Morrison triumphed in the Bravo reality competition Shear
Genius, fans of the hairstylist competition
weren't surprised. The 40-year-old single Morrison
didn't get a lot of airtime compared to some of
his competitors--frankly, professionalism
doesn't make good TV the way arguing and cattiness
do. Now the British-born, California-based stylist,
entrepreneur, and budding TV star speaks exclusively
with The Advocate about loving hair since he
was a little boy, a teenage first romance with a
schoolteacher, coming out, and mixed feelings about
his father's homeland of Jamaica.
Congratulations on winning Shear Genius in May.
What's been the fallout, other than the
$100,000, which is always helpful?
That is always
helpful. I just moved to a new location [Londoner Salon
and Day Spa in Manhattan Beach, Calif.] about two years ago.
Since the win, that whole process has been really
easy. The phone's been really busy. I've
got a whole new staff. I've increased my prices, and
people are paying them. [Laughs]
You didn't get as much face time as the other contestants.
saying to me, "Why aren't you featured
more?" It's because I wasn't
acting up and I tried to treat everyone with the upmost
respect. I was boring. I wasn't Tabitha;
let's put it that way. I have a MySpace page,
and I have a lot of people that sent me messages and said
thanks for being professional and thanks for not
acting like a mad hairdresser and all you did to make
our profession look legitimate. That made me feel
But were you nervous as you watched the episodes
and saw you weren't getting on the air much?
Oh, yeah. The
first episode I threw a party for all my friends and a few
clients, and there were maybe 70 people. And I wasn't
featured at all. [Laughs] It was embarrassing. I had
it in my salon. I had more airtime on the commercials
leading up to the show than in the show itself.
Now you were into hair from a really early age,
right? How did that happen?
know. At about the age of 8, I was just fascinated with
hair. I have a picture of myself at the local grocery
store holding up a box of what would be like Jheri
Curl and smiling from ear to ear holding this box and
my family were like, 'We don't know
what's wrong with that boy."
So it's genetic, your love of hair. You were born
I was born with
the hair gene, if that's possible. This may sound a
little cheesy and a little corny, but I love it. I love it
every bit as much today as I did when I started my
profession properly at 15. I left school and went into
an apprenticeship and was a fully licensed hair
dresser and working at a great salon in the heart of London
at 20 years old.
When you were 8 years old and loving hair, what was
the next step?
The next step was
to do my sisters' hair and all of their friends at
about 10. [Morrison has an older and a younger sister.]
Did you cut it?
No, I was just
braiding. I'd braid the hair and put it in ponytails
and try to put it in little twists. I'd get
those elastic bands with the bubbles on them and try
to put those in all over. They'd say, "Look,
I've got, like, 60 bubble pins all over; what are you
doing?" I'd say, "It's
going to look good. Just sit there. We're just
practicing right now." There are a lot of women
in my family -- a lot of aunts and cousins. So as I
was coming up, I got to practice a lot.
What would your dad say?
My dad actually
was not entirely for my decision to become a hairdresser.
But at 14 I announced, "OK, I am definitely going to be a
What did he say when you were 10 and braiding hair?
He tried to stop
me a few times and said, "Why don't you go
outside and play with your friends?" I said,
"I don't want to go outside and play
with them; I want to stay here and play with their Barbie
dolls. My dad was an electrical engineer, and he moved
from Jamaica to England in the early '60s.
How old were you when your mom died giving birth to
your younger sister?
I was about 2
Oh, so she must be very hard to remember.
Yeah, my mother
died at 24. My grandmother is still alive, and she played
a key role.
So who supported you when you announced you wanted
to leave school?
That was not
easy. I kept badgering my father, and he said,
"You're not leaving school;
you're going to take your A levels." I said,
"Dad, you've got to let me do this.
I'm going to be great at this profession." He
said, "I don't think I can stop you."
Years later, I had a small salon I opened in England
with my cousin, and I was about 22, and my dad said,
"You know what, I think you are actually doing
something you're going to be amazing
That must have been a big moment.
That was a huge
moment. My dad was a man of few words, so when he said
So you're 14, 15 years old and you're
interning at this salon in London. You're
obviously seeing gay people, if you hadn't before.
definitely the first experience of meeting gay people. One
of the guys I worked with, I had the hugest crush on
Was this your first crush?
