Beauty tips turn this woman into a dream girl

Sheryl Lee Ralph (top left), who started a line of "virgin hair" extensions with Carla Clarkson called Diva Starr Luxury Hair, stars in the new Nickelodeon show "Instant Mom," premiering Sunday.
Sheryl Lee Ralph (top left), who started a line of "virgin hair" extensions with Carla Clarkson called Diva Starr Luxury Hair, stars in the new Nickelodeon show "Instant Mom," premiering Sunday.
Posted: September 25, 2013

ACTRESS SHERYL Lee Ralph, who's best known for her role in Broadway's "Dreamgirls," believes every woman should feel like a dream girl.

On Sunday, even though we were at the Parkside Ballroom instead of at church, Ralph preached that gospel, cajoling the members of the mostly female audience to make sure to take the time to nurture themselves.

And like any preacher worth her collection plate, Ralph also talked up her newest venture - a line of "virgin hair" extensions called Diva Starr Luxury Hair. It's her collaboration with Carla Clarkson, owner of the Marki Starr Agency in West Philly.

At one point, the launch party turned into a mini fashion show for hair, with gorgeous models strutting onstage carrying the dark bundles of hair that it took to create their hairdos.

Instead of snapping photos and oohing and aahing over all the hairstyles, I should have been taking notes. It's not every day that a bona fide Hollywood actress ("Ray Donovan," "Moesha," "Designing Women") will share the real deal about what it takes to look amazing. Usually, certain actresses act coy and pretend that they're just born beautiful.

Listening as Ralph gave herself to a roomful of women, I was impressed. She laughed. She joked. She told of her own bad hair days.

She didn't have to be so personal. But Ralph, who co-stars in the new Nickelodeon show premiering Sunday called "Instant Mom," was keeping it real, as the saying goes. If she was going to have what amounted to a beauty symposium, it was going to be diva-style.

Take what happened with my own hair. After organizers asked me to co-host the event, I breezed through the salon getting my usual: in and out in maybe two hours.

But Ralph spotted me at another event on Saturday and wasn't impressed. Hours later, I got an email summoning me to Sunday's launch party on Parkside Avenue two hours early so stylists could have a do-over.

Clarkson and her team went to work immediately, pinning and sewing. Before long, thanks to my new waist-length Peruvian straight-hair extensions, auburn highlights and flirty false eyelashes, I looked better than I ever had in my life.

But Ralph still wasn't satisfied. Something about my makeup was off. Another makeup artist stepped in and tried to get it right before Ralph grabbed a brush and started in with the brightest reds on the palette.

Once she finished, my now-bright lips were hanging open. I, too, looked like a dream girl.

If I could sing, I would have run on that stage and belted out: "I'm telling you, I'm not goin'." Instead, I took a microphone and did what I had been invited there to do, introduce Ralph.

Afterward, I sat in the audience and watched as stylist Atiya Williamson from the Marki Starr salon weaved someone an entirely new head of her hair in just 30 minutes. Using Ralph's daughter as a model, Clarkson demonstrated the proper way to make spiral curls. (Curl them backward so they don't fly in your face.)

Ralph, who's married to state Sen. Vincent Hughes, met Clarkson through a friend of her mother's, Jannette Singletary Adams.

"She said 'You've got to meet my niece. You know how people are when they tell you about Pookie and them,' " Ralph joked from the stage. "I said, 'Do Pookie know what they're doing?' We met, we talked and we hit it off."

I can attest that Clarkson knows what she's doing. I still love my hair, and something tells me the collaboration between her and Ralph isn't going to be a "one night only" affair.


On Twitter: @JeniceArmstrong

Blog: ph.ly/HeyJen

Email: armstrj@phillynews.com

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