It was President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris’s day, but for many, it was former First Lady Michelle Obama who stole the spotlight at the Inauguration.
Wearing all burgundy and plum ensemble in an outfit by LA-based designer Sergio Hudson, her bouncy curls matched the day’s mood. Quickly after Obama’s grand entrance, it was revealed by NBC 4’s Jummy Olabanji that the hair stylist behind her look was Arlington’s Yene Damtew.
— Jummy Olabanji (@JummyNBC) January 20, 2021
The 2015 grad of Arlington’s Marymount University owns Aesthetics Salon at 2444 26th Road S., near the Glebe Road exit of I-395.
Damatew was one of a number of Black entrepreneurs, along with Hudson and Christy Rilling who designed the couple’s masks, that Obama has continuously sought to highlight.
— Yene Damtew (@yenedamtew) January 20, 2021
But Damtew has worked with the former First Lady for more than a decade, having also styled her hair during her time in the White House and for best-selling 2018 memoir, “Becoming.”
ARLnow asked Damtew via email about how she became the former First Lady’s go-to hairstylist, what it was like on that special day, and what business been like since word got out.
The interview was edited for clarity and brevity.
What’s the story behind styling Mrs. Obama’s hair for this inauguration?
I have had a relationship with the Obamas since 2009. I was working for her then-stylist, Johnny Wright, and he brought me to the White House where I assisted with hair needs for the entire family.
Working in the White House for eight years was one of the highest honors of my life.
My relationship with Mrs. Obama has remained strong in her post-First Lady life. I’ve been blessed to stay on her style team along with my friends Carl Ray (makeup) and Meredith Koop (clothing). I did hair for her best-selling book “Becoming” and accompanied her on her two-year book tour across the world.
I consider her not just a client, but a friend and mentor.
What did you want to accomplish with her look?
I do always keep in mind that America LOVES Mrs. Obama and she always makes headlines based on what she’s wearing and how her hair looks.
Today was a day about celebrating their good friends, the Bidens, and the first Black woman Vice President. I wanted her look to match the moment! Volume and curls seemed like the way to go and I’m glad so many people loved it.
How long did it take to style?
I don’t talk specifics about any client, out of respect, but I’ve been doing hair long enough that I’m able to be very efficient!
I think I spent more time in the car navigating D.C. traffic and road shutdowns!
There were days in the White House and on the book tour where I would have to make changes very quickly. Once my client and I talk about what kind of look we want to create, it doesn’t take long.
Like with anything else the things that take the longest are sitting under the dryer with color treatments.
While it’s only been a few hours since the world found out, how has business been since? Is your salon being inundated with calls and appointments right now?
It’s been overwhelming — in a good way!
Our website has been inundated with requests for appointments. We do everything via email, so our inbox is very full. We hope to get back to everyone by the end of the week. I
In only a few years, I’ve grown my salon from one building to two and have added several more stylists on staff.
Whether a client meets with me or one of my other stylists we want them to walk out of our doors feeling like they have the confidence they need to take on the day.
The Arlington community has been so wonderful and supportive to my salon. I graduated from Marymount University in Arlington and live in Arlington.
It was only right to have my business in Arlington, too.
