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A Colorful Life – Remembering André Mayes

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SB hairstylist’s color artistry earned him national recognition

By Chris Levister

Take a stroll through André’s Hair Salon tucked away off East Highland Avenue in San Bernardino and you will instantly know its namesake is a man obsessed with hair. The certificates and accolades that grace the wall of this unpretentious space serve as a testament to a life of achievement, creativity and pursuit of excellence. André Patino Mayes, the stingingly opinionated hair stylist whose passion for family, friends, politics and all matters of Black hair care, died of cancer at his home in San Bernardino, May 29. He was 51.

He served eight years in the United States Air Force. It was there as a laboratory technician that he developed a love for chemistry laying the foundation for his nationally recognized hair color artistry.

“His eye for color detail and turning drab to fab was a little bit ... well, magical,” recalls renowned Beverly Hills educator and colorist to the stars Erroll Collinge.

Mayes graduated from cosmetology school in Texas. He went on to further his education in Atlanta and Beverly Hills. His range of expertise encompassed hair cutting, bridal and event styling with a focus on hair coloring techniques as a certified Master Colorist. His edgy updos, bobs, Bantu Knots, twists and colorful dreadlocks earned him a place on the national stage as a frequent exhibitor and trainer at hair shows in Dallas, Las Vegas and the annual world famous Bonner Brothers International Hair Show held in Atlanta.

His razor sharp wit and cutting edge hair designs often collided with African and European cultural influences on African American ideas about beauty, hair and identity. “Historically, long, straight tresses -- along with pale, white skin -- defined beauty in the United States, he told the Black Voice News in 2006. “Black women, their complexions the hues of a cocoa rainbow and their hair often kinky and short, don’t fit the Eurocentric ideal, and they are often made to feel less soft, less lovely, less womanly. For too many little black girls this stigma forges a lifetime shackle,” André said. For anyone who longs to make their dreams take flight, André Mayes had some very clear advice, said Shaun Rubinson, his friend and business partner for 16 years. “‘Jump off the cliff,’ he said, ‘and find your wings on the way down.’ His motto was that every impossible dream that comes true begins with a leap of faith.” His codes were of the traditional kind, centering on family, faith, friendships, organization, dedication, and preparation, said Rubinson. “Still, he was not stuck in the past. His belief that hair styling is first and foremost about progressive skill and personal service earned him a loyal list of clients ranging from dishwashers to doctors.”

“He specialized in damaged hair....When you sat in his chair, you had his full attention, said client and nutritionist Connie Lexion. “He was keenly interested in all his clients from their hair to their health and the total being.”

At a standing room only memorial service Saturday more than 300, family members and friends paid tribute to Mayes’ fierce independence, love of life, family and hair. “André marched to the beat of his own drum,” his father Roy D. Mayes said in his eulogy. “He lived life his way – in full bloom. Even before he could speak, he would sit in church and hum….to the end, God was his refuge and strength. His philosophy was – life unexamined, was not worth living.”

“He was above all a teacher and leader who had a rare ability to listen with a compassionate heart and a willingness to truly be there for others,” Cheryce “Cookie” Mayes said of her brother. “The personal examples and lessons he imparted were derived from a lifetime of caring, learning and achievement. He was an everyday guy who was true to his beliefs.”

Kirby Jones, André’s client of 20 years called his selflessness and compassion a lasting touchstone for generations of young people including her brother C.J. – “11 years ago, when my father took ill, I called upon André to help locate my estranged then “closeted” brother,” recalled Jones. “André was nonjudgmental and diligent - not only did he find C.J., he counseled him and helped him come out of the closet. Today he is an accomplished, self respecting gay man.”

“At a time when America is re-defining and searching for true heroes to lead us forward from our darkest days, André will be remembered as a beacon of accomplishment, compassion and honesty. His life should serve as a blueprint for making heroes of us all,” said The Rev. Phillip Epps of Los Angeles.

André is survived by his parents Roy and Ann Mayes, San Bernardino, a brother Orlando Mayes, Las Vegas NV. His sister Cheryce Mayes, sister Yvette Flowers, Henderson, N.V and a host of uncles, aunts, relatives and friends.

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