Phaedra High — Denver entrepreneur, event-thrower, maker and advocate for natural hair and beauty care — calls herself a “nerd with her head in the clouds,” but that doesn’t mean she’s not getting things done. A primary hand in producing the Denver Natural Hair Care Expo for the last three years (the third is on deck for this Sunday, November 6) and head cheerleader for independent artists and small businesses at Urban Cipher, High admits that she is a growing, learning, evolving go-getter, “living to be the change I wish to see around me.” Amen! Read on for Phaedra High’s forward-thinking 100CC questionnaire. Westword: If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why?
Phaedra High: If I could collaborate with anyone in history, it would be Madam C.J. Walker, hair-care pioneer who started her business right here in Denver. Her drive was so inspirational, and while her name has been resurrected through a new product hair-care line, I'm curious to see what her impact would have been in today's days of “being natural.”
Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?
I must say that Ricky Powell is interesting to me right now, because I just met the infamous photographer in RiNo — of all places — on Friday, October 7. He happened to be at the opening of Fice, which a friend of mine and I stumbled upon — a Salt Lake City footwear-and-apparel company that just opened its shiny new Denver location with an amazing rooftop. Admittedly, I was a little star-struck — after all, this man has taken some pretty legendary photos of some pretty legendary people, some of whom are my favorite hip-hop artists. After I realized that I was coming across as a little “groupie-ish” while geeking out over a Frank 151 issue based on his photography, I snapped out of it when he invited me back to his hotel room. I probably would have spent the night asking him about the most memorable photo shoots and such, but I was turned off. He’s kinda a jerk…. What's one art trend you want to see die this year?
Good question. Honestly, if I could pick an art trend that I wish would go away, it would be vinyl-printed graffiti murals. Call me “old school,” but I get lost in hand/spray-painted murals that I can walk up to and smell the paint and see the imperfections that make the piece perfect, and vinyl murals just take away from that experience. Just my opinion.
What's your day job?
It depends on the day. On certain days I'm a swim instructor. Other days, I'm an Uber driver/car DJ extraordinaire (by way of Pandora) making sure your “Point A to Point B” is a musically uplifting experience. Those same days are peppered with Colorado Urban Naturals planning, creating events around natural hair maintenance, art and empowerment.
A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?
If a mystery patron offered me unlimited funds for life, I'd open up a Colorado Urban Naturals store — a one-stop shop for all things natural: hair, beauty, skin, body and culture. I'd also fund other natural —related endeavors, such as continuing the Natural Hair College Fair, as well as high-school events that empower youth to be and to love who they are naturally. Denver (or Colorado), love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?
I LOVE Denver, CO. I'm a native, so I'm always going to love it. What keeps me here: the beautiful scenery and the Colorado sunshine. The only reason I'd leave is because I haven't experienced life (long-term) outside of this square box of a state. I have decided, however, that I'm okay with that, committing to more traveling while keeping Denver as home base.
What's the one thing Denver could do to help the art/entrepreneurial community?
Provide even more platforms for minorities to feature their services/showcase their work.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
It's really hard to pick just one, so I'll pick a favorite and a runner-up, both of whom are major creative influences on my life. The runner up: Kalina Ross. She's been my creative push, critic and supporter since Day One. My favorite: Helen Littlejohn. Helen is a creative goddess, and I admire and respect her gift so much. She is an amazing woman, and her art — wearable and other visual mediums — is legendary.
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
2017’s outlook is exciting: Colorado Urban Naturals is reviving its efforts to connect to our communities by hosting workshops and forums on natural hair, covering everything from nutrition to healing through the telling of our stories. We're also launching our exclusive product line, delivery service and much more. Colorado can look forward to the fourth annual Denver Natural Hair Care Expo, as well as Happy Nappy Day, pulling in support from other Colorado cities with natural-hair communities.
Who do you think will get noticed in the local arts/entrepreneurial community in the coming year?
There are a few artists who I think are “on deck”: Tya Anthony, fine art photographer; Holly K. Hurd, self-proclaimed domesticated artisan; Nik “Musa” Ridley, visual artist and founder of Art Snob; and Ietef Cavem, DJ, motivational speaker, food-justice activist and recording artist.
I also believe the Colorado Urban Naturals Collective with Curls on the Block and Crowned Curls will be noticed this coming year, with amazing projects kicking off to put Colorado’s natural community on the map. We set the stage with The Art of Being Natural, featuring the work of renowned photographer Tya Anthony; we are prepared to take it a step further, featuring other local artists and their interpretations of the theme. Stay tuned!
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Susan Froyd started writing for Westword as the "Thrills" editor in 1992 and never quite left the fold. These days she still freelances for the paper in addition to walking her dogs, enjoying cheap ethnic food and reading voraciously. Sometimes she writes poetry.