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Keeping It Real—Polite

When The Real Housewives of Atlanta visited Helen McLaughlin’s beauty salon, they acted as if they belonged.

Helen McLaughlin has had a p“no-drama” rule in her Eatonville salon for 23 years.

Helen McLaughlin has had a p“no-drama” rule in her Eatonville salon for 23 years.

Photo by Tina Russell

Good manners. That’s what comes to mind when you meet Helen McLaughlin. She is polite and proper, speaking in soft tones, her voice always at cruising speed. She’s cheerful but not bubbly, her emotions as steady as her hands when styling a reality TV diva’s hair.

She is, frankly, the opposite of what you would expect to see on an episode of The Real Housewives of Atlanta, the hugely popular cable-TV docudrama of catfights and petty jealousies. Yet, the producers of the series sought out McLaughlin and her Eatonville beauty salon, Euro Designs, for a taping of an upcoming episode.

The 55-year-old shop owner had only one rule, the same one she’s enforced in her salon for 23 years: “I told them no drama,” she says, adding she had never watched the show—or any of the other Housewives franchises, for that matter—until the producers called. After viewing a few reruns of the Atlanta series, she became concerned that visiting wives Kandi Burruss and Kim Zolciak might ditch the no-drama rule and throw hissy fits, turning her business into an episode akin to Jerseylicious, the skank-fest reality show set in a beauty salon.

McLaughlin felt her professional reputation was on the line, but she need not have stressed.

“The entire time they were in here, everything was just really, really nice,” McLaughlin says, relieved. The only demand the two wives made was that nothing “ghetto” be done to their hair. “We don’t do that anyhow,” she says. “We’re a classy place.”

Zolciak, McLaughlin adds, was talkative and “especially nice,” while Burruss said little during the taping of the salon segment, which was scheduled to be aired on the Bravo network early this month.

While nice doesn’t make for scintillating reality TV, it does help foster a good reputation, which is how the Housewives producers found McLaughlin’s salon in the historically black community of 2,400 people. McLaughlin’s Euro Designs has carved out a niche as the salon where African-American women of some celebrity go to have their hair coiffed in an atmosphere of proper etiquette. After all, McLaughlin wrote an employee handbook on decorum for her stylists.

U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, whose district includes the Parramore section of Orlando, and Yvonne Coleman of WLOQ-103.1’s Sunday Jazz Brunch are regulars, and Lucille O’Neal and Sheryl Howard, the mothers of NBA stars Shaquille O’Neal and Dwight Howard, often stop in.

“Word of mouth has been so good to me,” says McLaughlin.

As the Housewives taping wrapped up, McLaughlin says Burruss invited her to go clubbing that night. “She said she needed to find a new boyfriend,” the shop owner recalls, chuckling.

McLaughlin declined the invitation—politely, of course.

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