• >Atlanta Housewives, Her Crown & Glory, and Service: An Interview with Celebrity Stylist Dwight Eubanks

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    Celebrity stylist and fashion leader Dwight Eubanks may be known for his colorful commentary on the hit reality show The Real Housewives of Atlanta, but he also devotes time to community issues, recently hosting Her Crown & Glory in Chicago, a fundraiser for African American women who have alopecia or hair loss due to chemotherapy. Eubanks styled women whose hair came out after chemo treatments. “I’d style them and their hair was coming out in clumps,” he said. But he reassured them. “We’re going to get through this.” Eubanks owns the wildly popular The Purple Door in Atlanta and is an internationally recognized stylist.

    YLW: You were a host for Her Crown & Glory, the Krystal Foundations’ fundraiser for African American women who have alopecia.

    DE: The event was fabulous. It would be a travesty if they don’t continue this and keep it up. Neiman Marcus was a sponsor, Carson Soft Sheen was a sponsor. Most important were the survivors. It just made my heart happy and sad to see them courageously share their true experience. I hope they take this event across the country.

    YLW: Why did you get involved?

    DE: I have a personal relationship with this experience. I’ve had clients that are no longer with me. I saw what they went through. This is a story to tell. We’re a special kind of people and this is a need that has to be addressed. For these people to come forward and share their stories is amazing. We have designers who make wonderful wigs. But on the other hand, if you want to go bald its okay. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. We still have female baldness which we don’t talk about. The more we educate, the more we can help.

    YLW: You do a lot of service work in the community. Why?

    DE: Success is me helping somebody else. Helping The Jerusalem House, or The Evolution Project which is a part of AIDS Atlanta, where teens ages 13-18 who are HIV positive and homeless get assistance. Evelyn Lowery (Women of SCLC) and I put it together. Or my work with the Cancer Center. It’s about giving back and helping somebody. That’s why we’re here.

    YLW: You’re also a fashion expert. What role has fashion and hair played in African American culture?

    DE: We have so many options today. Years ago we didn’t have the same technology. You can be whoever you want to be. You can take a man and make him a woman. That’s the power of technology. And it still amazes me. There are no limits.

    YLW: Why do you think image plays such a big role in African American identity?

    DE: It’s not just about us, it’s about everybody. This is a looks society. It’s all about image. You want to wear it natural, wear it straight or do nothing. Either way its fine.

    YLW: Have perceptions on sexual orientation in our community changed over the years?

    DE: It’s a different day and a different time. We have evolved and we are still evolving. As Americans we always want to put a label on it. In the European markets they don’t. If you want to be with the same sex go right ahead. We are going to leave this world one day, we might as well live as if it’s our last . The bottom line is nobody really cares. They just want you to be honest. Be honest to your God and to yourself.

    YLW: Is “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” a groundbreaking show? Four black well-to-do women and their drama could be considered a television first.

    DE: No, it’s not groundbreaking for nobody. We don’t take it as a groundbreaking show just like Real Housewives in Orange County isn’t groundbreaking. These are 5 women and this is who they are. They didn’t win a pageant. People went knocking and they said yes. They don’t represent nobody. This is who they are.

    YLW: Whenever there are shows or films with an African American cast, this issue of image and responsibility comes up.

    DE: We have options, you can look at it or not look at it. You have choices . It’s the number one show, so everyone’s watching. It’s almost like being addicted to crack. The more reruns they show, the more people watch. My mom can’t stop watching. I think she has a problem.

    YLW: Why is the show so popular?

    DE: People can relate to it. When I was in Chicago, I was with people I didn’t think watched the show, but they had me down to a T, and these were some Jewish white women, They love the show and they love me. I met some wonderful people who watch the show. Straight guys, red neck guys. They run up to me. This one guy ran up on me in the airport and I almost pulled out my knife. I’m still shocked. You never know whose watching.

    YLW: You have a show in the works as well.

    DE: Once they figure out what they want to do with me they’ll let me know. And trust me, they’re working on it.

    YLW: In the age of reality shows, how do you become a successful reality star?

    DE: This is really who I am. The way I dress on the show is how I dress everyday. Either you love me or you hate me. I go on. I speak what’s on my mind. I am not an actor, I am not an aspiring actor. I am Dwight Eubanks, I’m true to myself and true to my God.

