Rafi Anteby Turns Tragedy into a Fashion Legacy

Photo courtesy of hauteliving.com

Rapper Nipsey Hussle, murdered in a barrage of bullets on a Los Angeles street in March of this year, will be posthumously awarded the 2019 “BET Awards” Humanitarian Award. ” As a prolific artist and leader, Nipsey Hussle was zealous about driving change for the betterment of his community, empowering and employing those in need and being an influential and highly respected leader,” said Connie Orlando, Executive Vice-President, head of programming at BET. 

The awards show which airs this Sunday will include a star-studded tribute to Hussle known lovingly as “Neighborhood Nip” featuring DJ Khaled, YG, and John Legend.  But there will be a silent sparkling tribute in the audience by A-List celebrities, sporting bullets emblazoned with peace signs, prayers and symbols of strength, with some studded with Swarovski crystals. The necklaces, created by Jewelry Designer Rafi Anteby, are a plea to raise awareness of gun violence in the African American community.

Photos courtesy of the Anderson Group

“A bullet does not only impact one person,” says Anteby, who lost his best friend to a bullet 12 years ago. “It has a ripple effect, and many, many others whole lives are affected.” Rafael Anteby, affectionately known as “Rafi,” created ” the jewelry line called “Bullets4Peace” aimed at creating a crusade for change. When he brought Bullets4Peace to BET, he was targeting the African American community, as a crucial arena in his personal war against gun violence. “BET supported my brand. They supported my mission. They understood it very deeply.”

More than 85 percent of black homicide victims are shot and killed with guns, according to recent statistics gathered by Violence Policy Center (VPC). “The devastating and disproportionate impact homicide, almost always involving a gun, has on black men, boys, women, and girls in America is a national shame,” states Executive Director Josh Sugarmann. “These deaths devastate families, traumatize communities, and should provoke an outcry for change.”

Photo courtesy of hautelving.com

Rafi agrees.  His work to help end this crisis has been through creating a unique celebrity gifting lounge experience to build an army of front-line entertainers, from Beyoncé to Justin Bieber, to win a victory of increasing awareness. “I understood the entertainment world is the megaphone,” Rafi says. In his celebrity gift lounges, Rafi finds his best recruits. A celebrity can walk out of a gift lounge with more than $50,000 in products and gift certificates. 

Rafi’s vision for change is embodied on a bullet engraved with “Army for Peace” with a bald eagle, with wide-spread wings.  His foot soldiers for Bullets4Peace include Rihanna, who is an avid collector of the jewelry line, Eva Longoria, Jamie Fox, Justin Timberlake and Drake, Bruno Mars, and others.

Photos courtesy of the Anderson Group

“The African American community,” Rafi says, “are major trendsetters in the world of fashion.  But many people don’t want to see that! I brought Bullets4Peace to BET and by understanding exactly what I was talking about, they created that fashion movement that I have today,” he says.

Over the past decade Rafi has created 13 collections with a stunning array of bullet-centered jewelry, working with gold and silver plating, rose gold, sterling silver, gold and Swarovski crystals. His creations reflect his multi-faceted personality and wide range of life experiences. Rafi is a three-time martial arts champion, so strength is a key quality which he crafts into his jewelry using intricately designed lions, panthers, dragons and other animal images.

Photo courtesy of the Anderson Group

His experience as a monk in China, inspired him to incorporate spiritual tools for meditation into his jewelry line using the OM sign, mandalas, Hebrew prayers and other sacred symbols. Learning the power of semiprecious stones for healing in China, he created a line of jewelry featuring amethyst, jade, tiger’s eye and moonstone. The beautiful delicacy of his pieces combines a plea for peace with the necessity for balance and beauty in life. His spiritual training enables him to imbue each creation with vitality and energy, that he hopes will have a positive effect on the consciousness of whoever wears them.

Born and growing up in war-torn Israel, Rafi witnessed firsthand the devastation that bullets and bombs cause to families and communities. As a solider, he was shot several times, without major medical consequences. But it was the death of his childhood friend 12 years ago, that really impacted his life and started his anti-gun violence campaign. “It had a bigger effect on me than even the death of my father,” he says.  “You expect your father to diebut not your friend.”