Photo (top) via Aesthetics Salon
County Board Stalls on VRE Decision — The Arlington County Board, at a Tuesday meeting that stretched into early Wednesday morning, declined to endorse one of the options for a proposed new Virginia Railway Express station in Crystal City. VRE officials, county staff, the Arlington Chamber of Commerce and Arlington’s Transportation Commission backed Option 2, which places the station closer to the Crystal City Metro station and transit center. Some local condominium residents and the Planning Commission, citing concerns about noise, wanted Option 3 — which places the station behind an office building — to be considered as well. [InsideNova, InsideNova]
Michelle Obama Stops By Arlington for Salon Opening — Former first lady Michelle Obama and her Secret Service entourage were among “a crowd of about 40 VIPs” who came to Arlington Tuesday night for the opening of a new salon. The business, Aesthetics Salon, is owned by stylist Yene Damtew, who was part of Obama’s “glam squad” while she was in the White House. Aesthetics Salon is located at 2412 26th Road S. in the Long Branch Creek neighborhood just south of I-395. [Washington Post]
Clarendon Day Closures — Expect lots of road closures in central Clarendon on Saturday for the annual Clarendon Day festival, which is taking place from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. On Sunday morning Wilson Blvd will be closed from Clarendon to Rosslyn for the Clarendon Day 5K, 10K and Kids Dash races. [Arlington County, Arlington County]
More on Proposed Columbia Pike Bus Revamp — “Recently Metro unveiled the latest proposed changes to the Metrobus network which includes a major restructuring to the 16 series bus lines on Columbia Pike in Arlington. The long-awaited restructuring is aimed at simplifying and improving bus service in the corridor.” [Greater Greater Washington]
County Seeking Pike Bus Feedback — While WMATA continues to collect feedback on the proposed Columbia Pike bus changes via an online survey, a public meeting is scheduled tonight (Thursday) to discuss the changes in person with residents. The meeting is taking place at the Arlington Mill Community Center from 6-8 p.m. [Arlington County]
Local Nonprofit Lender Steps Up Loan Volume — “Arlington-based Capital Impact Partners said Wednesday it provided $75 million in private financing in the second quarter of 2017, the largest quarterly loan volume in its history. The nonprofit community development financial institution backs projects that support increased access to health care, education, affordable housing and healthy food in the United States.” [Washington Business Journal]
Flickr pool photo by Alan Kotok
Students from Abingdon, Arlington Science Focus, Campbell, Barrett, Barcroft and Key elementary schools went trick-or-treating at the White House on Saturday night. Students — including the two Key Elementary students pictured — were handed Halloween treats from none other than the President and Mrs. Obama themselves.
Photo courtesy Arlington Public Schools
The Military Child of the Year Awards recognize the “strength, resilience and leadership” of military kids from each of branch of the armed services. The event, held at the Ritz-Carlton hotel, was organized by the group Operation Homefront.
Support of military families is one of Mrs. Obama’s signature issues. She spoke glowingly of the honorees’ maturity, wisdom and bravery.
“When our troops are called to serve, their families serve too,” Mrs. Obama said to an audience chock full of military officers, spouses and media personnel. “[Military children] play their own very unique role in keeping our country safe… their strength and support helps our troops serve.”
The five recipients of this year’s awards were:
- Taylor Dahl-Sims, 17, of Oceanside, Ca. Dahl-Sims helped to care for her baby brother — who was suffering medical problems — while dad was away at war. When her father, a Marine, returned with a traumatic brain injury and facial injuries from multiple IED blasts, she also helped to take care of him. All the while, she has been doing volunteer work, taking college classes and commanding her school’s Air Force Junior ROTC.
- Kyle Hoeye of Tucson, Ariz., whose Army father has been deployed three times. At 16, Hoeye “has made helping military families his life’s work.”
- Melissa Howland, 17, of Millis, Mass. Howland nearly died from a blood disorder, the symptoms of which are now keeping her from playing her favorite sports. Nonetheless, Howland has managed to rack up nearly 500 volunteer hours while her Navy father was deployed in Iraq.
- Nicole Goetz, 17, of Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. Nicole’s father has been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. With dad gone for months at a time, Nicole has stepped up to help raise her 10-year-old brother, all while donating hundreds of hours of her time to community service, earning a 4.0 GPA and serving as president of her school’s Key Club.
- Margaret Rochon, a 17-year-old Coast Guard kid from Jacksonville, N.C. In addition to numerous extracurricular activities at school, Margaret helped to organize a seminar about the “stresses of wartime deployment on students and the effects of PTSD on families.” The seminar became mandatory training for teachers in her county.
More photos, after the jump.
First Lady Michelle Obama will deliver a speech at the Operation Homefront 2011 Military Child of the Year Awards on Thursday evening.
The award show is being held at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Pentagon City. The awards honor “military children who demonstrate resilience, strength of character and leadership within their families and communities.”
Five outstanding children from each branch of the military will receive awards.
Operation Homefront provides emergency financial and other assistance to the families of service members and wounded warriors.
White House Photo