    For more information on Dwight Eubanks, go to www.purpledoorsalon.com
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  • >Natural Hair: An Interview with author Chris-Tea Donaldson

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    Chris-Tea Donaldson is a corporate attorney and author of Thank God I’m Natural: The Ultimate Guide to Caring for and Maintaining Natural Hair. She ditched her straightened hair for the beauty of natural hair styling. Now she’s prepping to launch a natural haircare line of her own.

    YLW: With Chris Rock’s doc Good Hair on screens it seems that everyone is talking about hair.

    CD: Hair is the thing to talk about. It’s tied to self esteem. It’s a remarkable time especially with Chris Rock’s movie to have these conversations, to talk about some of the damaging processes – not talking about relaxers and weave as a judgment, but rather talking about an unhealthy obsession with them. Sometimes it’s fun to switch up your look, but when it’s about hiding self consciousness about your own hair, that’s a different issue. I did a TV show last night with a guy on WGN, he decided to devote a half hour on his show to talk about this issue. It’s interesting that the men are taking such an issue. Maybe they’re trying to tell us something.

    YLW: I’ve had men tell me that they don’t care about a woman’s hair. They want it to look nice of course, but whether it’s straight, curly, natural or weave . . . they could care less.

    CD: Men are concerned about body. That’s what Chris Rock said when they look at King, its all about ass. On the other hand, men might not know subconsciously what kind of emphasis they put on hair. Women do it for other women, not for the boys.

    YLW: Why do you say that?

    CD: When it comes to natural hair, one of the biggest myths is that it’s unprofessional. I work for a company that is largely white and male and I’ve been fine. I often found that when it comes to natural hair, that the ones who make the most critical remarks are black women.

    YLW: I wear my hair really big sometimes and when I do get criticism the issue isn’t the hair style, it’s the fact that I have the confidence to wear it and still look good. Almost as if to say how dare you wear your hair in a way that’s supposed to be unattractive and still look cute.

    CD: Exactly. It’s more from a place of feeling uncomfortable. Like you’re wearing big hair, what does that say about me? Why does she feel she can wear her hair like that? Or what does it say about me to be around someone who wears their hair like that.

    It wasn’t until we came to America that we started straightening our hair. These are practices we adopted to be a part of mainstream society. There are ads in my book from the early 20ith century for hair straightening serum. They’ll say “achieve happiness marriage with straight hair.” Today, you’ll see an ad for weave and the same sense of happiness is implied.

    YLW: But hair is not purely an African American womens issue. Hair is an obsession with women in general. Weaves, coloring, straightening are popular in America among all cultures.

    CD: Across cultures, long full hair is considered to a big asset. Jessica Simpson has a popular weave line.

    YLW: Then why is their such a focus on what black women do with their hair?

    CD: Black hair is more politicized.

    YLW: What do you mean?

    CD: If you wear your hair in your natural state you’re being rebellious, militant. If you’re a white person wearing a different style, it doesn’t have the same political weight .Meaning the afro of the 70s was seen as a rejection of white beauty standards or seen as militancy, protest, rebellion. No other time in history will you see those labels for women who changed their hair.

    YLW: What role does hair play in identity?

    CD: I think hair plays a major role in identity. By the time you’re 30 you get used to your hair. At a very young age in our community, by age 3, you know if you have what people consider good hair or bad hair. It’s not always expressed verbally. But you know if you are the girl with the long silky hair that people fall over and if you’re not. It creates a deep impression on black women throughout their lives, or at least the early part of their lives. The same goes for skin color. By the age of 3, you know what people consider attractive. That’s why when they do the doll experiments black kids are still picking the white doll. They know from a very young age what people view as beautiful.

    YLW: Why did you write this book?

    CD: I think so many people have misconceptions about our hair in its natural state. They think you have to have hair like Mariah Carey or Alicia Keys to wear it natural. You can have kinky hair and wear it natural. It’s not going to jeopardize your ability to navigate in the workplace and you won’t be rejected by men because of it.

    YLW: Then why do many women believe that approval in their work life and relationships depend in part on their hair being long and straight?

    CD: Because you turn on movies and the videos and that’s what you see. The woman with the natural is not the leading lady. The media is pushing the image down our throats. There are men who want weave. But I think men are naturally drawn to big hair. They love women with the confidence to wear it in it’s natural state. You can wear hear down to your ass, but if you don’t have confidence, it doesn’t do anything for you. We’re our harshest critics. My boss is worth millions of dollars and he doesn’t care how I wear my hair. It’s all about being comfortable. When we accept who we are for what we are, it goes a very long way.

    For more info on Chris-Tea Donaldson go to www.ThankGodI’mNatural.com
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