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Yearly 'Rumble' barber contest in Rock Hill raises hair

By Sunday evening, Shermel Meekes hoped to look like a human version of a Red Bull energy drink can.

With long red braids, curved red horns and a Red Bull can perched in her hair, complete with dramatic make-up, spiky earrings and a blue-and-white bodysuit, she was one of the models at the 9th "Rumble in the Jungle" barber and styling competition.

More than 300 people packed into a Winthrop University gym Sunday night to watch hair experts clip, cut, shear, shave and style their models into fantastic creations for cash prizes.

David Hemphill, a stylist with Top of the Line salon on Dave Lyle Boulevard, was a little nervous, but his intentions were clear.

"I'm going to reinvent the Red Bull can," he said, nodding at Meekes, who has been his model in the past.

While Meekes wouldn't have "wings," like the energy drink's slogan says, he did fashion her some horns.

"I feel like a Red Bull can," Meekes said after a 45-minute styling session.

It was the first year stylists had the chance to participate in the competition, which before has been limited to barbers, said Karen Shabazz, creator of the competition.

Hemphill did more than participate; he won first place in the stylist competition. Tim Ward, with W2 Barbershop and Salon in Shelby, N.C., won the barber category.

Shabazz said the competition had had to change locations each year because more people are interested in participating and watching. Because of that demand, she decided to include stylists in addition to the barbers. Judges walked around, looking over the designs and made their choices based on professionalism, creativy and blend.

"Initially, I wanted to do something for Black History Month and give them an opportunity to challenge and hone their skills," said Shabazz, of Shabazz Barber Styling College. "Barbering is such a big part of history, too."

While numerous barbers and stylists - from Rock Hill, Charlotte, Shelby, N.C., and other cities in the region - worked on their creations during two 45-minute periods, viewers were treated to some live entertainment, including interpretive dances, history readings and fashion shows.

But no one could hide the anticipation of seeing the models with their finished hairstyles.

For Jamal Shabazz, one of Karen's sons, the art of barbering runs in the family. A barber for 10 years, he said he initially didn't want to go into the field, but now, he loves it.

His creation was a not-so-subtle hint to the judges - a first-place ribbon shaved into the side of his head.

Tresse Evans Smith, owner of Tresse's House of Mo' Hair in Rock Hill, created a confectioner's dream on the head of her model, Tammy McCree-Simril.

A black box shaped like a candy wrapper, with fountains of hair spilling out of it, adorned her head, with bright dots representing the candy. McCree-Simril's own hair was a multitude of colors - pink, green, purple and white.

The back of the box read, in sparkling silver, "Tresse's Candy Fantasy."

McCree-Simril grinned at the spectators as her chair was wheeled around.

She would not be wearing the candy-fantasy creation to work today, she said.

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