Gary “Litefoot” Davis dropped the song “Gettin’ My Hustle On” in 1996. Twenty years later, he’s not slowing down. Much the opposite, Davis recently launched a new business, podcast and web series; and the Cherokee entrepreneur and rap artist is about to release his 12th album after a seven-year hiatus from recording. As if that’s not enough, on October 1 he started his new full-time position as executive director of the Native American Financial Services Association (NAFSA).
Meanwhile, Gary and his wife Carmen Davis continue to run their myriad businesses under the Litefoot Enterprises umbrella, and raise their three boys (Quannah, 17; Sequoyah, 6; and Qwnuseia, 3) in Seattle, Washington.
“I’m excited to not always be out there talking about entrepreneurship but to continue my evolution as an entrepreneur,” Davis told Indian Country Today Media Network. “It’s awesome to be back in the creative space — to get that part of who I am out in the world again. I absolutely think that that’s a piece of me that’s probably been screaming to get out. So we’re going to let it out.”
After five years at the helm of the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development as its president and CEO, Davis stepped down at the end of September to pursue “new opportunities.”
Gary and Carmen have joined forces on another project, Davis Strategy Group, a business consulting and advisory firm. “There’s one thing we know: how to help move forward business,” Davis said.
Davis Strategy, currently a team of seven (including Gary and Carmen), will provide clients with strategic communication, marketing, branding, event planning, digital strategy, and video production services. The pair have been advising new and existing businesses in Indian country for years. Davis Strategy is the formalization of their services, and the firm already counts four clients.
“It’s just great to sit across from someone and see the lightbulb come on,” Davis said. “It’s very, very fulfilling. I can’t wait to continue to grow our roster of clients.”
Carmen, an enrolled member of the Makah Tribe and also Chippewa-Cree and Yakama, brings 17 years of nationwide business operations, marketing and media experience to the table. She oversees business operations for Litefoot Enterprises including Native Style Clothing and Red Vinyl Records. She shares the keys to success and living the dream of owning your own business in her new book Native Style Business.
“I’m so proud to be in business with my wife. I can’t express what an amazing person that she is, and all of her creative insights…,” Davis said.
While serving as president of the nonprofit organization Association for American Indian Development, Carmen led Reach the Rez Tour, an empowerment campaign that visited more than 450 Native communities over a four-year period starting in 2005.
“I’ve always felt very privileged and honored to work in my own community, Indian country. I think at the core of everything that we do is our desire to make a difference,” Carmen told ICTMN. “Whether that’s through Litefoot Enterprises, whether that’s through speaking engagements, whether that’s through Native Style Clothing, or the Reach the Rez Tour — at the core is our desire to make a difference and do our part to better Indian country.”
(Gary isn’t the only musical talent in the family. Carmen will release her first E.P., Native Honey, on May 30, a compilation of upbeat pop/dance songs with catchy hooks and lyrics.)
All Lights on Litefoot: Podcast, Vlog, Performances and More
The Litefoot Show
Davis debuted his first podcast, The Litefoot Show, on September 28. “[The podcast] will be a way to tackle issues — to have a more structured conversation about specific topics,” Davis said. “I’ll also engage and interact with questions from viewers and listeners.”
Down the road, Davis plans to bring on special guests from time to time. “The whole idea is to create awareness, engagement, motivation and inspiration,” he said.
The Litefoot Show is going to be “live and direct. There’s going to be so many episodes. I think that’s been the thing that I’ve really been missing— that ability to interact,” Davis said.
Podcast listeners on September 28 hit Davis with a range of questions about everything from running for U.S. President to his next big screen pursuits. The actor’s career kicked off when he landed the starring role in the film Indian in the Cupboard (1995). He’s since appeared in films such as Mortal Kombat Annihilation and Adaptation, as well as television shows CSI: Miami and House of Cards.
Davis casually hinted at his hope and intent for a Native TV series on a major network: “Now it’s time for us to own content and for us to get on HBO with some Native content and get on Showtime with some content — to take what our stories are, and get our projects out there, and get our personalities out there. I’m pretty focused on that right now. And when I set my mind to something, we don’t quit until we get there.”
Litefoot’s Relentless Pursuit
Speaking of relentless pursuit, Gary introduced his web series Litefoot’s Relentless Pursuit on September 30. So far he’s put out two episodes of the vlog available on vlog.litefoot.com and Youtube.com/Litefoot.
Subscribe and check out ?Episode 001″Living The Dream,” in which Davis shares words of wisdom on a business trip to Vegas, and Episode 002 “Family Over Everything,” when he waxes poetic, while driving his red Porsche 944 across the open countryside, about how family sustains and inspires him.
“The Youtube series is literally me taking you out there on the road. You get to see the hustle, and you’re going to see what I see. You’re riding right there with me. We can go through this journey together,” Davis said.
Relentless Pursuit was the name of his latest and 11th music album, all produced on his own record label, Red Vinyl Records. His 12th album after his seven-year break is coming soon.
Despite his extended hiatus from producing new music, Litefoot still made Indian Country Today Media Network’s cut for the Five Musicians to Blast This Summer: 2016 Hot List.
“I just feel that respect and honor for the music and what it’s meant to so many people in Indian country. It would just be remiss on my part if I didn’t get back in the studio and record some more music,” Litefoot told ICTMN.
In July, Red Vinyl Records signed Comanche artist Olivia Komahcheet (“Liv”), 18. “She’s amazing,” Gary Davis told his first podcast audience.
RELATED (Olivia Komahcheet): Q&A: Comanche Founder of Intertribal Visions Talks Building a Family Business
And, after six years away from the stage as a rap artist, Litefoot is making a comeback at Southwestern Oklahoma State University on December 9 (the show was moved from November 3 to December 9, after the initial announcement was made on his premiere podcast).
“You are going to get a Litefoot show like you’ve never seen a Litefoot show before,” he said. “There’s going to be such an intense amount of production that goes into that show. I just encourage everybody from around Oklahoma, and Kansas, New Mexico, Texas and Arkansas to check it out.”
While his eldest son, Quannah, “grew up pretty much on a tour bus,” Gary said, his other sons will witness Litefoot on stage for the first time. “Sequoyah – music is his everything, and he’s never seen me perform. …It’s going to be a special moment for me, and of course I’m going to go all out and perform amazingly well for my sons.”
Ultimately, Davis is motivated by faith and uplifting Indian country. (His 2010 book The Medicine of Prayer, available for purchase on iBooks and Amazon, shares his belief in the power of prayer to heal, give strength, and help one accomplish anything.)
“Hopefully it inspires people,” Davis said of his new undertakings. “I think that we’re only given a very small window of time here on this Earth. How can I make every minute of every day help other people? Everything we’re doing is in service to other people — to try to help them be better and grow. There could be no more fulfilling thing at the end of the day than to touch the lives of other people and help them along.”