Weaving through the haze of hair spray and masses of models getting their eyebrows tweezed and their wigs teased, Baltimore hair stylist Elicia Moore finds a quiet corner to put the final twists on her creation: a three-foot tower of curly blond hair with strawberry highlights. The elaborate structure atop her client’s head is built around a chicken-wire base and decorated like a Christmas tree with tiny round mirrors and big faux diamonds.
In their everyday lives, stylists like Moore earn their living doing blowouts and braids, wet sets and weaves, whether they’re working the storefront barbershops and beauty parlors of Georgia Avenue or the upscale salons of Forestville and Falls Church.
Their best work was honored on Sunday night at the 20th annual Glynn Jackson Golden Scissors Awards, one of the black beauty-salon industry’s largest events. Known as the black Oscars of hair, the seven-hour sensation turned the Silver Spring Civic Building into a giant beauty parlor, an exploded Sephora with every package of eye shadow, face glitter, lipstick, hair oil, frizz-fighting gloss and fake eyelashes opened.
Backstage, it all smelled like burning hair, hot rollers and ambition.
“Super, super great. Super, super, fabulous,” shouted Jackson, the show’s namesake and promoter, to the crowd. The hair-show impresario was dressed in a flowing black cape emblazoned with gold scissors and matching black wingtip shoes — glittered up with gold scissors.
“I get amped on having people see their own strengths,” Jackson said. “It’s all about the platform that has been created for thousands of unsung heroes in the African American community.”
Jackson grew up in New Roads, La., where he was known as the “miniature Don King” because he was able to fill the high school gym for talent and fashion shows, showcasing dresses he’d made with his “friend’s mama’s curtains.”
It was 1991 when Jackson started the Golden Scissors Awards. At the time, though he was still producing fashion shows on the side, Jackson was on active duty with the U.S. Navy working in communications, where he also did fashion and hair shows. One night he went to a hair show at a nightclub in the District, and his idea was born. Salons were huge then, he said; hairdressers wore fur coats and drove good cars.
“When I first came to D.C., black women were having big hair like Patti LaBelle and I was like — wow — these women know how to have good time,” he recalled. “Black women here had all of this attitude, always walked with swagger and I thought, ‘What an opportunity to do something for this underserved industry who had helped them look beautiful.’ ”
Over the past two decades, Jackson’s Golden Scissors Awards have celebrated everything from Halle Berry pixie cuts to Afrocentric “dookie braids” to the “ ’frohawk,” an updated 1980s punk look worn in the 2000s. And the event has endured, despite the recent recession that forced the show to move from the Washington Convention Center to Silver Spring.
“It took every dime I had to open the door every single year,” Jackson said. “But what we are able to do on a shoestring budget is amazing.” This year, as in every year, music cues were missed, minor technical problems abounded and, according to Jackson, “The big girls came onstage and were not wearing Spanx.”
But hey, Jackson said with a laugh, things happen. “It’s a part of magical-ness of a Glynn Jackson show,” he said, referring to himself, as he often does, in the third person.
Backstage, salon owners and stylists talked about how much Jackson’s encouragement meant to them. Ricky Roberson, 45, trained to become a hairdresser after he was laid off from his desk job. For Sunday’s event, he created a hairstyle that symbolized the sun, moon and stars. His model’s orange- and red-tinted hair shot out like the rays of the sun and was augmented by shooting stars cut into the sides of her hair. The moon was a crescent with crater-like ridges that wrapped around the crown of her head.
Nearby, Shirlita Walker, 36, a social worker from Forestville, had transformed into a Cirque du Soleil-style tightrope walker, with a mustard-colored leotard, hair teased and adorned with feathers.
“I am just letting it all hang out,” she said, laughing with friends. “All week, I deal with serious things. This night is all about fantasy and fun.” That night, she would sleep pretty, she said, carefully wrapping her feathered hair in a protective bonnet like a holiday gift, hoping the night’s glamour would stay with her through the workweek.