Oh, no, no, no. I
had many crushes in school. So many. But obviously you
didn't do anything about it.
So when did you first realize you were gay?
I think I always
knew. I was maybe 10 or 11, something like that. Why do
I have a crush on half of my friends? That's not
normal. Then I dated this girl for a while.
I'll never forget it. I dated her for probably a
year, and we never really did anything. We'd kind of
fool around and stuff. One day she said to me,
"I have a question for you."
How old were you?
I was like, 11.
She said, "Do you like boys?" I said,
"Yeah, I like everybody." She said,
"No. Do you like boys. One of my friends said you
might like boys." I thought, Oh, my God, is it that
obvious? People can actually tell. I said, "No!
Why are you saying that?" I don't know
why--maybe because I was ogling boys in the shower and
somebody caught me?
So when did you come out to yourself?
I was 17, and I
had my first experience. I put an ad in one of the
papers, a national paper. It wasn't even a gay magazine.
What did the ad say?
I think it said
something like, "Handsome black male looking for
friends to socialize." It said nothing about a
relationship. Actually, it was an international paper
too, because I was getting responses from overseas.
If you said you were 17 in the ad, I bet you would
have gotten even more responses.
Oh, no, I
didn't put my age down. I ended up corresponding with
this guy from Norwich [England]. We spoke and spoke
and spoke, and he sent me a photograph in the mail,
and I sent him one back of me.
So this was about 1982, '83.
Yes. He looked
great. He was 28 and a teacher and...I was 22. I told
him I was 22 because I knew if I said I was 17, he
wouldn't have been interested. I ended up going
to Norwich to visit him.
For a stay-over?
I stayed over. I
told my sisters I was going to London to visit a friend
of mine and I'd be back. My dad said, "Where
are you going?" I said, [voice gets higher and
nervous] "I'm going to London to visit a
friend, and I'll be back!"
Had you ever kissed a boy?
No, and I must
say, he was lovely. He was absolutely a gentleman and a
scholar. He was just wonderful. He picked me up at the train
station and took me home and made me dinner, and we
watched TV and talked and talked and talked. He said,
"Can I give you a kiss?" I said sure. Then I
told him I'd never really done anything. He
said, "Oh,really? At your age?" [Laughs]
And it was great. He came down to where I was to visit, and
we hung out there.
He stayed in a hotel.
Yep, he drove
down. He'd come on a Saturday night and stay all day
You said, "I am so gay."
Oh, yeah. It was
fantastic. We dated for about three or four months, and
then I knew I had to come clean.
He must have dropped his beer.
He did. I said,
"I've got something to tell you. You know when
I told you I was 22? I'm not
exactly...that old." He said, "OK, how
old are you?" I said, "Well, I
don't want you to get mad." He said, "I
won't get mad." I said, "I
don't want you to get mad--please." He
said, "I won't get mad, Anthony."
I said, "I'm going to be 18 on my next
birthday." It's coming up. It's
I'm 17 and a half!
I thought I might
go for the higher number. He said, "So you're
17?" I said, "Well, I'm in my
18th year." Oh, he wasn't happy. He
wasn't happy. That was my first experience. The
first time I was with him and I came back to my family
home, my sister was there--who is now a lesbian [she
came out to Morrison about ten years ago]--and she kind of
pulled her head back, and I was, like,
"What?" All of a sudden, now that I'm
no longer a virgin, I'm thinking I smell of
sex. I said, "What?" She said,
"Nothing." I said, "What? What? What?
What are you looking at?" I got all paranoid.
Did you stay in touch with the teacher?
We did. I was
going through an old diary about 11 years ago, and I came
across his number, and I called him. Still working.
He's married. With kids.
Oh, to a woman.
Yes. With kids.
Was he freaked out that you called or was he pleased?
He was pleased.
Is he bisexual?
straight. He said, "You'll be surprised to
know I'm actually married." I said,
"Oh, God, what's his name? I'm so happy for
you." He said, "No...."
So whom did you come out to next?
Next, I came out
to my coworkers. My family was later. My family is hard.
