Head Trip! Afro Is Back: Calling All Curly Grrrls

Stop picking on lesbians! They don’t all look like Johnny Cash!

Characterizing lesbians as grotesques is fast becoming a national sport-and because of the un-P.C. fun that can be derived, one in which I have always happily participated. At various times in this column, I have likened gay women to Winston Churchill and Quasimodo. In my defense, I have said far worse things about myself-and even more in my defense, a cursory glance at New York’s recent Gay Pride Parade confirms the uncomfortable accuracy of the lesbotic stereotype. The fact is that many gay women do indeed have Samoan proportions and/or an uncanny resemblance to Huey Lewis.

So why the change of heart? Why am I calling off the dogs? The truth is, my gay elder sister Shelagh (who is quite petite and pretty), and her equally lissome belly-dancer partner, have vowed to beat the crap out of me unless I make a concerted effort to focus public attention on the non-stereotypical members of their sisterhood. I am, forthwith, fully committed to putting “Manhattan munchers” up where they belong-even if I get a hernia in the process-starting with this column, where I will focus on the most unstereotypical glamour-lesbian in Manhattan.

She’s the hottest hairdresser du jour . I’m talking about Edris, the meatpacking-district legend who is currently kicking the tight asses of those stereotypically nelly gay men who normally dominate her chosen field.

“I always wanted to challenge the myth that women don’t understand women,” said the gorgeous, black, St. Vincent–born Edris, a svelte 39, when I interviewed her recently as she lounged in the lofty Asian-inspired splendor of her packed West 14th Street salon. With its exposed brick walls and bowls of orange gerber daisies, the décor can best be described as “meat-market Zen.”

Miss E.-whose last name is Nicholls but only uses her first name, à la Kenneth and Oribe-feels her lesbian world view affords her a creatively detached view of gender. “I think femininity is wonderful,” she purred, toying with the Minnie Mouse pom-poms into which her Afro had been constrained on this particular day. “I love alluring glamour.” For the current Rocawear print ads, she created a “Diahann Carroll look” for Naomi Campbell, weaving and coiffing those super-processed tresses into a bouffant bob.

Edris is a proud black sister, and though her customers are ethnically diverse, her personal clients include many of the city’s most glamorous African-American overachievers (e.g., Iman and Barneys P.R. diva Dawn Brown). When I challenged the locks-smith to prescribe the summer 2003 hairdo for chicks of all races and proclivities, I wasn’t surprised by her response. “Afro,” said Edris without missing a beat. “I’m very into National Geographic hair. I started growing mine right after 9/11.” According to Edris, “Everyone in this town-Jews and blacks-is torturing their hair with chemicals to straighten it. With an Afro, all you need to do is soften the hair slightly with a relaxer and voilà -Angela Davis!”

Do you need Angela Davis’ cheekbones to pull it off? “You don’t need to be black and beautiful to have an Afro,” replied Edris, whose long fingers inaugurated and tended Macy Gray’s ‘fro for three years. “You just need to have an interesting face-and condition, condition, condition!” (She recommends Kerastase Oleo-Relax; F.Y.I., Afro picks with a Black-Power-fist handle are still snaggable for $2.50 at Ray Beauty Supply, 45th Street and Eighth Avenue.)

This former computer techie’s story is heartwarming and peculiarly American: Edris’ dreams of running her own salon, which she does with the help of her Aussie girlfriend Toni and a staff of 11, were hatched during the late 80′s and early 90′s, during the media-created Lipstick Lesbian movement. Edris’ vocational epiphany came to her while moving and grooving on the same dance floor as Sandra Bernhard, model Jenny Shimizu et al. at the original Clit Club. Coincidentally, the boîte was directly downstairs from the location over which she currently presides. “I knew I wanted to do hair, but I never dreamt I would have my own salon right upstairs,” recalled Edris, who happily remembers meeting Madonna on the Clit Club stoop. Ah, those were the days!

Re Jewfros: Imagine if all the Jewish girls in Manhattan ditched the pricey, follicle-shriveling blowouts to which they have submitted for a solid decade and grew a Jewfro this summer as per Edris? Don’t laugh! It’s not as ludicrous as it sounds. The ass-kicking Cleopatra Jones tough chic of an Afro is certainly more assonant with, for example, Hamptons correspondent Lizzie Grubman’s persona than her current, über -Nordic, ultra-blond, little-girl-lost look. Edris charges $165 for a cut. Call 212-989-6800 for an appointment.

Right on, already!