Dee, pro-stylist and winner of Bravo’s Shear Genius, talks about her roots, the show and what’s in store for the future.
What’s more exciting than watching lesbians cut hair on television? Watching a sexy butch Latina babe from Miami, Florida beat out a competitive group of straight women and gay men on Bravo’s Shear Genius, to win $100,000, all while sporting the dykiest do on TV in years (sorry, Shane). I’m certain that last week women across the country were flocking to salons asking for Dee’s signature urban lesbian look.
Dee is still excited about the win. The 37-year old is a former computer graphic artist for Paul Mitchell Distributor in Miami and a “Task Force” and “Premiere Member” for John Paul Mitchell Systems, which entails teaching and coaching other Paul Mitchell educators on the latest trends in cuts and color.
The art director and hair designer at Peter of London Salon and Spa in Miami when she was plucked for the show, you can bet with the new capital she’ll be launching her own salon.
Is that “tough girl” persona you had on the show really you, or is that more of a TV persona?
It depends on the day. [Laughs]
What does this win really mean for you?
Oh, this is a dream come true for me. It finally takes me to the next level—where I’ve always wanted to be—which is to be a salon owner. And finally that dream is going to come true. I am in the process of opening up a business. It’s called Dee & L Hair Studio, in Sunset, South Miami. It just means the world to me to be able to have this accomplishment. We’re looking to open during the holidays.
You said on the show that your Mom always believed in you. What influence did she have on you and how did she impact your career choice?
Well, my mom is two single parents. So, she raised three of us on her own and was always just very encouraging in everything I did from sports to arts and I think the combination of the two is what led me into doing hair. When I told her I was going to do hair, later in my life—I didn’t decide to do hair until my late 20s—she just said, “It’s never too late to do anything. Always follow your dreams and always put all of your hard work into it and you will definitely be rewarded by it.”
Is hair styling a youth-oriented field, or is it something that people can do for many decades?
I think nowadays it’s definitely a youth-oriented field, but I think it’s also an attitude, as far as just being creative, staying educated, keeping up with classes and just always…how can I put this? It’s definitely a creative field. You could definitely do it for many decades to come. I mean, I got into it…in my 20s, and I’m doing just as well as anyone who [started] in their early 20s. It’s what you put into it.
What did you want to be when you were younger?
Art was my passion, so I studied fine arts and that led me into graphic design. Just sitting behind a desk nine hours a day was not my cup of tea. I was not happy doing that. Being around hairdressers with the Paul Mitchell family encouraged me to become a hairdresser…I’m an artist by nature. That’s my talent, and that’s how I do my work.
There are probably a lot of people who would tend to think of those with fine arts degrees as sort of highbrow artists and those who are doing hair design and styling more as pink collar workers. Do you think that’s true?
Well, the thing is, for me, I wanted to be an artist and I found that I just couldn’t be a starving one. [Laughs]
One thing that you, Tabatha and Daisy, from different seasons, have all done is to give a little more visibility to lesbians in the hair styling industry, which is great. Are there more gay women than we might imagine in the industry?
In my current environment, yes, there’s like, four of us out of 25 hairdressers. I don’t know, maybe after Sally Hershberger has been out and has been an influential hairdresser; maybe that’s kind of encouraging young hairdressers, young lesbian women coming into the industry.
Did you ever have a question on whether to be out on the job or not?
No, I am very open and my mother accepts me and that’s all that matters to me. You know, anybody who sits in my chair realizes that it’s not about sexuality or gender. It’s just about the passion that I have for what I do.
There were a lot of regional differences amongst the cast on the show. How does being in Miami affect the kind of work you do? Is there a Miami aesthetic to hair?
Definitely. It’s all based on the weather factor, as well. I mean, we have humidity that definitely can affect a hairstyle. You need to be able to work with very coarse textures and be able to smooth them out and fight humidity. The right product is key and also, the effort put into the style.
Is that difficult when you move from region to region?
Oh yes, I’ve heard many people who move to Miami from up North and realize that the hair is not the same; it acts completely different. So they’re always looking for tips to control the frizz and control volume. Also, in the show we noticed that. [In the episode] when we had to change clients…I think [Charlie] picked that really curly frizzy client because he thought that would be the most difficult, thinking that somebody else was going to end up with that hair. I ended up with that client and I was able to blow dry and iron and polish that hair out beautifully.
And you’re like, “Yeah I work with this all the time.”
I work with it all the time. Coarse, unruly—we call it “Chewbacca’s cousin’s hair.” You need to know how to work that hair.
How has cutting hair changed your life?
Oh, cutting hair has changed my life tremendously. I now love what I do. [I have] been able to provide for [myself] and my family, my mother, help her to pay her rent. Simple things like that. But it also has helped me to travel and see things, because once you love what you do, you don’t work a day in your life and you get rewarded for it. So, I live a much happier life because I’m fulfilled with what I do.
Do you think there’s such a thing as lesbian hair, or a lesbian aesthetic?
Yeah there is, definitely. Lesbian women come to me because first of all, I don’t have any fear of going short, of cutting short hair. And we definitely have signature looks as far as, you know, very edgy, trendy looks and bold colors. But also, you have to keep in mind that you also have lesbians that are lipstick lesbians and more conservative lesbians. And so you have to respect their lifestyles as far as how they’re perceived in their job or what they do on a daily basis. So it’s all a reflection of what their lifestyle is—low maintenance or high maintenance—and you have both.
How could I explain to my straight hairstylist that I want a femme haircut that still looks dyke-y?
[Laughs] Tomboy, yet sexy.
Are you partnered or single?
I am currently single. But I am a hopeless romantic and I guess that would surprise viewers because they didn’t get to see my sensitive side [that] much. I definitely was focused and driven and maybe I had a little [bit of a] hard exterior, but on the inside I’m a big softie.