Walking through the double doors of King Drew Medical Magnet High School basketball courts, wearing his shirt unbuttoned, tattoo filled chest exposed, and vintage pieces to accommodate his vogue aura, Birdie’s Revenge coach and fashion designer Tracey Mills has been on a life-long mission to “reprogram the earth.”
He successfully defies every coaching wardrobe stereotype. Born in Los Angeles, Mills’ parents separated when he was one. His mother who was a Chicago native, packed their bags and moved them to her hometown. At the age of ten, Mills moved back to Los Angeles.
“It was tough,” said Mills. “I didn’t know my father or my brother. I had three older brothers. Coming from a world full of gang banging, my family was in gangs. My brother was the only one not in gangs. He played ball.”
Mills was brought up in an abusive household, both physically and mentally. “I suffered a lot of abuses as a child,” Mills reflected. “Growing up in a foster home, running away, wanted to commit suicide, didn’t love myself…a lot of things inner city kids go through, and it made life tougher.”
Mills grew up playing basketball. It was all he knew, and he was exceptional at it too. However, his behavioral issues and bad attitude hindered his success from evolving into something greater in basketball. “I had a really bad attitude. I had a lot of misplaced anger towards my father” recalls Mills. “At some point in my life, it was either dead or in jail, and I didn’t want that for myself.”
It sparked a change in Mills. “I started to work on myself,” stated Mills. “No one helped me. I just wanted to do better and be better and Basketball just wasn’t working out for me.”
In 2001, one of Mills’ family members was wearing a pair of Von Dutch jeans and he thought they were the freshest jeans he had ever seen. He later went into the Von Dutch store on Melrose to check it out.
“I went in and fell in love with the brand,” recalled Mills.
Though Mills didn’t have a job yet, he was acquainted with several high profile celebrities because of his older brother, Chris Mills, who was playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers at the time.
“[The celebrities] would always come to me for fashion, like ‘yo what’s the new hot stuff’, and I would take them all to Von Dutch,” Mills commented. “It would be Puff, JayZ, Hillary Duff, Lindsay Lohan. I was just blessed to have a lot of famous friends you know?” Mills humbly stated. “So from there the designer offered me a job to help blow that brand up and that was how I broke into fashion.”
Mills worked for Von Dutch for two years when it was just becoming recognizable. His job description was to place product on celebrities to give the brand exposure. The designer, Christian Audigier, was attempting to acquire ownership of Von Dutch, but left when he was unsuccessful. Mills left the company due to his loyal ties with Audigier. The Von Dutch business immediately died after Mills’ departure. “Six months later, Christian Audigier called me and said, ‘I want to do this new brand called Ed Hardy,” Mills remembered.
He spent the next five years doing the same thing for Ed Hardy.
“In 2010, Kanye West who’s a really close friend of mine…he asked me, ‘Did you want to leave Ed Hardy and come to Paris with me? I want to do a ready to wear brand in Paris, Anna Wintour is gonna help us get into fashion week,” Mills said. “So for me, it was a no-brainer. I left and went with Kanye.”
It was a turning point in his career where his palette really began to flourish. He learned a lot with Von Dutch, but never really was able to tap into the designer aspect there.
“I had all these ideas but I still wasn’t like I’m gonna be the best designer, but going to Paris with Kanye really grew my palette,” said Mills. “I learned a lot from that and it helped me realize that a lot of the ideas that I had needed to have a voice and to be put out.”
After four years of working with Kanye, Mills decided to launch his own brand called Venus on Earth. The brand became a success, however, it was disarmed because there was an existing brand called Venus Swimwear. Mills lost all rights to the name.
Eventually, it turned into what is now called Visitor on Earth. Mills’ designs consist of unisex pieces with natural silhouettes. “I’m all about vintage, I love vintage shopping, I love the way clothes age because to me when something ages, it has a story, its lived, it has life,” Mills stated.
All of his graphic pieces consist of an uplifting message. “I’m very big on what I went through in life,” he said. “I have a purpose to give back to someone that’s following me or listening to me or spending their money on my product.”
Mills is a big advocate on making it to the top your own way. He’s a firm believer that the universe never puts you in a situation you can’t handle and the only reason you don’t succeed at something is because of you.
“We’re fed so much doubt in this world and if we’re not telling each other we can succeed, nine times out of ten we probably won’t because we’re programmed to think that something’s hard. It’s a tough hurdle.”
Mills is on a mission to reprogram the earth.
“We have to be mindful that at a certain stage in our life, we have to learn to edit things out of life and fill it up with things that are gonna help us evolve,” Mills said firmly. This is everything Visitor On Earth embodies.
Mills fashion design odyssey somehow wound him back up to square one; basketball. Seventeen years ago, Mills met rapper The Game. It was before The Game had his record deal, through mutual friends playing basketball.
“We first met arguing about to fight,” laughed Mills. “After that day, we became brothers and that’s been my brother ever since.” About six years ago, The Game introduced him to the idea of becoming an assistant coach to The Game’s Drew League team. The Game respected Mills’ basketball IQ, and later the opportunity presented itself for him to be named the head coach.
“For me it was an honor because its ‘The Drew’ and because of what it stands for and the community it’s in,” said Mills. “To have a role of being a mentor and somewhat a teacher and a motivator to younger souls, that’s the thing I take out of coaching, that’s a responsibility and I take pride in that. I’m honored to be in that position” acknowledged Mills.
The team he coaches is Birdie’s Revenge. They were the 2017 Drew League champions and tied the Drew League record for 26 straight wins.
“I don’t worry about other teams,” commented Mills. “It doesn’t matter who we play against, we’re never put in situations we can’t handle. The key is for us to be family. And that’s the one thing I try to instill is family.” Mills has imparted the importance of brotherhood and unity to his players and constantly pushes the agenda of evolving as individuals, teammates, and brothers.
Tracey Mills’ pilgrimage from his early childhood abuses to making a moniker for himself in the fashion industry, and leading a successful team at the Drew League, embodies the Drew League motto. No Excuse. Just Produce.
“There is no excuse because anything that’s in front of you is meant to be solved or handled, that’s why it’s there, and if you make an excuse that’s you getting in your own way, but if you get out your own way it’s just produce because it’s there for you to succeed,” Mills stated emphatically.
To support his brand, Visitor on Earth visit https://visitoronearth.com/.