This weekend the biggest African-American business in the United States also is the best show in town. Detroit entrepreneur David Humphries, better known in the beauty world as Hump the Grinder, presents in Miami for the second year in a row what he calls “a showcase of hair entertainment.” At Hair Wars styling divas duke it out with blow dryers and a hot comb to see whose models come out the darkest and loveliest of them all.
“It's not a competition,” says Hump by phone from Hair Wars central. “It's a showcase for hairdressers to put out their best work.” Hair Wars originated in the Motor City and then spread to ten urban style centers from Atlanta, Georgia, to Oakland, California. The South Florida show features more than 20 nationally known “hair stars,” an equal number of local luminaries, and more than 200 models. “A lot of [stylists] want to make money other than just doing hair behind the chair,” explains the P.T. Barnum of the hair weave. “This is a way for them to expand their profession.”
Last year Southern Florida scissor-hands showed off cuts as precise as sculpture, color as stunning as the sunset, and weaves as elaborate as the work of Michelangelo. But in Hair Wars it's not enough simply to look fabulous. The coiffures must be fierce enough to stand out as the stars of a show with Broadway-style choreography, lavish Hollywood-type sets, and extravagant costumes that put Paris fashion houses to shame.
Purring like Eartha Kitt and rhyming like Snoop Doggy Dogg, mistress of ceremonies LaToya Pearson describes each style. She sets the scene for skits that at Miami Hair Wars 1999 ranged from the laboratory of a mad stylist who tinkers with a machine that spits out models done up as a fantastically coifed she-wolf, the Bride of Frankenstein, and Vampira, to a lush re-creation of Cleopatra's Nile with muscular male models carrying the queen on a divan accompanied by a bevy of ladies in waiting bobbing their hairdos in an Egyptian dance.
Dawn Harrell of the Perrine beauty shop Turning Heads By Dawn closed last year's Hair Wars with a rousing finale. A dozen models in animal prints worked their bodies on all fours, with nary a delicately laid, highly sprayed hair falling out of place. Harrell does not want to give away any secrets before this year's events, but she promises a number influenced by the Far East. “I just like wild creative hairstyles,” the tress artist confesses. “Hair Wars gives you a sense of release, because you can experiment with your creativity in ways that you wouldn't normally be able to do with your clients.”
If Hair Wars is a creative outlet for stylists, black hair care also is a social mission for David Humphries. “Blacks spend so much money in hair care,” Hump says solemnly. “They may be broke, but they want to look good. It's important to keep the people beautiful.” May the force of the follicle be with you.