Giving Al Sharpton a Makeover

Question: What role did you play in \r\nmaking over the Rev. Al\r\nSharpton’s image?


Carol Friedman: Giving someone their style \r\nor bumping up\r\ntheir sense of style to be a better version of what it is, is part of \r\nthe fun\r\nof what I do, and I actually approached Al Sharpton.  They\r\n didn’t come to me.  I approached his people \r\nbecause I felt that…  I felt that his image wasn’t\r\nengendering the kind of trust that he should have for what he wanted to \r\ndo in\r\nhis life and I actually approached him at a party and criticized his \r\nwhat he\r\nwas doing and his people got back to me and said, “Well what would you \r\nchange\r\nand what would you do?”  And I said, well, I’ll \r\nmeet with him.  

I don’t photograph anyone if\r\nI can’t meet with them first because if I don’t do that, then they’re \r\njust going\r\nto the dentist and they’re filled with fear.  They\r\n don’t know who I am.  Everyone hates their \r\npicture being taken and they’re nervous\r\nand they’re bringing all of that. \r\nWhen I meet with them they realize it is a collaboration and they\r\n look\r\nforward to coming back.  In the\r\nsame way that Sarah Vaughan tricked herself, it’s that similar thing.  That said, I met with Al Sharpton ahead\r\nof time because if he wasn’t going to let me change him… \r\n That was the point.  I wanted to…  I wanted to just change his image, tweak his image so \r\nthat\r\nit engendered the kind of trust that he is after in his political life \r\nand I\r\njust told him: “The hair, the hair, the hair is not right. \r\n I see you’re working on it.  I see it’s \r\ngetting flatter.  I see it’s getting smaller, but I\r\n want\r\nto take it further.  Can I do\r\nthat?”  And the people that were\r\nsitting around him were dying. \r\nThey couldn’t believe I was talking to him about his hair, but \r\nthat was\r\nit for me, so I said, “I know you’re going to the barber before you’re \r\ncoming.”  “Have her get as flat as you can.”  “Really come flat.  And also I \r\nwanted to give him a\r\ndifferent look, more of a banker look, suspender look.  I\r\n think someone in the press commented\r\non his makeover as if it came out of nowhere.  That\r\n was my makeover. \r\nThank you very much. 


So he came to the studio and, you know, we dressed \r\nhim in his\r\nsuits, but again tweaked it.  You\r\nknow, more of a kind of banker look for the reverend, and the hair, the \r\nhair\r\nwas still wrong, so I said with your permission and you know I have this\r\n what I\r\ncall glue in my hair and it is not a black hair product, so with his \r\npermission\r\nI kind of glued his hair down and that is the wonderful hair that you \r\nnow\r\nsee.  Oh God, I feel like a plastic\r\nsurgeon that has revealed someone. \r\nI am usually more discreet about my makeovers, but I think Al \r\nwill be\r\nokay with it.  Picking the music\r\nfor him was really challenging because I told him that he would love the\r\n music\r\nand it was kind of I don’t think he believed me and that was…  He said, “You weren’t kidding about the\r\nmusic.”  He said, “I loved the\r\nmusic. Thank you.”  And you learn\r\neverything about someone when they’re in front of your camera or I learn\r\neverything about someone when they’re in front of my camera and you see \r\nare\r\npeople leading with their ego?  Are\r\nthey leading with their compassion? \r\nAre they leading with their sexuality?  Are\r\n they leading with their intelligence?  And then \r\nit gets all broken down and\r\nwho they are fuses together. And again music helps that process. And I’m\r\n really\r\nfond of Al Sharpton because of what I learned about him when he was in \r\nfront of\r\nmy camera, not because of what he says to the press and I put on among\r\nother  things, on his soundtrack\r\nwas the original Sam Cooke version of “Change is Gonna Come,” and Al was\r\nvery, very moved by it and there is no need to explain to anybody why, \r\nbut that\r\nis all about the genesis of who Al Sharpton is, so again that is what \r\npicking\r\nthat music is about.  It’s hitting\r\nsomeone in their own deep consciousness of how they came up and how they\r\n were\r\nformed as professionals and humans and even children.

Recorded on April 21, 2010
Interviewed by Austin Allen

Changing the Reverend’s image went hand in hand with revealing his inmost self through the camera.

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