There are still some in my [extended] family who
don't know. The Jamaican upbringing is not very
open to that thing. I never came out to my father
until just a few years ago when I was in a relationship. I
was going to bring him, and I told my father, and then
I went back to America and we broke up. Even when I go
home now, [my extended family] talks about everything
else. Are you dating? Are you married? Do you have a
girlfriend? Nothing. Obviously, my sisters are different.
You could have easily not told your dad. Why did you?
It was because my
sister came out to him. She told dad before she told
me. She said, "He took it pretty well." He
said, "Are you happy? Are you good?"
Wow. She said, "The next time you go back to England,
you have to tell him. It's only fair."
So when I went back to England on the last night
before I was about to leave--chicken that I am--I said,
"The London marathon is in April, and
I'm going to run that, and when I come back,
I'd like to bring someone for you to meet. I really
think you're going to like him." He
said, "Um, I kind of knew anyway. It's fine.
Are you good? Are you happy? Are you content?"
And I said I wouldn't want my life any other
way. He said, "That's all that
matters." I went to Denmark, flew back to
America, and there was a message from my dad. He had left it
the day after I left. He was sobbing on the phone. He
said, "I don't know what happened. I
don't know if failed you, or if you can totally be
happy. I just want you to be happy, and I don't know
if you will ever totally get to be happy. I'm
sorry that I'm saying this on the phone. I just
wanted to leave a message." So I'm tearing up,
and I call him and say, "Dad, how could you
have possibly failed? Mom died at 24. You raised us
yourself. We've all got good morals. We're all
upstanding citizens and doing great in our lives.
You're my hero. You're the person I've
always looked up to. You failing? That's not
it. The way I am; I've always been this way.
Don't blame yourself. In fact, you should be proud. I
wouldn't want to live my life in any other
He comes from Jamaica. Have you been to Jamaica? Does it
feel different from England?
different. It's completely homophobic. I was 17 or 18
[when I visited]. It's a very macho society. My
cousins are, like, "Let's go see the
girls down the street and... [makes grunting manly
noises]." The last trip I made was about eight
years ago. My dad was visiting for two months. I said,
"Well, maybe I'll stay with you." One
of the things he said was, "Can you please not
tell anybody or do anything? You know how they are
here." I said, "Dad, trust me. I
wouldn't want to do that for you or me or
It's just not worth it?
After living in England and the U.S., does it feel like a weight?
Is it just your family or do you feel unsafe?
It makes me very
uncomfortable. Even if you're walking down the
street, the guys have this inherent radar for picking
up somebody who might be gay. Even if you're
trying to butch it up, which might be part of the
problem. [Laughs] And they will call you out. It's
Then at 24 you said you were just going to go on vacation
I came here
before that and loved it. Nobody worked. Everybody looked
good. Everyone was on the beach, golden tan and beautiful.
Everyone had an abundance of money. Every car was a
luxury foreign import. After that vacation I got back
to England, and it was raining, and Margaret Thatcher
was running the country into the ground. Oh, my God. The
more I thought about California, I knew I had to get
out--the gloom of it all. I eventually came back
here with the intention of staying a year. I got here,
and one thing led to another.
You've had clients like Tiger Woods and Lil' Kim.
What are you proudest of all as a hairstylist?
that I do all types of hair. So many people specialize and I
can do anything. Whomever sits in my chair I treat like a
So what will you do to capitalize on your success with
definitely love to get my own show. It would encompass
everything about beauty: health, working out, hair --
obviously. I get up at 4:15 every day and run. I also
want it to be for men because there's no one
particular show that captures everything to do about guys:
style, health, fashion -- just everything. Sometimes
when there's a gay person on TV, the straight
guys don't want to watch it. I think I can bridge
that gap. I think I'm kind of universal.
Caucasian people can watch me, and [so can ] African
And you've got that accent. [He laughs] Are you
talking with anyone?
with networks like E! and production companies. My own
product line down the road would be great. I want it
to be organic -- products that can be used on every
type of hair. I want it to be universal too.
And your personal life?
focusing on work since the show to capitalize on everything.
But if somebody amazing and fantastic and wonderful came
into my life, I certainly wouldn't turn him
away because of my career. I need the
jeans-and-T-shirt guy whom you can put in a tux and [make
him] look incredible. I need the guy that has his life
together and has a direction and knows himself,
someone that has their own thing going on. And can
take me out!