At Black Lapel, we believe in aspiring to become better men every day. We believe in working, hustling and striving to achieve individual and collective goals. That’s why we’re showcasing those hard working guys who have a strong sense of direction, who want the most out of life and who want to look and be their best every day. We are inspired by these men and want to share their stories with you. First up…
MR. DEVILLE VANNIK, Parkour Enthusiast and Coach / Model / Stuntman / Actor, 27, South Africa to LA.
His cropped dirty blonde hair sits in a stylish mess on top of his head. He has high cheekbones, a chiseled jawline and piercing blue eyes. He’s lean, muscular and wears a default expression of seriousness on his face. You may recognize him as one of the handsome young lads gracing the pages of the Black Lapel website. In fact, his good looks and physique makes him a highly sought-after model. And if you saw him, you might be tempted to judge him as the type who could skate by on good looks alone. But that’s where you’d be wrong. Aside from being a humble, thoughtful, easy-going and overall nice guy, DeVille Vannik has some serious skills. What kinds of skills? Check it out for yourself…
We sat down with DeVille to get insights on what it feels like to be a real life ninja:
BL: Tell us about the feeling you get while you’re doing parkour?
DV: It’s pure freedom and exhilaration. When I practice parkour, my mind and body are free – it’s all about instincts. I feel a deep sense of well-being, a feeling of mental and physical confidence. I know my body and what it’s fully capable of – it’s almost spiritual for me, a catharsis of sorts. I know that physical objects are no longer just things, but an environmental canvas where I can express physical art through continuous movement.
BL: How do you just decide to do a back flip off a 10-foot structure one day and pray that you’ll make it out alive?
DV: Progression. That’s the key. When starting your journey into parkour it’s important to realize that you’re not going to be flipping off buildings at first. Parkour is about moving through your environment quickly, safely and effectively. By starting small and getting accustomed to the movements and principles that allow you to safely develop your mind and body for the rigors of parkour, you begin to build the skills and confidence necessary to take it to the next level. So patience is extremely important. If you want to jump a building gap 50 feet up, you start by first training to do that jump on flat ground, then raise it up a bit and jump the same distance between two curbs…gradually taking it higher until you are confident in your technique. The rest is simply mental: you prepare yourself, face your fears, maybe say a short prayer…and go for it.
BL: Sounds like the path to developing style but more dangerous! What made you decide to start doing parkour? Were you a hyperactive South African kid who used to try to climb over anything and everything?
DV: Oh yes, absolutely. That hyperactive South African kid still lives within and wants to jump around any chance he can. I’m just smarter about it these days! I was an adventurous kid who grew up outside, spending my days running and playing in the streets, climbing mountains and climbing trees in the beautiful outdoors. Parkour was putting a name to something I’d already been doing my whole life, and then refining it to become a highly developed skill set and career. I don’t want to sound cheesy but to me, parkour is a “lifestyle” – it dictates how I spend my time, how I think about life, how I eat and exercise.
BL: How has the transition from South Africa to LA been?
DV: It’s been an amazingly smooth move, made even more so by the amazing people I’ve met. I have the best friends a man could ask for. I’m truly blessed. I do miss South African food though! There’s nothing like a braai – South African BBQ – with lots of ice cold Windhoek – South African beer. Most of all, I miss the pure unadulterated wildness of my homeland – there’s nothing quite like it.
BL: LA’s got some wildness too, but we wouldn’t necessarily call it unadulterated. So you’re a parkour coach at the Tempest Free Running Academy, a model, an actor and a Hollywood stuntman. Is there anything else you do that we should know about?
DV: I really enjoy writing. I’m working on gathering all the wisdom and advice that I’ve come across in my journeys thus far. I want to chronicle the adventures I experience in my life. Who knows? I might try to turn it into a book someday. I’ve also been working on a feature film script that has a lot of amazing parkour and martial arts elements in it.
BL: Tell us about Nxt Lvl and what it’s like to be part of an action scene.
DV: Nxt Lvl is a specialist team of professional martial artists and free runners who specialize in designing, choreographing and bringing to life action sequences for film. We consult with the creators of a project to assess the nature of the action, design and choreograph different scenes and finally, put it all into action! It’s an extremely fun and creative process.
Of course, the action scenes themselves are a ton of fun! You get to pretend like you’re really part of some crazy gunfight, police chase or fight that breaks out. But they are also physically demanding and often dangerous, so safety is important.
BL: Tell us about one of your favorite stunts?
DV: I did a stunt for a Conoco Phillips 76 commercial where I jumped a dirt bike through an office wall and rappelled down the side of the LA Times building … in a suit! It’s not very often that you get to do a wild stunt and be well-dressed at the same time so that was pretty cool.
BL: We agree. We expect you to put your Black Lapel suits to good use as well. What can we expect to see from you in the future?
DV: As far as the future goes, I just want to continue having fun with my work! Time goes by too quickly to not enjoy what you do, so I try to stay positive, learn and improve every day. I’m involved in a bunch of projects that have been exciting: a recent martial arts feature where I doubled the lead actor and coordinated the fight choreography, more action design for a sci-fi series pilot plus a feature film that’s currently in development and modeling work for some luxury fashion photographers.
BL: Thanks DeVille. Keep up the amazing work brother! We know you’re going to keep climbing and jumping your way past any obstacles that come your way. We’re looking forward to seeing what you make of your career and what new heights you ascend (and descend)!
Check out this clip of DeVille showcasing his parkour talents along with the Tempest Freerunning family: