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From Homelessness to Hairstylist — Early Struggles Spur Beautician to Success

img_45536By Avis Thomas-Lester, Urban News Service

Evalyn “Evie” Johnson has traveled the world to share the hair care techniques she’s honed over 20 years as a stylist. 

She’s taught natural hair styling in Los Angeles and hair-loss prevention in Australia. She’ll be featured in New Zealand next month at the International Association of Trichologists’ Hairdressing Conference. 

“I do a lot of speaking engagements, so I travel a lot,” said Johnson, 38, of Bowie, Maryland.

It is ironic that travel plays such a significant role in Johnson’s life now as a celebrated stylist and co-owner of the E&E Hair Studio in Mitchellville, Maryland. She and her family were once so poor that her parents, Julius and Elizabeth Peterson, couldn’t afford to send Johnson or her 11 siblings on field trips around Washington, D.C. 

“We were homeless,” Johnson said. “We slept in cars sometimes. We ate syrup sandwiches and mayonnaise sandwiches. We lived where there was no power…I knew there was so much money out there, but we couldn’t get any of it. I didn’t understand.”

Johnson attributes the family’s poverty largely to her father’s heroin abuse, which led to his incarceration at D.C.’s prison in Lorton, Virginia. In his absence, the Johnsons lived on public assistance, she said.

When she reached adolescence, little Evie rebelled. At 13, she got pregnant by her boyfriend, Antonio Reed, Jr., then 15. They both lived at the city’s homeless shelter at 14th and Park Street, NW.img_45516

Her mother dispatched her to Lorton to inform her father, the only time she visited him behind bars. Julius Peterson made her promise not to get pregnant again until marriage. In return, he promised to kick heroin.

When her son, Antonio Reed, III, was 2 months old, he became ill with Kawasaki disease, which causes inflammation of blood-vessel walls. He spent seven months at D.C. General Hospital.

Each day, Johnson attended school, then took Metro or two buses to the medical facility, where she studied and nurtured her baby.

“It was important for me to do well for him,” Johnson said. “I didn’t want him to think that his mother wasn’t smart.”

The Washington Post highlighted Johnson in 1994 for graduating with a 4.0 GPA from then-Kelly Miller Junior High School. She was 15. 

“I was on Cloud Nine,” Johnson said. “I was accomplishing things…It was a matter of proving – against the odds and what people said – that I could accomplish everything that I was supposed to accomplish.”

Johnson had dreamed of becoming a stylist since she was very young. She braided her sisters’ hair, kept her brothers shaped up, and styled her mother, relatives and friends.

After beauty school, Johnson worked at area salons before she and Earlisa Larry, who met as stylists at a J.C. Penney salon, opened E&E Hair Solutions in Largo in 2006. They moved a few blocks to the current salon earlier this year.

Johnson specializes in natural styles, hair bleaching and hair loss reversal.  She co-founded Stuart Edmondson Hair Loss and Restoration, which makes products to improve thinning hair.

Johnson also is a master stylist for Mizani, a L’Oréal hair products company, and works as a platform stylist at hair shows. She has coiffed such entertainment notables as Tasha Smith, Ari Nicole Parker, and Trey Songz. She has styled artists for the Grammy and BET awards.

Johnson was scheduled to be a featured stylist at the Washington/Baltimore Area Beauty Expo on Sept. 26 at the Martin’s Crosswinds banquet center in Greenbelt. The program was emceed by Johnny Wright, First Lady Michelle Obama’s hair stylist. 

“I love Evie!” said Wright, who toured several cities and educated stylists with Johnson as the “Dynamic Duo.” 

“She is a premiere educator and very talented at her craft,” Wright said.

Clients also sing Johnson’s praises.

“If I had enough time, I’d come twice a week,” said Shaina Taylor, 41, of Upper Marlboro, admiring her “wheat blonde” faux hawk moments after Johnson styled her hair recently. “I get tired of people stopping me talking about my hair.”

Johnson and her husband, Joe, a transportation project manager, have four children in their blended family: Taquan, 24, a writer and actor; Antonio, who recently graduated from the University of Pennsylvania; Taleya, 17, a high school senior who answered phones at the salon one recent afternoon; and Jordan, 15, an accomplished basketball player. 

Johnson said memories of the hard times keep her moving forward.

“I’m excelling, but I’m still growing,” she said.

