A Snug Fit

By Louis Virtel

Originally published on Advocate.com October 24 2007 12:00 AM ET

Wig industry
maven Amy Gibson relates to her transgender clientele -- and
not just because they provide incredible income. Skeptics
can rest assured her sympathy is rooted in
commiseration, not marketing.

“I really
feel what they go through, being stuck in the wrong
body,” says the Emmy-nominated Gibson, who
played runaway alcoholic Lynn Henderson on the
long-running soap Love of Life. “I really
get it.”

As a teenager,
she was diagnosed with alopecia areata, an autoimmune
disease that eventually fried her hair follicles, leaving
her bald. Years later she parlayed her own journey of
hair loss into a growing business. In March 2006 she
launched Crown and Glory Enterprises, a Los Angeles
boutique that produces high-end, customized wigs as well
as international luxury line called Amy’s
Presence.

For her new
venture, Gibson is extending a hand, or rather a few cap
sizes, to trans women.

“It’s important for them to understand that
getting the right wig could be the answer to a lot of
discomfort,” Gibson says. “It truly is the
finishing touch.”

Her interest in
the trans market ignited when she started hearing
complaints that wig boutiques offered nothing feminine and
durable in the range of larger cap sizes. With
Amy’s Presence, she now provides larger sizes
(24 and 25) in up to eight different styles, with costs
ranging from $1,600 to $2,500 per wig. The hairpieces
also feature Cyber Hair, a revolutionary velvety
material that when tousled remolds to its original
form within 15 minutes. For the choosier athletic customer,
a swim cap version is available that performs well in
water.

“I
don’t want to call it a wig,” says Stacy
Alexeief, a 52-year-old Long Beach, Calif., resident.
“A wig almost connotes something that’s
artificial. There’s a lightness and flow to [the
hairpieces] that’s beyond human hair.”

Alexeief, a
transgender woman who owns three Amy’s Presence wigs,
sought Gibson’s services after seeing her and
her products on an episode of The Tyra Banks Show.
The occasion seemed serendipitous to Alexeief,
who’d just gone bald.

The swift new
hairstyles marked a pointed about-face in Alexeief's life,
since her previous wigs had rapidly degenerated into
irreparable frizzing. Sporting Gibson’s
creations, she now receives attention for more
desirable reasons.

“Usually,
I get questions like, ‘Gee, where did you get your
highlighting done?’ or ‘What a great
haircut,’ ” she says.

Alexeief’s
new look grew out of a one-on-one consultation with Gibson
and helped ease her process of transitioning as a
transgender woman. In Crown and Glory’s
intimate setting, Gibson personally evaluates each of her
customer’s needs in light of who they are as
individuals.

“We talk
about who [the customer] wants to be,” Gibson says.
“For instance, ‘Are you going to be
really active? If you’re not, we can look at
different styles.’ I try to get to know who they are,
what they’re doing, what kind of piece I need
to make to answer what they have in mind for
themselves.”

Ultimately,
Gibson’s trans customers search for variations of the
same style -- the last step in feeling complete. She
speaks of such fulfillment with careful articulation,
the stake of which she cannot disconnect from her own
life. “It’s what you’re going to run
your hands through 18 times a day. It’s what
will make you feel like a woman.”