You can tell from his vice-like handshake that Christopher Britto is probably a man you don’t want to mess with — and that goes for his mission to empower women of all ages to learn the art of self-defense and find their inner diva.
A Chicago native transplanted to Long Beach, in just three years Britto and his Atlanta-based brother Cole D. Parker, have turned their women’s self-protection business, Divas in Defense, into a national brand with 10 DID franchises in four states.
If his face is at all familiar, Britto, the 28-year-old company president and CEO, has 12 years of experience in the upper echelons of celebrity protection guarding the likes of John Travolta, Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera and Omarion.
The training program offers certified instruction in self-defense, non-lethal weapons training, and firearm safety training.
Divas also have a program called Girls Can Fight Too, for 7 to 17 year olds where they teach about personal safety, dating violence, social media etiquette and communication.
“It’s all about saving lives, not winning a fight,” said Britto, on the company’s philosophy. “I have expertise in personal protection and Cole wrestled and boxed in college. We wanted to put together a scenario based curriculum that was straight to the point; if he did this, you did that.”
He added: “The first line of defense is about awareness and the one rule is to get away. In instances like sexual assault and rape, most attacks happen with people that they know.
“So we train clients about awareness; remembering where you parked, not talking on your cell phone when your walking down the street or if you’re jogging in the morning, don’t have your iPod in your ear.”
Britto’s other key tip is that even if you are attacked to put up a fight.
“The chances of you walking away are a lot higher,” he continued. “A perpetrator will go for someone they feel they can overpower, and if you fight back that makes them think, ‘I thought this was gonna be easy, maybe I should get out of here.’”
Unbeknownst to Britto at the time, the seeds to Divas was sown back when he and Parker were siblings being raised by a their single mother, who herself was a victim of molestation and domestic violence.
When Britto’s daughter was born three years ago he wanted to be on the road less and home more, and attending church one weekend the female pastor asked him if he could come and teach a class on self-defense.
After thinking about it for a moment, he tapped his brother, who is a well-known marketing guru in Atlanta, for a name for the class.
“He’s 10 years older than me, and at that point he told me that our mother was a survivor of domestic violence. I was like ‘what are you talking about?’ And he said yes, that really happened. He said ‘I think you should call it Divas in Defense.’ I said that’s catchy, and he replied that if you start it in Los Angeles then I’ll start it in Georgia and we can work on a curriculum together.”
So Britto went from pondering the proposal on a Monday to researching stun gun equipment on a Wednesday, then a celebrity connection put the concept on the map before they had even put together their first class.
“I play in a celebrity football league with Speedy, the presenter on Jamie Foxx’s radio show. He interviewed me and we immediately got phone calls about where people could attend classes,” he recalled.
“Then I flew Cole into L.A. for a Grammy Gifting Suite party and our classes were the hottest attraction in the room. Right then we knew we were onto something and we weren’t going to be doing anything else.”
However, as they expand Britto is also keen to give back.
For instance, next month DID will be taking part in Denim Day, where women don Jeans to protest about the Italian judge who freed a rape suspect saying the victim was partly to blame because she was wearing tight jeans.ris