Athletics, academia, real estate, giving back — this Playa Vista family really can do it all
Story by Brian Marks | Photos by Courtnay Robbins
There are numerous benefits to playing sports. Children who participate perform better academically, learn teamwork and problem-solving skills, and get a steady source of necessary exercise. For Playa Vista couple Kofi and Mimi Nartey, sports have been an integral part of their lives, and even brought them together in the first place.
Kofi, who played football for UC Berkeley and the Oakland Raiders, met Mimi, a member of Ghana’s Women’s World Cup team, when his father hosted a dinner for the team in 2003. They hit it off, but Kofi took an unorthodox approach to follow up.
“I always figured one path to a woman’s heart is through laughter,” says Kofi. “So I decided to impersonate an LA Times reporter. ‘Walter’ asked her
questions about the game, kind of gave her a hard time, then just burst into laughter. She laughed, it worked, and here we are 15 years later.”
Kofi now works with Compass Real Estate as director of its Sports and Entertainment Division, working with high-profile clients like Michael Jordan, Iggy Azalea, Derek Fisher and Kevin Durant.
Mimi is an adjunct professor of sustainability at Occidental College and Loyola Marymount University, focusing on research into topics such as water-based disease prevention and climate-driven impacts on health in sub-Saharan Africa.
They and their two children have lived in Playa Vista for the last nine years, and in their three-story townhouse for the past four. Their home has soft loft elements, including an air duct and exposed beams that give the townhouse a youthful and slightly edgy feel. The walls and counter surfaces are done in soothing neutral colors, complemented by a more aggressive dark hardwood floor and patterned rugs, including one with black and white zigzags straight out of David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks.”
The ground floor’s open plan helps to instantly make visitors feel welcome, and an abundance of windows keep the space bathed in natural light. One wall is completely devoted to windows, which illuminate all three floors.
“I think what I like about Playa Vista is it seems like anywhere you can grow up,” reflects Mimi. “There’s quite a bit of diversity, and often when we talk about diversity we mean racial and ethnic diversity, but there’s also an economic diversity that’s kind of fresh. You have studio apartments and $3-million houses, all within this walkable territory, all the same community.”
Kofi’s real estate business caters to athletes and celebrities, who often have needs that go beyond the realm of traditional high-end real estate.
“The nature of their lifestyle, the need for privacy, the moving at a moment’s notice — it’s similar for both celebrities and luxury real estate in general,” explains Kofi. “High net worth people are busy, and they need to have a lot of things taken care of for them so they can focus on things that make them successful. So that’s everything from movers, staffers, nannies, helping them get their kids enrolled in school, to even event planning, which goes beyond their immediate real estate needs.”
Athletes have additional complications: they may need to move on short notice due to the vagaries of contracts and unpredictability of trades. Some have had to switch residences multiple times in a single year.
Kofi even wrote a book, “Sellebrity,” a guide to succeeding at luxury real estate. An acting stint before his real estate success, including roles in “Fast & Furious” and “Kick-Ass,” helps him to understand the needs of actors and celebrities as well as athletes.
Though Mimi works in academia, her research and teaching interests still return to sports. In addition to her regular environmental science or public health courses, she recently developed a class for Occidental called “Women, Sports and Empowerment,” to which her experience as a professional soccer player is invaluable.
Yet with sports so important in the Narteys lives, their townhouse is surprisingly uncluttered with trophies and memorabilia. Instead, they decorate it with signifiers of the past and future, their ancestors and aspirations.
The first thing visitors see when walking in the door is a framed picture: a copy of a photograph of Kofi’s great-grandfather in tribal garb from the late-19th or early-20th century, a yellow timestamp along the side of the frame the only indication that it’s not the original. Across the room is a large painting
of Muhammad Ali, mouth open as he spits his brand of outsized poetry.
“It means a lot to me, because he’s reaching the pinnacle of success in his sport,” says Kofi. “Then he uses his platform to make a difference.”
It’s an important example to remember as the Narteys near the pinnacles of their own careers. The two created the Nartey Sports Foundation, which supports programs for underserved youth athletes.
“When it comes to what contribu-tion we make to our community, it comes back to that sports angle,” says Mimi. “That’s the truth of our lives — it’s even how we met. So we really want to give that opportunity to other young people.”