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.

From the Web

More on Vibe

Gary Gershoff

Jussie Smollett Cut From Forthcoming Broadway Play

Jussie Smollett has lost a starring role in a forthcoming Broadway play in the wake of his hate crime scandal. The actor was reportedly nipped from the Broadway reboot of the Tony-winning play, Take Me Out, the Daily Mail reports.

Smollett was originally cast to play the main character Darren Lemming, an interracial baseball player who comes out a gay at the height of his career. Ironically, the character also suffers a racial and homophobic attack by a teammate.

The actor previously read for the role only one day before his alleged attack in Chicago in Jan. 2019. A source close to Broadway told the British newspaper that Smollett and his co-star Zachary Quinto's castings were going to be announced in Mar. 2019, but "everything shifted" after Smollett was arrested and charged on the suspicion of staging his own hate crime and stalling a police investigation.

Smollett's disorderly conduct case has since been dropped, but the city of Chicago is suing the actor for $130,000 for the time wasted on his extensive investigation. Jussie didn't appear in the last two episodes of Empire's fifth season, but he is expected to return to the hit Fox series in the upcoming season.

Continue Reading
Parrish Lewis/SHOWTIME

‘The Chi’ Recap: Ep. 2 Shows That Hustling Humanity Is The Key To Surviving The Jungle

How does one survive in a jungle? How does one survive in an environment where volatility is the norm and there’s no observed rule of law outside of one’s own self-interest?

The characters in The Chi have had to figure that out for more than a season and especially after the vicious assault on 73-year-old Ms. Ethel in the Season Two premiere. Detective Toussaint (Crystal Dickinson), the new detective investigating the assault, described Chicago as “a f**king jungle.” The new episode, entitled “Every Day I’m Hustlin,’” made the primary survival tactic in this jungle clear: You must hustle your humanity.

Out of all of the nefarious characters in The Chi universe, it’s Brandon’s girlfriend Jerrika Little (Tiffany Boone) who employs that tactic the clearest in this episode. She does so in pristine offices, decadent fundraisers in expensive courtyards and her fancy apartment. In The Chi, a jungle can take many shapes, but the hustle remains essential.

Jerrika comes from affluent parents who are real estate developers and judge people’s value by what they do for a living. Her father, while disparaging her choice to date Brandon, says he didn’t “spend 100 grand on Spelman for [her] to marry a cook,” as if his daughter’s life is a property he’s added improvements to in hopes of a large return on his investment. Even though Jerrika is displeased with her parent’s emotionless pragmatism, the episode shows how she’s internalized their worldview and it is that view that is the impetus of her hustle.

As a real estate agent of her own, Jerrika abandons her blackness in order to land a six-figure deal for a housing property funded by black business woman Harriet Brown (Jacqueline Williams). Sitting in her office, with her degrees and achievements decking the walls behind her, Brown rejects Jerrika’s proposal for the inclusion of low-income housing and pejoratively refers to black people seeking low-income housing as “those people” that will ruin your property. You can almost see the battle between Jerrika’s blackness and her career aspirations waged in her head as she twitches in her seat, rattles her fingers on the desk and leaves an uncomfortably long pause between Brown’s dismissal and her response.

But, Jerrika changes her stance and even says she personally wouldn’t recommend low-income housing because, for her, upward social mobility is tantamount to survival, and not that easy to vilify. This idea of feeling forced to abandon your blackness in the pursuit of mobility in business is an obstacle millions of black women face in their respective fields. In 2010, Chasity Jones had a customer service representative job offer rescinded from Catastrophe Management Solutions due to her having dreadlocks; a decision the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals deemed legal in 2016. When the law of the land doesn’t protect you, then jungle rules apply, and sometimes that involves camouflaging.

Young Money APAA sports agent Nicole Lynn is one of the few black women certified to be a sports agent. She’s made it to a rarified space partly by not fully being herself. “I still have never worn braids at the NFL Combine. I’m not there yet. I still have an act of ‘covering.’ Covering is when you hide something about yourself to conform to dominant culture,” Lynn said in a recent interview. Realities such as these show how dismissing Jerrika’s decisions as simply bad belies the difficulty of being black in a world where advancement is harder for you than for anyone else.

Jerrika isn’t the only one in the episode with their humanity and their hustle at odds. At a mediation between Emmett and the mother of his son, Tiffany (Hannah Hall), to establish financial support for the child, Emmett learns he’ll have to hustle to get a piece of his humanity back. The normally boisterous Emmett whimpers to almost a despondent whisper when he rhetorically asks the mediator, “I got to pay for my son, but I can’t see him?” Emmett’s situation evokes similar emotional conflicts as Jerrika as the cards seem to be stacked against Emmett, but it’s largely due to his own personal faults.

The most vicious example of the battle between hustle and humanity occurs following the passing of Junie, a friend to Reg (Barton Fitzpatrick) and the gang he leads. For a few minutes, as the young black men that are part of the gang watch social media videos of their fallen friend in their dilapidated trap house, you can see the compassion in those young men who, more than likely, have had to do inhumane acts for their gang. But, in less than a minute, Reg convinces his group to abandon any emotional mourning of their lost friend and instead honor his legacy by hustling more to get money to pay to the leadership of the 63rd St Mob to avoid being murdered.

In The Chi, emotions can be hindrances to survival, leaving a chasm between one’s hustle and one’s humanity that, for some, is irreparable. It’ll be interesting to see what’s left of the people in The Chi after they’ve given away pieces of their humanity to survive.

Continue Reading
Getty Images

Netflix To Air African Children's Series, 'Mama K’s Team 4'

Netflix will continue to bring exciting content to its platform, and for the first time ever, a children’s series from Africa will be brought to the popular streaming service.

According to Variety, Mama K’s Team 4 is produced by South Africa’s Triggerfish Animation Studios and CAKE, a British kids’ and family entertainment production company. The series follows four teenagers who live in a futuristic version of Lukasa, Zambia. They are called on to save the world by a retired secret agent.

“[Mama K’s Team 4] was created by Zambian writer Malenga Mulendema, who in 2015 was one of eight winners of the Triggerfish Story Lab, a pan-African talent search backed by the Cape Town-based animation studio and The Walt Disney Co.,” Variety continues. “The series is designed by the Cameroonian artist Malcolm Wope.”

Even better, Netflix is also working with Triggerfish and CAKE to find a local Pan-African writer to join “Mama K’s” creative team. 

“In addition to giving African writers a global platform on which to be heard, we are excited to present this powerful and entertaining new animated series that brings Malenga’s incredible and unique vision to life on Netflix,”  Melissa Cobb, vice president of original animation at Netflix, said in a statement. “‘Mama K’s Team 4’ has the potential to give a whole new generation of African children the opportunity to see themselves on screen in the powerful, aspirational characters they look up to.”

Netflix is also home to Queen Sono, which is the first African Original Series to stream on the platform.

Continue Reading

Top Stories