With Paul Wharton, it’s usually about the hair. He calls to answer a few follow-up questions from the salon. It comes up repeatedly in conversation and anytime you see him — in photos, on TV or in person — it’s obvious his abundant coiffure is never an afterthought.
So when did it become such a trademark? He says it started as an excuse when he was a kid.
“I’ve always said having a bad hair day should be a legitimate reason to miss school and it really started from me being bullied in school,” he says. “I actually want to turn this into a book I’ve been working on for a long time. It was never really about my hair. It was an excuse to try to get to stay home. She never bought it though. She’d say, ‘Your hair is fine, now get on out the door.’”
Wharton says he noticed it becoming part of his on-screen persona when he first went into professional TV with the MTV show “Made” in 2003.
“I kind of went from curly to straight to curly to straight but I think now I’ve straightened it so much, it won’t really go back to curly like it used to. I’ve had too many blow outs, too much coloring over the years. I try it now and it just gets tangled. I used to have these really great corkscrew curls but I’ve overblown it I guess.”
Wharton, a 34-year-old Cleveland native who mostly grew up in the D.C. area, spent several years in New York working on his career. After “Made,” he was a model coach on VH-1’s “The Agency” and also worked on TV Land’s “She’s Got the Look,” TV One’s “MakeoverManor,” BET’s “Who Wore What” and, of course, Bravo’s “Real Housewives of D.C.” Look for him now on Sundays at noon on Channel 50 with “Paul Wharton Style,” a new series he calls a “fashion, beauty and lifestyle talk show,” that debuted this month.
“It’s evolved into something with a little more of a reality aspect,” he says. “We started more by showing the party or whatever the segment was and we started finding the more interesting stuff was following people around getting ready for it. …We wanted a sense of what my real life is, so it’s evolved into more of a lifestyle show.”
Wharton spent about seven years in New York but was lured back to D.C. by family and a former relationship. He’s single now and lives downtown with his dog, Oscar. Wharton enjoys writing and relaxing with spiritual coaching, yoga, massages, spas and church. Find him online at paulwhartonstyle.com.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I came out when I was 19. It was most difficult to tell my parents. They both needed some time and I gave them space. We’re all very close and they’re extremely supportive to this day.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
My LGBT heroes are the gay people I see strut down the street with over-the-top style, unafraid and unapologetic for being who they are. It takes a real man to pump down U Street on a Saturday night with skin-tight jeans, a face full of make-up and an attitude that says, “Don’t mess with me.”
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
I like the bartenders and two-for-one drinks at Number 9 for happy hour, the eclectic crowd, old school music and dancing on the couches at Darnell’s Lounge on Fridays and the immensely entertaining Drag Show at Town on Saturday nights.
Describe your dream wedding.
My wedding would be officiated by my best friend Omarosa, she’d also give me spiritual counseling and advice on my pre-nuptial agreement (I joke!). I’d like all of my closest friends and family to surround us at the altar and for my godmother Rev. Marcia Dyson to bless our union and give my would-be husband the side eye so he knows not to mess up.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
Hunger and health care. I’m the ambassador against hunger at Capital Area Food Bank (capitalareafoodbank.org).
What historical outcome would you change?
The assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
I was 5 years old when Michael Jackson performed “Billie Jean” on Motown’s 25th anniversary show.
On what do you insist?
I insist on taking one day a week for myself without any obligations or a schedule to keep. No matter how crazed I get during the week, I know that I’ll have my day coming up soon.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
Tweet “Rollin to get my hair done then a photo shoot with @drewxeron and intrvw with @washingtonblade.
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“Bad Hair Days should be an Excused Absence from School”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
I would break into the science lab late at night and pour the evil orientation-changing formula down the drain. God made me this way and I’m not changing.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
I believe in love and the healing power of love. I believe that we have a spiritual father that with our angels watch over us and guide us through our journey. I believe in faith because without it and all of my other beliefs, my life would seem pretty meaningless.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
My message would be to not give up no matter how much you don’t feel heard or appreciated (even by your own LGBT community). Continue to stand for something and let your voice be heard on behalf of the people.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
That’s a long list. My family, my hair stylist, world peace, large sums of cash — we could be here all day.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
I’m most annoyed when I’m in a business meeting and a straight male executive starts talking in gay street slang usually, “Oh no she didn’t” or some other played-out saying while waving his neck from side to side. When it’s time to do business, I like to do business.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
“The Birdcage” is my favorite. I’ve seen it 50 times and still find it hilarious. I also liked “The Broken Hearts Club,” “Milk” and “Brokeback Mountain.”
What’s the most overrated social custom?
Saying goodbye to other guests at a social event is really overrated. I don’t think it’s necessary to work the room with 100 hellos shaking hands and kissing babies and then when you’re ready to leave, doing it all over again. When I’m ready to roll, I’m out.
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
My three awards from D.C. Child and Family Services acknowledging my work with the Foster Youth program.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
I wish I had known to keep a journal. Every now and then I have a flash back to a party, person or amazing experience and I run over to my desk and write it down. I feel like I’ve had five lives and it’d be really mind blowing to be able to look back on them in full detail.
I lived in New York for several years and still spend a lot of time there. New York is fabulous but there’s no place like home. I really do feel this city is beautiful and full of opportunities and endless possibilities. D.C. has been good to me and I’d always like to have a home here … and St. Tropez!