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WARD GIRLS

Source: Photography by Danielle James / Hello Beautiful

We meet at her home in the Garden District. Upon meeting Ms. Richard, she was even sweeter in person, giving off major “Mom vibes.” This is no surprise as she’s the mother to two successful children, including Frank Jr. (an engineer) and Dawn Richards, the former Danity Kane member who has successfully reinvented herself into a solo act. Ms. Richards is a retired teacher and dance school instructor, widening her impact and effect on the children she has taught.

WARD GIRLS

Source: Photography by Danielle James / Hello Beautiful

It’s her anniversary day. Her husband, Frank Richards is with her and dotes over her like the attentive husband you only read about. They’ve been married for over 30 years. They share an embrace and kiss, which I sneakily catch on camera. Their love is infectious and felt throughout the room. As I take her photo throughout the area, you see his eyes watching her and I imagine the love is just as strong, if not stronger, than day one.

We walk around the property, scouting the perfect location for the shop. “This isn’t where I lived,” Ms. Debbie says of the lavish area, almost reading my mind. We take some photos in her new location before she takes me to one of the most memorable places for her: the dance school she owned and taught at in New Orleans, particularly the 7th Ward. Post Katrina, it’s now a home, waiting to be sold. Just a few homes down the block, you see dilapidated structures, even 10 years later, that are struggling to be placed back together. The forgotten American city.

We meet again a few days later with my team for filming. She bravely takes us not only to her former dance studio, but also to the 9th Ward, where a majority of her dance students used to live. It was her first time since moving back from Baltimore, just over a year ago, that she has visited. She hasn’t been there since the levies broke. She gazes at the historical sign for minutes almost as if she briefly forgot that the whole crew and myself were there, before talking about the neighborhood and its meaning.

Get to know more about Ms. Debbie Richards below in her exclusive interview for Hello Beautiful.

Name: Deborah Richards

Nickname: Debbie. I never put Deborah, I hate that name!

Age: 66 (I’m proud, I KNOW I don’t look it!)

Location (Which Ward/Area are you from): 7th Ward – I moved here when I was 2. I’m originally from New Iberia, Louisiana.

Occupation: Retired Teacher and Dance Instructor

HB: Define your personal style:

I’m a free spirit. Because I’m creative, I love light and bright colors. I’m an Aries, which means I’m a water sign and I like all things that are positive and creative. I speak my word. I speak how I feel. I say all this because my style is like my personality: it’s very free. When I get up in the morning and feel a certain way, I dress a certain way. My daughter Dawn is the same way, though she’s a bit over the top sometimes! She’s my most creative child.

As for my personal style…I’ve lost 25 pounds since you saw me and I’m going to lose 25 more! I can still wear the type of clothes that I like to wear and that’s freeing. The colors have to be very vibrant. I do love wearing white, I think white frees you up. The hot pink and the orange in my photo? That’s my personality. I love to mix colors. When I was a young girl, you had to be coordinated with colors, I like that this has changed. I like that people wear vibrant colors and are mixing prints and not necessarily matched, but still matching in the same family and looks good. I like that kind of stuff.

My hair changes consistently, too. I have curly hair, I’ll wear my braids, and even wear my hair straight. I can look different every time. I like that. I don’t like to look the same. I’m very open, I’m 65, I don’t want to look like a kid, but I want to be in a style that fits me. It COULD be a 25-year-old style, but it has to fit me…nothing hanging out! It’s possible to do and still look nice and don’t look like I’m trying to be something I’m not, just because I’m an older lady.

HB: How has New Orleans influenced your style?:

My creativity and my style has come from me being a Creole woman. I think it’s so important for you to know who you are, your heritage, and where you come from, that’s your style also. You can relate to all types of styles when you know who you are and where you come from.

I like to look a certain way at a certain time and it all depends and it has to do with my heritage. Creole people are very open and not afraid to be who you are, because we are SO many things, and it has influenced my style. You can tell a person by what they put on.

