Fashion Queen Derek J rules on Bravo making yet another upcoming appearance on TV's The Real Housewives of Atlanta. He hosted Fashion Queens, which was modeled after Fashion Police, with friends Lawrence Washington and Bevy Smith.
He also has been in Chris Rock's movie Good Hair and Oxygen's Hair Battle Spectacular.
In addition, he runs the J Spot Salon in Georgia, and has made many appearances around the country earning a top spot in the Bronner Bros. International Hair Show. Windy City Times found the Toledo native at Chicago nightclub ESSO.
Windy City Times: Do you visit Chicago often?
Derek: I am from Ohio. I usually come to Chicago for the hair show so I haven't been here in a while. I thought it would be warmer but it is cold! I brought along a lot of sheer stuff that I can't use now. I love Chicago, but in the spring or the summer, even the fall,I can't do the winter.
WCT: I thought you were from Atlanta because of the show.
Derek: I was born and raised in Ohio. I have been in Atlanta 15 years now so I feel like it is my home.
WCT: How did you become a Real Housewives guest in the first place?
Derek: It was a crazy situation and I was at the right place at the right time. I had been on show on BET called Tears, Shears, and Beauty. I was in the movie Good Hair. So when I was in the club during Gay Pride Weekend, I met of the producers for the Real Housewives. He asked for my number and I thought nothing would happen. Six months passed and he called me. He told me to come to Kim Zolciak's house right away. The person that was hired to do it was in a car accident. I had 30 minutes to pull it together. During the second season of the Real Housewives, when I walked through that door, it was my first time meeting Kim. They liked our chemistry and kept me on.
WCT: You are not on her spinoff, Don't Be Tardy, are you?
Derek: No. Kim has all of those kids now so I can't handle that craziness! We text all the time.
WCT: How was coming out of the closet in Ohio?
Derek: I don't think I was ever in the closet. We just never talked about about it. In the Midwest culture that I was around, I was only gay at nightnever during the daytime. When I moved to Atlanta, someone tried to talk to me at the mall and I was trying to shop. That was not supposed to happen during the day! It was a big adjustment moving from Ohio to Atlanta because we didn't do things like that back home. I was used to living a regular life during the day and I did other things at night.
Now going back home, times have changed, things are different and much easier.
WCT: Did you always have an androgynous style?
Derek: No. That also came about in a crazy way. I did platform work for different hair companies. I had to think of a way to draw people over to my stage. That is where the heel wearing came about. I had to do something other than hair. Me being 5'3", my pants were too short so, instead of having them altered, I would just wear a pair of heels. I didn't start doing this until I was 24 years old.
WCT: Your show Fashion Queens has been a huge success.
Derek: Yes. Andy Cohen and Bravo didn't owe us nothing. They took me off of a reality show as a sidekick and put me into a talk show. We were able to talk about the look of fashion. The only thing we knew about fashion came from Joan Rivers,and Giuliana Rancic. You had to be tall, white and skinny. To put three brown-skinned [people] and think people [would watch] a show like thiswith two men that dress as women, and a Black woman of a certain age [talking] about fashion and culturewe thought, "We can do it, too."
We opened a lot of doors for people.
WCT: I love Bevy Smith.
Derek: That is my girl. She is over the top all the time! [Laughs]
WCT: She must be fun to work with.
Derek: Oh, she is.
WCT: Who are you admiring currently in the fashion world?
Derek: You know who is really killing the game? Not just in fashion but because she is iconic and came back, is that damn Janet Jackson. She is amazing. Janet came back and shut everything down! She says, "I want to let you guys know that I am still here. I can still look fabulous and dance. Y'all cannot keep up with me!"
WCT: That hair is like a mane.
Derek: She works it. She moves with it. I am so mad I missed her in Atlanta but when she comes back the second time I am [going] to the show.
WCT: Talk about the J Spot.
Derek: I have my salon, The J Spot, in Atlanta. I love my salon. That is what keeps me grounded. I love going to fashion events like this and dealing with people, but I just love transforming everyday women. Women appreciate what you do for them, giving them a new look. I am five years into that. It keeps me busy when I am not traveling. It is hectic but all worth it.
WCT: What else are you currently working on?
Derek: I have the Gay Like Me Project. It is for the LGBT community. There are no images of Black gay men that are not hairdressers, makeup artists or flight attendants. What I am doing is teaming up with firefighters and police officers to be able to tell their stories. I want to put out there that masculine and professional images of people that have done well.
I did research about young Black males in these situations but there is not much there. I feel like it is my duty to spread the word and let people know if they want to be a lawyer they can be one. You don't have to be this to be that. That is what I am working on right now. I am very excited. I have been talking about this for a long time. Everyone has been kicking me in the butt to do it. I had to focus on what my real passion is.
WCT: It must be easy to become distracted with so much going on.
Derek: It really is. I get invited to many things but I am just sitting down and doing it. I shoot my first video for it on Monday. I am very excited.
WCT: Are you on the Real Housewives of Atlanta this season?
Derek: Just a little bit with Phaedra Parks. We are finishing up the lawsuit storyline that I had from last season. I love all of those girls but once we did Fashion Queens it took me and Lawrence out of sidekick mode and gave us our own thing. You can't really go back to that life of being with the girls. Cynthia Bailey is having something tonight, but I had to be here.
WCT: I have heard she is a big supporter of the gay community.
Derek: Oh, she is. I got to know her when she first started on the show. She is even more amazing now.
Look for the Real Housewives of Atlanta's season premiere on Bravo Nov. 8.