved to LA, I got put on. People were like ‘No, you get a laptop and you make a home studio.’”
Drama’s clothing line, Young & Reckless, has been shipping for about four and half years now. It’s been spotted on some of the hottest names in the biz, and Drama plans to continue cranking it up this year, with brand ambassadors and even a few mini collections with hip hop artists, models, and singers.
“Clothing has always interested me,” Drama said. “I never had intentions on being famous, so when the show took off, I realized what a massive marketing vehicle it was and I kicked it into overdrive.”
Although Drama says that 80% of his tattoos don’t mean anything, there are a few that remind him of how far he’s come—and how much farther he wants to go.
“To be honest, when I went to Mister Cartoon and Jun Cha, who have done most of my tatts, I went with angels because they look cool,” Drama said. “I won’t mind being 80 or 90 years old, all wrinkly, with angels on me. I like to think of it as having this compilation of art on me, rather than this compilation of meaning.”
His tattoos, which consist of a sleeve on his right arm and piece that wraps around his left shoulder and the left side of his chest, are mostly those angels, clouds, music notes, and a lion. For the most part Drama is very proud of his ink.
“I’m just really glad I didn’t go balls to the wall and tatt myself up in Ohio because I probably would have ended up with something that said ‘Young Hu$tla’ or something like that,” Drama said. “It would have been bad. The first tattoo that I ever got was done in my friend’s garage and it’s bad. It’s such a bad tattoo; it says ‘Drama’ in horrible writing. People think it says ‘Diana’ and I get asked all the time who the hell Diana is.”
It’s that bad tattoo that keeps Drama grounded and reminds him of how far he’s come.
“It’s so ghetto, but it represents that time in my life,” Drama said. “That’s where I was at in my life, and I had to be there to be where I am now, so I don’t regret it, nor do I cover it up. You don’t forget where you came from when you have your own name tatted on you in shitty lettering.”
The few other tattoos that hold meaning for him—all quotes—complement his first tattoo (but with way better lettering). They serve as a written testimonial to his ambition and drive.
“I’m not a big Guns N’ Roses fan, but I have a quote from one of their songs tatted on me, because I dig what it means,” Drama explains. “It says ‘Yesterday's got nothin' for me/Old pictures that I'll always see/Time just fades the pages/In my book of memories.’ I dig that because I’m very big on the present. Being present-focused has gotten me where I’m at today and it will take me where I want to go. It’s my gift and my curse.”
Drama’s next video project is a documentary that he ultimately hopes will turn into a TV show. Whatever It Takes, shows the less than glamorous side of making it big, where it’s up to an individual to shape their fate by turning their tragedies into triumphs and continue following their dreams.
“People that make it, they’re humans too; we’re all just humans,” Drama explains. “Even the person who‘s telling you that you’ll never make it is just a human. The one thing that all successful humans have in common is the adversity they’ve overcome. That’s what I’m going to show—that people that are successful are just humans who followed their dreams.”
One segment of Whatever It Takes follows Nipsey Hussle, a famed independent hip hop artist who stirred controversy when he sold his free mixtape for $100. Hussle posted it online for free but then made 1,000 hard copies that he sold for $100 a pop. He sold all 1,000 copies— 100 of those copies were bought by hip-hop legend Jay-Z.
“I want Nipsey to go to Slauson (L.A.) and tell me the stories about what he went through there,” Drama said. “I want him to go to the record label building where he signed a contract and it didn’t work out. When a lot of other people would have given up, he continued to follow his dreams and now he’s living his dreams. He’s even got Jay-Z buying his stuff. He didn’t just wake up and sell $100,000 in free mixtapes. There’s a story there that hasn’t been told; it’s amazing and people need to see it. That goes for anyone. People manage to overcome the most harrowing experiences.”
One of Drama’s favorite tattoos— a Latin quote that translates to “love one’s fate”— does an excellent job at summing up his outlook on life.
“’Amor Fati’ basically means that everything that happens to you happens for a reason,” Drama said. “I don’t believe we’re on a predestined path, but I do believe that absolutely everything that occurs has some type of a purpose in our lives. That means that nothing that happens to you is career ending or life ending. It’s all part of the process. It’s why I haven’t covered up the shitty ‘Drama/Diana’ piece, because ghetto or not, bad or good, it’s all a mark of where you were at the time.”
For Drama, that means that there’s a poorly executed, recklessly done piece sharing space on a canvas with incredible ink—and that’s fine by him. Though he laughs about 80% of his tattoos being “meaningless,” the big picture inks a different story. A picture is worth a thousand words; in this case, it’s a testament to someone who has coupled reckless ambition with a present-focused attitude to build an empire and along the way, learned a great deal about how to trust the process we call life and become fully engaged with living, which some might say is the greatest art of all.
For more Drama, you can catch the final season of Fantasy Factory Thursday nights on MTV.