Lesbian hair is usually the punch line to a joke that starts with mullet and ends with crew cut. It’s rarely the winner of a competition pitting hairdressers and stylists from the country’s top salons against each other. Dee Adames matched wits with every salon stereotype from gay-male-catty-fabulousness to bitchy-sister-back-stabbing and won Bravo’s Shear Genius in 2008.
Reality television stars stand out because of an alchemy of fluid personality and leather-tough skin. Dee’s talent, tenacity and artist’s instinct for color and design were among the secret weapons she brought to the show. Being its first, out lesbian only added another tint to the fashionable winner. She’s been out since high school and called it a “combination of obvious” on Shear Genius.
“I made it a point to give my signature; wore tights a lot, mentioned a girlfriend, said things to make it obvious I was gay. I just am who I am.” And who she is, is a woman on a mission to give good hair to her clients both through her salon and through training other stylists to do the same.
Dee threatens to not even cut a “faux hawk” because “it’s already a decade old.” That doesn’t mean she won’t give a customer what they want. Most people come into her shop and say, “Do what you want to do.” She begins educating her clients in the mirror during their consultation. The first five minutes reveal her clients’ goals for their hair, what their limitations are in length and color and who referred them.
“Color and cut is what I do best,” she said. “Color enhances the cut.” An alumna of Miami’s International Fine Arts College, she speaks fondly of her relationship to the palette. “I paint with hair color. Everything stems from primary colors – red, blue, yellow – mix, match, blend, highlight. There are so many things to do with color to create a masterpiece.”
Some of which are paintings at her new salon, Dee&Co, on Collins Avenue in Miami’s South Beach. She’s working on a full collection to match the design and décor the way her current hair color mirrors it in red and black.
Dee, raised in San Antonio by a single parent she lovingly calls “her home girl,” has come a long way from the projects where she grew up and “rolled Chicano style.” She learned the value of hard work from her mother’s example. The desire for security and to provide for her Mom were two driving factors in applying to the show.
She said her mother has “been my hero, my best friend. When I came out, like any other parent she had concerns but they were short lived. She definitely accepts me for who I am.” Her mother was her date on the show’s finale when Dee won.
Shear Genius has allowed her to establish Dee&Co in her new high-rent neighborhood, “winning the show catapulted me” – to a second-floor spot across the beach which makes clients feel like they’re in somebody’s apartment.
Upon arriving, guests are seated in a living room area and offered wine, coffee or tea. They fill out an information page, are introduced to their stylist then move to a design station. Guests are ushered to a shampoo lounge and receive a “shampoo experience” including a scalp massage and a shoulder rub. Men receive a “tea tree experience” and warm towel.
Considering the rapport between hairstylist and client, it almost sounds therapeutic. Dee agreed, “There are things you’ll tell your stylist not your partner. It’s a personal service. You’re touching someone’s head, where their thoughts come from.”
Another innovation is the color bar. It’s been moved from the stylist station and there are no mirrors. Clients sit at the bar and witness the chemical magic of color mixing. Her professional formula’s results are continuity and loyalty.
Some of Dee’s clients have been with her for eleven years, following her from her beginnings in Coconut Grove when she was fresh out of beauty school. “My business point of view is to do hair with love and passion. I’ve never been driven by power and ego. I love what I do. I don’t work a day in my life. I create art.”
And she creates opportunity for the members of her team, starting with an apprenticeship program that identifies new hires fresh out of beauty school as Rising Stars. They’re responsible for the shampoo experience, blow-drying and some haircutting. They progress to Assistant Hair Artist through Advanced Hair Artist then arrive at Master Stylist; one of the two on staff is her first boss from her very first salon job. Everyone on the Dee&Co team takes his or her turn doing Dee’s hair.
Mentoring new stylists echoes Dee’s professional experience. Hairstylist Linda Martens and her daughter Sherry were the Miami distributors for Paul Mitchell where Dee did graphic design. They were the first to encourage her to combine her artistic vision with the ever-changing canvas of an individual’s hair.
Dee created a freestyle cutting approach to hair combining wet-cutting with dry-cutting techniques. During the Miami Pride “cut-a-thon” her booth raised $1,300 the day of the event. Cut-a-thons are a part of her salon’s culture of giving back. Her first one raised over $2,000 in a day for Haiti earthquake relief. She is collecting hair as part of the gulf oil spill effort throughwww.matteroftrust.org.
Between running her new salon, training new stylists, donating her time and opening the new Dee&Co Academy, she also works the international beauty show circuit. She’s usually on the main stage as spokesperson for Hattori Hanzo Shears; the company creating Dee’s own line.
These days, Dee is “super busy” but has found a way to balance her many efforts with a run or a swim at the beach she’s now so close to. During the interview, while walking along that beach in a bathing suit and shorts, she’s interrupted by a passerby. “I just got the best compliment ever. ‘You’re beautifully handsome and you’ve got gorgeous hair.’ I pointed her to the salon.”