Danny Harris is a DC-based photographer, DJ, and collector of stories. He launched People’s District, a blog that tells a people’s history of DC by sharing the stories and images of its residents. You can follow People’s District on Twitter @PeoplesDistrict, and can read his previous columns here.
“My parents are both in the beauty business. Being Colombian, beauty was always something really important to them. My Mom won a beauty pageant in Colombia and still today, she prides herself on having good taste and looking good. Growing up, I had to tell all of my ex-boyfriends to stop checking my Mom out! I guess you can say that she is holding on to what she’s got really well.
“For me, I appreciate beauty, but try and keep things simple. I was born and raised in Cleveland Park, and even though we would go to Colombia for the whole summer every other year, I was more into grunge rock and spending time in my neighborhood. Cleveland Park was such a safe and nice place to grow up. I have so many nice memories of this place. As kids, we had a running tab at the 7-11 when it was owned by the Koreans. When we were locked out of the house, the firemen would come let us in for free. The nice manager of the People’s Drugstore used to give me free milkshakes. The cashier at the Safeway used to call me Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. It was a really nice community and a great place to raise kids.
“Since I also spent a lot of time in Colombia, I appreciate feeling connected to those two communities. I learned a lot from my Colombia culture, but I also don’t like that facade where everything has to be perfectly done. Down there, everyone is so polished and finished because you are judged on looks there. Even when you go to a bank, all of the top offices are filled with these perfectly manicured women with mini-skirts and make up. I guess that is how women get ahead down there.
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“Because I have a lot of family there, my aunts would always want to take me out and get our nails done and go to spas. I liked it, but they were going every few days. I mean, I still had new polish on and they already wanted to go back. I like to be all shaved and neat, but that was just too much for me. Plus, I didn’t want to send out a message that hey, I am wealthy, come and kidnap me.
“When I decided to follow my parents into hair school, I wanted to take my own approach to beauty. What I really don’t like is when people say that D.C. is the Hollywood for ugly people or that we are all 9-5ers with bad hair. Everybody here is not ugly and one-dimensional. I think that people here can be very versatile and I wanted to help embrace that.
“I see so many people who are very conservative at work, but are completely different outside of the office. One guy I know is really religious and helps out at his church, but also is into going to bondage clubs. In a small way, how someone does their hair can reflect those two sides of D.C. I like to talk with my clients and find out about their work and naughty sides and bring that out with their hair. Maybe I will put some pink streaks in someone’s or give them a faux hawk that can also look clean and professional by day, but can be done up at night. To me, these people are the reality of the city more than the Washington bob haircut-types.
“You know, when I was finishing high school, my Mom pushed the whole, you are first generation, go to college line. My Dad promised me that if I went to hair school instead, I would be more successful than my friends who went to college. I tried to listen to them both and went to college and hair school, but at the end, hair school won out. I learned that my Dad was right, and it is nice to know that I can help people here show their true sides through how they look.”
Lucy Mendizabal-Gil is a stylist at Imaj Salon at 3301 Connecticut Ave NW.