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Hair’s Looking at You

It was a hairy situation, so to speak, at the Radisson Hotel by LAX last Sunday night as Hair Wars, a traveling event started by Hump the Grinder (a.k.a. David Humphries) in Detroit 15 years ago, celebrated its 10th anniversary in L.A. with a sass-’n’-frass runway presentation that showcased some of the most innovative designers working in the black hair industry. Tress titans from around the country weaved, ironed, braided, wrapped, glued and formed millions of strands of hair — real and synthetic — into imagination-defying ’dos.

Styles ranged from Afro- to Anglocentric, from wearable chic to showstopping fantasy: intricate cornrows ending in an explosion of texture and color, spiky hair punking out in pink, perky ponytails, all manner of layered shags small and tall, a blue-tinted Jeannie-esque upsweep topped by a disco ball. In fact, with a little Styrofoam, wiring and bundles of hair extensions, it seemed there was no shape that couldn’t be created — a car tire, hair tiered like a wedding cake to breathtaking heights, a flower. Even skirts, bra tops and, of course, hair shirts. Pure invention.

Hair and outfit by Steven Noss, Weave Artistry International, Pittsburgh Model: Erin Green

Steven Noss created a heliport with a “hairycopter” perched atop that he managed to get airborne for a few moments. He came out onstage with a remote control to facilitate takeoff, but the white boy from Pittsburgh wasn’t allowed to leave the stage until he “showed the soul in him,” requested the MC, with a booty dance. He happily shook his groove thang. Kevin Carter, Detroit-based and a 10-year veteran of the Hair Wars tour, offered up beyond–Las Vegas creations with the Lily, the Spider, and the E-Bride. He added a bit of drama by applying the finishing touches onstage — snapping one last bloom into the Lily, and adding another layer of web into the Spider that made clearing the stage lighting a dubious proposition.

Hair by Kevin Carter, Salon Jacqueline, Detroit Model: Porsha Patterson

While a few designers, such as Carter and Noss, showed their lock looks with a traditional runway presentation, most of the “hair entertainers” had dozens of models performing choreographed dance routines, with nods to old school, new school, middle school, live rappers and even that old standby, lip synching. And size didn’t matter: Large, larger and largest beauties shimmied and flounced down the runway. Sometimes more is fabulously more.

Yet despite the often complicated concoctions being worked on — some designers started building months ago — backstage was refreshingly calm and friendly. No screaming. No attitude. No dagger eyes. No noses pointed heavenward. Such tranquility apparently breeds punctuality, because the show not only started on time but ran like clockwork.

Hair by Kevin Carter, Salon Jacqueline, Detroit Model: Andria Harmon

Among the mane attractions was quick-witted MC LaToya Pearson, who kept things rolling with a queen-of-stream-of-consciousness delivery — and a biting sense of humor. After introducing celebrity guest Antonio Fargas (a.k.a. Huggy Bear), she called Michael Jordan to the stage. As the audience oohed, aahed and looked around, she quipped, Michael Jordan from Slauson BBQ, that is. Pearson called out the church girl and invoked the spirit, rapped about spiked hair, named every type of ponytail (including some that don’t exist), sang, switched into robot-speak, then ended the first act by bringing the audience together to give her a big round of applause. She deserved it.

Hair by Vivian Williams, Gold Comb Hair Gallery, San Diego Model: Tajh Rodgers Hair by Jonathan Bogan, Healthy Hair Academy, Inglewood Model: Mickaela Jacob Hair and outfit by Steven Noss, Weave Artistry International, Pittsburgh Model: Desirée Green Hair and oufit by Lisa B., Turning Heads Hair Salon, Oakland Model: Nicole Johnson