HB: Is there anything you lost in Katrina (clothing or accessories related) that you still wish you had?:

All my trophies. All my children’s trophies…and all the things they have done. My children at the dancing school were in competitions like on Dance Moms, I had just as many trophies and I miss those. I like to be able to look back at the accomplishments.

Clothing wise? Shoes! Girl, I had the platform shoes. I had so many shoes it was ridiculous. All the shoes that you all are wearing now, I had all of those. All the 70’s fashion and accessories, I had them – color coordinated to a tee. I lost all of those. I wish I could have kept some of those clothes so I could have shown y’all just how dope we were. It’s coming back…that’s how I know it’s dope. People are willing to do it again.

HB: How has your style changed post-Katrina?:

I don’t really think it has changed too much. Now and days I like to wear the midi-dresses, especially if it’s tight. To me, it looks better. Back in the day, I liked to wear mini-dresses (I have dancer legs!). Even though I was bow-legged, I had very pretty legs and they are my asset. I used to wear mini skirts but now I wear midi and longer dresses. When it’s midi dresses, now I feel that you see more of the contour of my body. I have a small waist and hips, the midi dresses really shows off the hourglass shaped. You don’t necessarily have to be small, just have some shape!

HB: Is there anything you lost in Katrina (clothing or accessories related) that you still wish you had?:

All my trophies. All my children’s trophies…and all the things they have done. My children at the dancing school were in competitions like on Dance Moms, I had just as many trophies and I miss those. I like to be able to look back at the accomplishments.

Clothing wise? Shoes! Girl, I had the platform shoes. I had so many shoes it was ridiculous. All the shoes that you all are wearing now, I had all of those. All the 70’s fashion and accessories, I had them – color coordinated to a tee. I lost all of those. I wish I could have kept some of those clothes so I could have shown y’all just how dope we were. It’s coming back…that’s how I know it’s dope. People are willing to do it again.

HB: Has your relationship with clothing and accessories differed pre and post Katrina?:

No – it’s the same. The only difference is when I went to Baltimore after we lost everything, Baltimore is a different type of city. You could get away with more city fashion that you could in New Orleans.

HB: What’s one thing that people may not know about the fashion and style in New Orleans?:

Just because NOLA is free and the people are free, they are not always free in fashion. However, I’ve always stayed true to who I was, which is why people in NOLA wear whatever. People would say, “You can wear anything.” No I couldn’t, I just chose to wear everything.

HB: What is your favorite hairstyle and why?:

Well, right now my hair is red. >>laughs<< It makes me a little lighter and paler. People are telling me, “You’re really looking red now.

I like to change my hair all the time. My favorite hairstyle is the curly look because my hair is naturally curly. I like being able to wet my hair and wear it curly and not work too hard at it. Now that I’m older, most older women’s hair start thinning out, but my hair is not. I could wear an Angela Davis afro if I wanted to…and I have!

HB: What is one thing you never leave the house without?:

My lipgloss. My makeup. My makeup is always in my purse. I wear foundation and powder, a little mascara and a little rouge on my cheeks. That’s it. That’s how I roll. My eyelashes are long so I wear mascara and a little eyeliner on the bottom. I’m very plain when it comes to makeup.

I have to have my foundation. I’m not two-toned, I’m three toned. The color of the lipstick depends on whether it’s night or day. My look is bolder at night.

HB: What is the “signature” thing about your look? (Do you always wear a specific ring? Your hair in a certain way? What would your friends and family say to be like, ‘Yes! That’s her!’):

There’s nothing “signature” about my look. People that no me, people who really know me, aren’t surprised by anything I put on. I just try to look the way I want to look. They may not know what I’m going to wear, but they know I’m going to look fly.

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WARD GIRLS: Debbie Richards Takes Us With Her Back To The 9th Ward was originally published on hellobeautiful.com

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