Going back into the monastery to pray, contemplate and meditate about his life was a process of serious self-reflection. ” It made me rethink everything,” he says, “what I am and what I really believe in! I had to see where my next 60 years were going to be spent. I thought ‘I’ve got to make a statement!'”

Photo courtesy of fashiontribe.com

Since he was an artist, images were his major method of communication. “I sketched a bullet with a peace sign on it,”. I called my mother and asked her what she thought of it. I didn’t even know if it could be done.  But my mother said “Yes! And you should call your jewelry Bullets4Peace.  My mother sealed the deal for me!”

Rafi says “every bullet has more than one life span. The bullet gets shot, its casing falls to the floor, it is then collected by the manufacturers and reused, saving the manufacturers money, a process we call – reloading.” Bullets 4 Peace collects those used bullet casings from around the world,” Rafi explains “before they become a fully functioning bullet again, giving them a new purpose. That breaks the cycle.” Excited about his new artistic vison he walked around with sketches.  “But the more I showed people my drawings, the more I got negative reactions. That’s when I said, ‘you’re on the right track!'”

He made two of each design he had imagined and carried them around in a suitcase showing people. “A lot of people got really, really excited.” He went on TV shows getting positive responses.  “Typically, they would say, ‘I would love to have one.'”  Bullets4Peace hit the mainstream when T-Pain wore his bullet necklace in Jamie Fox’s “Blame It on the Alcohol” video in 2009.  “Jamie Fox loved it and wanted one too,” says Rafi. “They invited me again for the video “Digital Girl”then it became like a wildfire.”

Photo courtesy of the Anderson Group

He decided he wanted to integrate the philanthropic world, fashion vision to include his spiritual knowledge garnered from his studies of martial arts. His inner experiences as a monk inspired him to give gifts that would contribute to the inner development of the celebrities, who could help broadcast the message of Bullets4Peace.

His extensive travels to study art in Nepal and Tibet, his experiences as a monk, plus his trips to remote locations to do wildlife photography, reflect his inner journey that he wanted to introduce to celebrities. “This is my world, which is different from other people’s world, so I wanted to bring them what I really believe in. The celebrities got really drawn into my lifestyle.  It is the lifestyle that everybody really wants but cannot get.”

 “Traveling to remote places, to connect them to nature and connect them to the simplicity of life,” Rafi says he thought could “bring them inner joy.”  Traveling to destinations deep in nature like Hawaii, Costa Rica, and Nepal, he says, provides celebrities with “a holiday they will never forget. It raises the self-consciousness to a level that was higher than before.  They will have a life-changing experience. “I always want to give them something they can give back.

Rafi’s three-pronged philosophy of compassionate communication, love of nature and charitable giving is the core of who he is. “I am doing this in every aspect of my life, in every aspect of my businesses.  When I travel, I try to show people that you first ask what you can give.  Then you receive much more, than if you just think ‘what can I get from these people. There is a need, Rafi says, for more celebrities like Nipsey Hussle, who was not only community philanthropist, but a role model. “In every community there are people who try to make a difference.  But there are some people who really don’t care. They only think about the music and the bottom dollar. They don’t care about what message they put out there. But I’m trying to align with those who really care about the message in the music. Beyoncé cares. Rihanna cares. Jamie Fox cares. Those are the people I’m trying to align with.”

“I’ve become very aggressive in business. It is easy for me to create business. ” The main takeaway for me is to get all the megaphonesall the celebritiesthat are have loud voice and to funnel them all in my charity and get the awareness out there, so that people will listen to it.” To that end Rafi established Tao Social Media, which offers consultation to brands. And he is creating a venture that will focus on film production and talent management. “We’re already invested in three films,” he says. He also has plans to launch a new line of jewelry and announce the establishment a new charity foundation.

Photo courtesy of the Anderson Group

These ventures, says Rafi, are a means to an end. “Bullets4Peace is a way. The award shows are a way. Investing in movies is a way. Anything that I do is a way for me to be loud and clear that something needs to be changed.”

Bullets4Peace can be purchased online at bullets4peace.com.

Francesca C. Simon

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