There aren’t many walking around on this earth who are branded by first names only; you know, Cher… Madonna… Bo. My friend “Sterfon” is one of those. You don’t know him? You should! He’s a character! He’s also fun, a great dad, devoted husband, and his name creates ripples in the film and television business.
Walk into a makeup and hair trailer on many sets in Hollywood and drop his name. Check out the reaction. For those whose misfortune has not brought them into his orbit, there may be a look of puzzlement. For those who have been lucky enough to travel in the same pathway, there are more than likely smiles, laughs, and the question, “Is he here?”
Sterfon Demings is a known entity in “The Business” of film and television. He is a survivor and a hair stylist extraordinaire. I first met him on the television show In The Heat Of The Night, shot in Covington, Georgia, near Atlanta. We didn’t know each other well. He now says he kept his distance from me. “I thought you were an undercover cop,” he laughs.
“Why?” I asked.
“You looked like one. You always had on a suit. You were the City Councilman on the show so you were always with the cops.”
Lots of laughter!
Earlier in my career, I played quite a few lawyers, policemen, and politicians.
A few years after he left Heat, I met him again in Atlanta, on Miss Evers’ Boys. This time we clicked, and have been clicking ever since. We would later work on the short-lived series, City Of Angels.
In between those gigs he has stayed busy; working on Boyz In The Hood, Into The Wild, Italian Job, Beauty Shop, Soul Plane, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, Milk, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, American Crime Story, Bones, Monster’s Ball and many many more. Those who have sat in his chair include, Alfre Woodard, Sean Penn, Halle Berry, Donald Sutherland, Kristen Stewart, Miles Davis, Ed Norton, Angela Bassett, countless others… and myself.
Sterfon and I had lots of fun in Los Angeles. A boy’s night out on the town generally meant a whole lot of fun and laughter. My trademark introductory greeting to anyone who would listen was a prideful, “I’m from Alabama.” It was always a conversation starter. Intriguing. Sterfon got a kick out of it. Over the years he must have heard it hundreds of times. If I wanted to make him laugh, I only had to say those three words and he could not help himself.
We still enjoy each other’s company. We think of each other as brothers who are grounded as friends because of our core beliefs. Occasionally we pick up the phone and give it a go in a long-winded conversation. Our conversations bounce from family, to The Business, to our memories of nights out on the town in Los Angeles, and of course, Alabama.
TG: You’re from Montgomery, Alabama? What was it like leaving Montgomery, right out of High School, for the bright lights of NYC?
SD: For me, it all started in high school. In high school, I got my cosmetology training in vocational school. I’m grateful because that started me on my career. I discovered my talent. Vocational education? Too bad the high schools don’t do that anymore. Education is vital to career success, I feel.
TG: From high school to being in The Business. Trace your path for me.
SD: I moved to New York. That was a big step. People doubted me but I was pretty determined. Several people tried to talk me out of going. “New York,” coming from Alabama, they made it sound scary but it also became a challenge. I got a job as an apprentice at “The John Atchison Salon,” so I could learn my craft at the professional level. Education was important for me. Quite a few entertainers came in there. Even as an apprentice I wasn’t star struck. So they didn’t intimidate me. The apprenticeship program allowed me to go do some morning talk shows on NY-TV and I met Jackee Harry who was working on the show “227.” We got to be friends. I did her hair. She told me she was moving to California. I told her I was too. She told me she would look me up when I got there.
The salon opened another location in LA. I transferred out here. I soon became part of management and the Educational Director. Jackee kept her word and I worked with her as her stylist from time to time. I left the salon in a dispute. I started off going to people’s houses. Then came the chance to work on “Boyz In The Hood.” After that, I was off and running.
TG: You’ve won industry awards for styling. The annual Hollywood Beauty Awards recognizes the architects of hair, makeup, photography and styling in Hollywood. You have been described as, “An innovative and world-renowned hair designer and stylist, a master hair-cutter.”
SD: Funny, I never used to pay attention to awards. Considered most of them political. But I’m grateful. There’s even an award named for me. “The Sterfon Deming Award.” The person who won it is amazing. I thought it was pretty neat that she went home with an award with my name on it.
TG: Did I fail to mention you were always a snazzy dresser?
TG: You were always a fun guy to have on the set. You would always dress up and do a walk on in one of the scenes. Must have had a good relationship with the Director and Producers?
SD: I was always a fun guy to have around. The crew would always encourage me to jump in somewhere. It was part of my thing. Where is he going to show up in the film? The first time it was in “Boyz N The Hood.” I was in “White Men Can’t Jump.” In “The Piano Lesson” I played a slave. I was also in “The Temptations” and a few others.
TG: Did you want to act?
SD: Not professionally. If I could have done it for fun. But I enjoyed my job.
TG: What’s next for you?
SD: The older you getthe more you realize that it isn’t about the material things or pride or ego. It’s about our hearts and who they beat for.
TG: You’ve become a philosopher?
SD: Beautiful things happen when you distance yourself from negativity.
TG: Any last words?
SD: I’m from Alabama!
TG and SD: Laughing Out Loud!!