Real Housewives Of ATL's Lawrence Washington Talks Being An Openly Gay Artist
Lawrence Washington, Sheree Whitfield’s cross dressing hairstylist, is becoming a break out star of Real Housewives of Atlanta. The style connoisseur, also known as Miss Lawrence, owns the Lawrence Washington Atlanta Salon and has been doing hair since he was 15. Some of his stellar clientele has included Ciara, Kenya Moore, Jennifer Holiday and Serena Williams. However, he’s ready to start pursuing another passion⎯music.
Coincidentally, he and Kandi are alum of the same performing arts high school where they both studied music. Their paths never crossed in school because of their age difference but a chance conversation shortly after the release of “Tardy For The Party” got the ball rolling for he and Kandi to collaborate. The first single from Lawrence’s forthcoming but unfinished album is called “Closet Freak” (penned by Kandi).
Viewers saw a sneak peak of the song being recorded but Lawrence says stay tuned because there’s more to come. Overall, he describes his musical style as sexy and androgynous and says that it’s the right time more than ever to bring a gay artist to the forefront. Yet he’s not afraid of negative feedback because he says being himself trumps everything else, and it’s as simple as that. VIBE caught up with the feisty style maven to get his formula for self-confidence and plans for musical success. ⎯Starrene Rhett
VIBE: Tell us about your background in relation to how you got into the hairstyling business.
Lawrence Washington: I’m originally from Atlanta, I’ve been here all my life, it’s home. I’ve always had a passion for beauty. I love looking at beautiful women. I love aiding them in makeup and hair or whatever the case may be. It started with my mother, I was playing in my mom’s hair and playing in my sister’s hair and playing with makeup so once I got to a certain age and knew that that was where I belonged in the beauty industry I just kind of jumped into it. Along with that I was really practicing and focusing on my vocal ability as well. I did a lot of singing between the ages of 12 and 18, I took a break from it and then when I got into the beauty industry I found who I really was which, I call myself Miss Lawrence and that’s who I really am.
How’d you become Sheree’s stylist?
I’ve been knowing Sheree for years. I met Sheree at her store, Bella Azul. I was shopping there and she probably thought I was crazy, buying blouses and Catherine Malandrino tops and lace pants and all kinds of stuff but anyway, we just hit it off at her store. We would go out to dinner and hang out at the bar and when the show idea came along, I don’t think she had a primary hairstylist so I thought it would be good to do her hair for the show and that’s how I became her hairstylist.
You called yourself, “Miss.” Do you identify yourself as a woman?
You know, I know who I am. I am a male that believes in expressing your inner being and I don’t have any holdbacks. I believe you have one life to live and you should live every day like it’s your last and if you feel that there’s anything that you wanted to do or you feel that you’re supposed to do then you should do it. But me cross dressing⎯that’s what I would call it⎯that’s who I am. I feel very comfortable in women’s clothes⎯the shoes and the handbags⎯that’s just who I am so that’s what I will do.
So what’s the diffence between cross dressing and dressing in drag?
I think the difference between the two are that being in drag is like you’re putting on the fake breasts and wear the big hair⎯the gowns and all that type of stuff. I don’t do that type of stuff. So to me that would be the difference. I don’t put in the butt pads and the temporary hip implants, I don’t do all that. To me that’s drag so I’m just a cross dresser. I like a good Christian Louboutin or a Chanel handbag or something like that.
Word on the street is that you pioneered a movement of men in Atlanta wearing women’s clothing.
No. I consider myself to be the blueprint of the boys getting up in the heels and the handbags and stuff. It’s been around for yours but I consider myself to be one of the ones to bring it to the forefront. There’s been some gay guys doing It for years, granted, but in terms of being cross over and taking it mainstream, I must say that I am the blueprint of that.
As far as your music career, wow’d you link up with Kandi and decide to move forward with being an artist?
It’s funny because after she did “Tardy For the Party” with Kim I said, “Wow, she really did a good job with that,” and then we were somewhere and I told her that she just blew me away with her performance and I, “You are so talented, you make me want to get back into the music thing,” and she said she had been toying with the idea of wanting to work with an openly gay artist and it just kinda went from there. I love to sing, it’s one of the things that I do every morning. I think about singing pretty much all day but that’s the first thing I usually do in the morning. So, when she said that, I told her to let me give it a shot. I think now more than ever would be time for an openly gay artist. Years ago you had Sylvester but I just don’t think the world was ready for Sylvester yet. But I think now more than ever it’s time because you have the gay reality shows and the whole homosexual lifestyle is being brought to the forefront so it’s time to bring a gay artist to the forefront and I’m excited that she chose me to be the product of choice.
What you bring to the game?
My style is very androgynous and I’m very forward. I think I’m super sexy⎯at least I feel super sexy and I think I’m going to add even more sex appeal to the industry. I’m going to try to get up there with Beyonce because to me, she is the ruler of sex when it comes to performing, I just love her. And Lady GaGa. So I guess you would mix the sexyness of Beyonce with the androgynous feel of Lady GaGa.
You’re obviously very confident but how do you respond to the criticism that might come your way?
I’ve been flamboyant for a long time. I grew up gay so I’m kind of numb and oblivious to negative comments and negative feedback so it doesn’t bother me at all. I don’t pay attention to haters. I consider myself to be a jewel because not many people are confident enough to be who they are or to be who they were called here to be so I consider myself a jewel because not a lot of people are confident enough to be who they really are or to be who they were called here to be so when you’re a jewel you’re gonna shine regardless, in the middle of hateration and negativity.
When was the defining moment for you where you said, “This is me?”
I was in high school. I’ve always been flamboyant, like I said, even when I was in middle school. I wore boy clothes then because my parents bought them for me but honey, I would wear little leather vests. Now, what little boy in middle school would wear stuff like that [laughs]?
And in the south at that!
Yeah [laughs]. By high school I had lost all my baby fat. I was slim with a small waist and all that so I was getting up in these tight pants and I was wearing these little cowgirl boots. I wasn’t wearing heels yet. I didn’t start wearing heels until 2001 or 2002⎯something like that. I wore my first pair when I went to a Prince concert and ever since then it’s been all she wrote. They’re just so sexy to me and they feel natural.
There’s a lot of a push these days to end bullying and to convince victims that life gets better. What advice do you have for someone who is afraid to be something that feels natural to them?
My advice to someone who is afraid of embracing who they really are is to ask themselves, “Do I know when my last day is gonna be?” and I’m sure their answer is gonna be no. So, my advice would be to let that be the moment that you decide to live like you’ve never lived before. And that involves you giving in to your inner being, finding out exactly who you are. Don’t be flamboyant because I’m flamboyant or because somebody else is flamboyant. Do what defines who you are and just live. Always put God first and just know that he’s a provider and a protector and with him you can stand through anything.