YouTube may seem like the promised land for free tutorials to the average college student on a tight budget, but Wade Lee Richards has relocated from the computer screen to Mecca Unisex Salon in North Philadelphia, where students can still save money to get the look they want with his hair styling deal.
Richards, the founder of the House of Wade Lee salon, which gained popularity due to the “House of Wade Lee TV” YouTube channel, relocated to Philadelphia after a suggestion of a close friend of his, another aspiring celebrity stylist named Tatiana Ward.
Ward has her own YouTube channel called “Beat Face Honey” and has recently had the opportunity to do pre-show make-up for R&B singer Brandy.
In hopes of expanding his clientele, Richards is now working at Mecca Unisex Salon, located at 1501 N. Broad St., where he does hair and make-up. He said he is inspired by his friend Ward’s newfound success and feels confident that he took a risk that will pay off in moving to the East Coast from his former home in Arizona.
Mecca Unisex Salon is right near Main Campus. Richards said the owner, Hamid Addul, and the entire Mecca staff has been incredibly welcoming, and he’s excited to “be in a position where [he] can really learn” from the other stylists in the salon, which is so busy sometimes that he described the atmosphere as being “like a club.”
“I think Mecca is an awesome opportunity for me to learn all textures of hair,” Richards said. “That’s a big reason why I’m there. Definitely the opportunity to work so closely with these Temple students and build my clientele that way is huge.”
In order to “get people in [his] chair” from the nearby community, as Richards put it, he is offering to shear down the price of hair cuts and highlights for Temple students and staff until May 30, an extension of his original deal to incorporate styling needed for commencement ceremonies and end of semester festivities this May.
He is offering $10 haircuts, including a wash and styling, and $50 full highlights, in his offer to the Temple community. Richards said that charging such rates required him to swallow some pride but said the possibility of establishing a student clientele is well worth it.
Richards decided to put in roots in Philly for the time being, previously having let his career in beauty flower all over the country. A passion for styling and fashion has taken Richards across the country, from his childhood home in Wisconsin, to Alabama, Arizona and now Philadelphia. Someday he said he hopes to establish himself in New York as a celebrity stylist.
Along with the art of styling, editorial work is something Richards said he feels is a strong point for him and would be a dream career. He is a published fashion journalist and contributes to Fashion Faces, a networking site for the fashion industry.
His significant portfolio of work in the fashion industry is largely documented on social media, which he said has been the ultimate tool to break into the fashion industry. In fact, his initial big break in the business was because of the tutorials broadcasted by “House of Wade Lee TV,” for which was noticed by organizers of the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, an eight-day-long production boasting more than 80 designers.
“The Academy of Art University of Fashion in San Francisco saw one of my videos,” Richards said. “That’s how I really got involved with the whole fashion aspect of the beauty world.”
Attending the fashion show was an experience Richards called “a dream come true,” and he said he had hoped to be involved with high-profile fashion shows from a very young age, when he actually added pictures of previous fashion shows to an inspiration board. He was able to be a backstage video blogger for his own YouTube channel during his time at the event.
“It was unbelievable,” Richards said. “To be amongst the couture and the designers and models and [to have] the ability to learn so much.”
Richards had already gone from salon manager in Hunstville, Ala., where he also went to beauty school, to establishing his own salon in Phoenix. He went on to host his own fashion shows and continues working in the industry with considerably more recognition.
Life wasn’t always centered on beauty, however, for the “social media socialite,” as Richards’ House of Wade Lee website profile names him. As a teenager, Richards struggled immensely with his identity, prompting him to run away from home and join an ex-gay ministry called Love in Action in Memphis, Tenn.
“It’s definitely a different life,” Richards said. “It seems like a lifetime away, it’s not who I am today.”
His involvement with the program, which considered graduating successfully to be abandoning homosexuality, caught the attention of Tea Party politician and former Republican-candidate Christine O’Donnell, who hired Richards as a personal aid during campaigning.
Richards said he remembered the complete dismissal of both O’Donnell and Love in Action when he announced that he still had same-sex attractions and could not campaign with either party further. He is not, however, bitter about the experience – instead, he said he is ironically grateful to have the skills using social media that were largely developed during his time with O’Donnell.
“I think eventually there will be a book where I share everything,” Richards said. “It’s been a crazy, crazy journey.”
First, he said, he wants to be a successful celebrity stylist.
At the moment, growing his base clientele in Philly is Richards’ main concern, as he hopes it is the beginning of that high profile career he’s dreaming of. His current deal offered to the Temple community is what he hopes will be the kick-start of his success in this community.
“I’m not going to New York tomorrow,” Richards said. “I’m here. I need to become established.”
Erin Edinger-Turoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.