Derek J


The Real Housewives of Atlanta” fans fell head over Derek J‘s fabulous heels. The celebrity hairstylist sashayed into Kim Zolciak‘s home wearing a pair of his signature stilettos to host her wig party as a prelude to launching her own wig collection. had to catch up with the ultimate divo, who owns Atlanta’s luxurious and very exclusive J Spot Salon (appointment is by referral only), to find out about his signature hairstyle (“I don’t have one,” says Derek. “I just make women fabulous.”), his enviable shoe collection (tops 300 pair), and how he’s handling his newfound fame when everyone, including Oprah’s bestie Gayle King, knows his name.

ESSENCE.COM: How did you become part of the show?
I knew NeNe, Lisa, and Kandi because I was doing their hair, but I had never met Kim. I got a call one day, asking me to visit Kim’s house, which was an hour away. I was told to be there in 20 minutes, so I made it happen. When I arrived, I was told about her wig party and that I was going to help. I guess she liked what I did because shortly after the party a producer told me, “you’re a cast member now.”

ESSENCE.COM: Congratulations! What has been the reaction to your appearance on the show?
It’s surreal to me. I still feel funny when somebody says, “Can I have your autograph?” It’s crazy to me that people that I am a fan of, like celebrities, are saying they are fans of mine. When I met Nia Long, she was like, “You’re so fabulous. I talk about you all the time!” I’m like. “Really? Cause you’re like, Nia Long? I like, love you!”

ESSENCE.COM: How’d you get into doing hair?
My aunt did hair at home and I would watch. I noticed that when she changed a woman’s hair, it would give that woman an emotional change too. I was amazed at how a woman could come in with an attitude, but getting her hair done and feeling beautiful made her forget everything. When I do a client’s hair and she cries, I’m a wimp. I get to crying too.

ESSENCE.COM: You do hair for Nicole Ari Parker, Angie Stone and Tweet. Is Kim one of your clients now too?
No! I love her, but she’s too damn much for me. She lives an hour away and wants me to come to her house three times a week to wash her wig! I tell her to just drop it off at the shop. My car’s on a lease. I got to watch my miles (laughs). It’s not worth it to me to go out to her house to spend 20 minutes washing her wig for $500 and spend two hours in traffic. I told her, “We need to be friends. I can’t.”

ESSENCE.COM: (Laughs.)Tell us about your fantastic shoes! When did you buy your first pair?
Four years ago, I was having a birthday party and found these pants the day of the event. There was no time to get them hemmed, so I bought a pair of heels—red boots that I still have actually—and wore those. The pants fit fabulous! I have about 300 pair, mostly Stuart Weitzman and Nine West since they make great shoes for my size 11s. I keep them in boxes with pictures on the outside. I love heels. They make me walk sexier.

ESSENCE.COM: This is a big year for you because you’re also featured in Chris Rock‘s new documentary,”Good Hair.” Are you excited about the release?
I didn’t know it was going to be a movie. I taped two years ago, and back then I thought it would be an HBO documentary. When I saw the ads that it was coming to a movie theatre, I was nervous. I didn’t know how people were going to take me or the Black hair world. We do crazy, outlandish stuff. Some people take it as art, some people think what we do is ghetto. I think Chris did a really good job of capturing the essence of the Black hair industry and the creative and eccentric people in it. After I saw it I was happy.

People may best recognize you as Kim Zolciak’s hair stylist on ‘Real Housewives of Atlanta.’ Kim’s look is nothing without her wigs, do you feel at all responsible for creating her over-the-top look?
Yes, I do! She was a hot mess on the first season. [Laughs] I told her that there’s no reason she should have $300,000 worth of jewelry on, $200,000 worth of clothes and then you have a $50 wig! That just doesn’t make sense. She started to understand that, and I do feel responsible for helping create the monster that she is.

Are you still working with Kim on a wig line?
We’re still working together on it, but what it is, she wants the quality of the wig to the be same quality as what she wears … but that’s gonna cost the consumer $3,000! Everybody can’t get there. So I’m trying to get her out of that mind frame, to make the wig line consumer friendly. It’s hard for her to kind of grasp that.

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Video Tour of J-Spot Salon: