Im just a boy in pumps, these are the humble words of Atlantas Derek J. A stylist for over ten years he has tamed tresses for music videos, hair competitions and celebrities including the ladies of The Real Housewives of Atlanta.
How did you get started?
Ive been doing hair now for ten years and my aunt used to do hair out of her house so I used to watch her. I liked the transformation of women, you would see a woman come in and she was having a bad day and then they would get their hair done and feel so much better. With a woman when they have a physical change they can have an emotional change and I really liked that about it. My mom didnt want me to go to hair school because she said it wasnt a real job, so I snuck and went to hair school. I got my license, moved to Atlanta and then everything went crazy once I moved to Atlanta and it was pretty quickly. I went from doing hair for music videos to magazines to do doing hair for celebrities and now owning a shop.
Whats the craziest thing thats ever happened while working?
Its so much crazy stuff that happens around here every day in general that Im seriously going out and buying a camcorder tomorrow. Theres not one crazy thing, every time the door opens there something more ridiculous than the time before that.
You are known for your personal style, where would you say your inspiration for your style comes from?
Im a real just do what I want to do person. If I want to come to work with some booty shorts on and have an off the shoulder top with some thigh high boots thats what Im going to do. When I first started being more stylish than most, I was kind of reserved. When I first started wearing heels I would wear them with a dress slack so you couldnt really tell I had a heel on. Then it moved into I can wear skinny leg jeans and I used to say I will never wear my toes out and then I put on a peep toe. Its about pushing the envelope and seeing how people respond. Its weird sometimes even if I go into a heterosexual environment and then men will say Yo! You that dude that wear heels all the time. Youre doing your thing, which can be weird sometimes. To see peoples reactions and their acceptance makes me strive to do more. Ill have women come up to me and say they didnt wear heels and after they saw me they went out and got a few and started dressing up more. Ive realized that me doing what I want to do is encouraging other people to do what they want to do, so I cant stop now.
What do you think distinguishes you the most from other hair stylists?
I know my role as a hairstylist. I know what I can do and I do what I do well. I dont try to do nothing else. I have a fabulous team of hair stylist that pick up where I leave off and I pick up where they leave off. If theres something I cant do, someone in my shop can do it. We as a team dont mind doing that with our clients. Its not about me trying to make all the money, and my clients appreciate that. They appreciate my honesty and they know that Im not going to steer them wrong.
What is the experience of competing in hair competitions like?
Hair show competitions in general are very political; you have to tread lightly because your peers are the people that are judging you. You have to keep that respect with them even though your peers. My resume might read better than their resume yet their judging me. The problem is that they dont just judge on what their looking at, they judge the person, they say oh thats Derek J and if its a conservative person thats a judge they say oh my god hes on the stage with heels on. I dont want to brag or anything but show wise I put on a better show than anybody else. Im not a big prop person and so because of that I give you straight show its just me three models and eight dancers and we will show you up all day long. Some people rely more on their costumes, their props their makeup and all the tricks and smoke and mirrors. When it comes to the shows Im one of the hardest working people.
Youve been on Tears, Shears and Beauty on BETJ, how was the experience filming?
Tears, Shears and Beauty was an experience because it was a very low budget , very thrown together situation and all I was just me and I didnt think that I was that interesting. I didnt know that as many people that watched it that did. I was on a hair tour in LA and people would come up to me recognizing me from the show. People would have salon parties and watch it. People were really inspired by the show. I enjoyed the experience and I met really great people and I didnt know that I had the capacity to do stuff like that. I would definitely do it all over.
What do you think are some of the preconceived notions people have of you?
The biggest one is that they think Im some kind of flaming faggot thats just an over-the top queenie type of a person and Im really not. I have a shirt that says Im just a boy in pumps and thats really all it is. Another one is that people think I dont work, I work 7 days a week 24 hours a day I am on call. They think Im a bitch or that Im stuck-up or materialistic. The truth is I dont own any labels. All of my shoes are Nine West my highest end shoe are some Stuart Weitzmans its just not that serious to me. If you have style then it doesnt really matter what you put on. I like to be like that because I can relate to the regular man or woman.
Is there a specific celebrity hair style that you are most into right now?
No because everybody is kind of just whack right now. RIhanna was doing her thing but then they dont ever put relaxer on the sides of her head for some reason. I would just say my clients.
What is the most common mistake women make with their hair?
Over processing is the most common mistake. Women want to get a relaxer or color and they want to do it every week. On top of that they try to use chemicals themselves which you really shouldnt because youre not trained to do that kind of stuff.
You have styled a few of the Real Housewives of Atlantas tresses. Whose hair dos are you responsible for?
Im responsible for NeNe cutting her hair short and youll see on the new season that Kims wig is a lot better, but you can see on the show that it goes in and out so when it looks bad she did it herself but when shes doing an interview or something I most likely did it. I used to do Kandis hair but I havent done her hair for over a year now, but we are still friends. Ive worked with Lisa from time to time, I havent worked with Sheree that much.
Who is the man behind the hair?
Well Derek J and then Derek my legal name are two different people. Once I step out of all of my fabulousness Im a homebody, I lay on my bed, I go to sleep. My television stays on Cartoon Network at all times. Im a good friend, Im a good brother to my sister and I just chill. I wear tennis shoes, shorts, t-shirts I just flip into a whole other mode.
(Photo by Joeff Davis)
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