BE-Style: Who is Derek Jae?
DJ: Well I am from Toledo, Ohio. Some people think that I am from a big, fancy city but I’m not. This is wear I went to cosmetology and became a licensed hair stylist. So I’ve been doing hair now for about 10 years. Shortly after moving to Atlanta, I was going to fashion school and there was this hairstylist that needed an assistant, so I started working with her. From there, I started getting into the video world, to print, to modeling. I was becoming heavily involved in the industry but I decided to step away for a minute. There were a lot of “Catty” situations and I didn’t like that feeling. I didn’t like not being able to trust anyone and always having to watch my back. You never knew who was on your side. So I decided to leave that environment. I was gone for about 2-3 years and when I returned, I came back as a competitor in the hair industry. And from there everything just started popping off. From me already having a presence in the industry, people just started calling. They were saying, “I heard you did this” or “ I love what you did for a particular client, could you come do something for me?” So I took many of the offers and the next thing I knew, all this was coming about, reality shows and celebrity clients.
BE-Style: Do you remember when we met? I was the front desk manager at K-Rock’s Salon and you were one of the hairstylists working there.
DJ: Yes I do. And you know, at that time, I wasn’t even thinking about any of this. I wasn’t even Derek Jae back then, I was just Derek. (Smirk) That’s the time I was working with DeeDee and doing videos and it just wasn’t my speed. It takes a certain type of person to deal with the mess that was going on in the industry and I’m just not that kind of person. So, I left K-Rock’s Salon. I went to work at the Aveda Salon. So I am Aveda, Vidal Sassoon, and Van Michael’s trained. Yes, I am credentialed up the whaaazzoo.
BE-Style: So after obtaining all of your training and working at these various salons, is that when everything started to turn for you?
DJ: Well you know when I started doing the competitions; I was just doing because I like to compete. I had no idea that by me traveling to different cities all of the country was starting to brand my name. I was thinking that I was just doing what I wanted to not knowing that I as helping myself while doing it. As a result, people in the industry began to recognize my name and work. I believe in one year, I had done like 20-something shows. This was before TV or anything. This was even before the heels; I was still wearing tennis shoes back then… I started doing platform work with Bronner Brothers and people would just come up and say to me, “Oh I saw you in New York; I saw you in Baltimore; I loved you in DC. I didn’t know that I was actually making that kind of impression of people. It was at that moment, I realized that I needed to do a little more to set me apart from the other hairstylists. I decided to start building a brand. I knew that I loved sneakers, so I would go to favorite spot and buy 3 of the most fly pairs of tennis shoes and wear a new pair on each day of competition. As I result, I became known as “the guy with the hot tennis shoes.” so I knew that I wanted to shoes to be apart of my branding.
BE-Style: Is this how the high-heels came about?
DJ: Actually, no it wasn’t. It was about three years ago, I was getting ready for my birthday party with a cream dress code so I went out shopping at the last minute and found these cream pants just happened to be to long. With the time frame, I could not get anyone to hem them I didn’t know what I was going to do. My friend suggested that I go get a pair of heels. I thought he had lost his mind. I was like, “I’m not wearing no f*kn heels, are you crazy, LOL.” He assured me that no one would be able to tell with the length of the pants, it would just look like I was wearing boots. So I went out and got a pair of boots and it turned out to be really cute. This was in November and the Bronner Brothers show was coming up in December, so I tried it again. On the first day, the crowd went crazy; which led me to going out and buying a pair for the second and third days. So I started wearing them to all the competitions and people started to notice me again, not only for my work but my footwear.
BE-Style: So explain your presence on all of the Internet sites, TV, and film?
DJ: Well that started with me doing Tears, Shears, and Beauty on BETJ for two seasons and I wore heels during the entire taping of that. From there, I was like a snowball effect. There were pictures of me taken from my myspace page and out at different places and posted all over the Internet. I was on BOSSIP.com, MediaTakeOut.com, and all the other gossip websites. So it took no time at all for people in different cities to begin to recognize me as the guy that wears the heels. I just continued to run with that and it has led to many opportunities for my brand. And one day I just got a call from the people with Real Housewives of Atlanta, asking me to come over to Kim Zolciak’s house, “right away for the wig party.” That led to a few more tapings on Housewives and Chris Rock was actually filming “Good Hair,” simultaneously.
BE-Style: Now we you’re at the JSpot, is that your salon?
DJ: Yes, I used the $20,000 from winning the Bronner Brothers hair show two years ago and opened my own salon.
BE-Style: What else can we expect to see from Derek Jae?
DJ: Along with being creative director for Kim’s wig line, I am doing more affordable line of wigs that will be available to the product. I am also coming out with a product line and styling tools coming out by the end of the year.
BE-Style: So what do think about this phrase they used frequently on Real Housewives, “the Atlanta Elite?”
DJ: Well I really don’t want to “go in” on that cause it would be a mess. LOL. but I will say this, “A lot of the parties and venues that are shown on the show are actually things that are held by the personalities on the show.” I really don’t see them in the invite only functions and social events that they claim to be apart of. So I don’t know who they consider to be “Atlanta’s elite.”
BE-Style: What are some suggestions do you have for our women readers?
DJ: Well first, I believe that there is no excuse for women to leave their homes looking a mess. There are so many options for fashion, make-up, and hair. I hope that more women start to wear wigs and explore their inner sexy. Also, I am not a fan of lace-fronts for a day-to-day wig. They are meant for performing and special events. They should know, it is not hard to go out and buy pair of inexpensive pumps then match with a pant suit or dress that they already own but gives them a fresh look. You know I have been so honored by the stories of all the women that email me and tell me how I have influenced them to go out and buy their first pair of heels and decide to dress sexier. When they see a man of my height and build wearing heals and a suit, they feel like there should be no excuse for them not being able to pull it together.
BE-Style: I will be the first to say that, “the other men of Atlanta that wear heels, have NOTHING on you…. What’s your take on that?
DJ: I’ve said it before; I don’t wear heels just to say that I’m in Gucci or Prada. There is no comparison. I am not a man wanting to wear pumps, Derek Jae is a brand. Out of the 300 pairs of shoes that I own, including sneakers, I believe the most expensive pair of pumps I own would be a pair of Stuart Weitzman, and that is a conscious decision. Now that I know women look at me and are influenced by my choices, I want them to go buy that pair of Jessica Simpson, Nine West, Christian Siriano, or Bakers that are comfortable to their feet.
BE-Style: What would your final words BE to our readers?
DJ: I just want everyone to know that the Derek Jae you see in the skinny jeans and heels with a handbag, is all for sho
w. This is brand that I have created and I am going to continue to work it with confidence and passion for what I do. Anything that you have a passion for, you have to believe in yourself and your talents and don’t let anyone stop you. But remember to demand respect in all you do because it doesn’t matter if I am wearing heels and sneakers, you will “Respect Me.”