Halloween Is In the Air At Castle Park

RIVERSIDE, CA- With the Halloween season fast approaching, Castle Park is getting ready to offer Halloween fun during two different events. Castle Park transforms into its heart-racing, exhilarating Castle Dark in the evening. When darkness falls, the nightmare calls and guests can experience the sheer terror of Castle Dark’s haunted attractions. During the daytime hours, kids of all ages are welcome to join in the Halloween festivities with family friendly fun at Happy Hauntings.

From October 7 to the 30, every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday the gate will creek open at 7 p.m. for Castle Dark. Venture inside four haunted house maze attractions set throughout the park. Experience the impending doom of a demonic spirit that consumed the mine and its workers, at the all NEW Demented Doom Mine maze. Experience the NEW Shiverton Manor maze, a mansion full of distorted realities and horrible nightmares. Don’t miss the Ghost Blasters ride, a creature, zombie, and ghost inhabited ride in 3-D.

For guests looking for more cheer than fear, Castle Park’s Happy Hauntings is the perfect place for little ghouls 12 and under. From 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday, October 8-30, kids can enjoy pumpkin carving contests, costume contests, and a Trick-or-Treat Street at Happy Hauntings.

Tickets start at $9.99 online for Happy Hauntings daytime fun. Castle Park’s Happy Hauntings activities are included in all park tickets every Saturday and Sunday, October 8-30. Tickets including Castle Dark start at $19.99. Castle Dark opens at 7 pm, Friday through Sunday, from October 7-30. Hours of operation vary. Visit castlepark.com for more details.

Indie Author at Feldheym Central Library

SAN BERNARDINO, CA-The San Bernardino Public Library is joining hundreds of libraries across North America to host an Indie Author Day event on October 8th, 2016. This event is designed to bring the local writing communities together to participate in book readings, signings, and workshops.

Authors from throughout the Inland Empire have been invited to discuss their works and sell and sign books at the Norman F. Feldheym Central Library, 555 w. 6TH St. in San Bernardino on Saturday, October 8, 2016 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. 

This is a good opportunity to meet local authors who represent many genres, including fiction, non-fiction, science fiction, fantasy, poetry, children’s books, young adult books, local history, and mystery. Over 30 authors, poets and cartoonists have confirmed their participation including Al Ward, Beth Winokur, Dr. Dawn Menge, Dr. Frank Stern, Gary & Isabel Walbourne, George L. Gurney, Gina Rider, Greg McWhorter, Herb Williams, James Rhozon, John Weeks, June Durr, Krista Wagner, Lara Rios, Larry Burns, Madeline Gornell, Mary Ruth Hughes, Michael Palmer, Michael Raff, Mike Kennedy, Mike Walters, Nick Cataldo, Paulina Jaramillo, Phil Yeh, Richard Levesque, Roberta Smith, Suzanne Saunders, T’ana Thompson, Terri Elders, Victoria Taylor, and authors from PoetrIE.

Two workshops will be held during the event: Theresa Elders will present a workshop called ‘How to Write True Stories for Anthologies such as Chicken Soup for the Soul’ at 2:00 PM in the Bing Wong Auditorium. She will talk about the elements of writing a true narrative essay and how to mine your life for story ideas.  Elders’ stories have been featured in over 100 books, including such series as Chicken Soup for the Soul, A Cup of Comfort, Thin Threads, and HCI Ultimate.

Larry Burns will present a workshop called ‘How to Transition From a “Regular” Career to an “Art-Based” Career’ at 3:00 PM in the Bing Wong Auditorium. The topics he will cover are:  Creating your artist’s life support system, what you need and what you can cannibalize from your previous career; making financial sense of your new normal; learning to accept payment for your art…you are worth it; finding your way in social media promotion; how to get more comfortable sharing your success; and setting goals and tracking your progress. In 2015, Larry Burns ended a decade -long administration career to focus on teaching and writing full time, and a year later had his first book contract. He has an MFA in Creative Writing and teaches in the College of Humanities and Sciences at University of Phoenix. He is a founding member of Inlandia Institute, a non-profit literary advocacy group.

Authors from PoetrIE will be doing readings beginning at 4:00 in the Bing Wong Auditorium. PoetrIE started with a handful of writers who were interested in creating a space for other aspiring writers in this area to practice their craft. It has since grown to numerous workshops across the region, monthly reading series, and is now a nonprofit organization.

This event is free and open to the  public, and is sponsored by the Friends of the San Bernardino Library. For more information, call 909. 381.8238 or visit www.sbpl.org or www.facebook.com/SBPLfriends