Monday, October 17, 2016

Very Fairy Hair

By C.J. Hirschfield

A couple of weeks ago, six Children’s Fairyland employees chose to have sparkly metallic strands attached to their own hair. I was one of them. And we’re not alone. Others (mostly women) who have chosen to have beautifully colored,  iridescent  strands woven into their tresses include members of  Flex Gym on Piedmont Ave., partygoers in Marin, and regular patrons of an East Bay beauty salon.

Very Fairy Events was in town twice recently, for Fairyland’s Member Appreciation Day, in late August, and our adults-only Drawn Together arts event, in late September. At those events we typically offer such delights as face painting, hair chalking and henna “tattoos.” Lately, though, we’ve noticed that the fairy hair strands are really catching on.

Manda Stretch, co-owner of “Very Fairy Events,” at a Bay Area festival

The duo making the magic are Manda Stretch (“Harmony”) and her partner Noelle Neglia (“Sparkle”), who also lead musical storytelling and theater games. How they became Very Fairy is an interesting story.

A musical theater kid from New Hampshire who says that “my life has been pretty nonlinear,” Manda attended Emerson College in Boston, focusing on theater production. She was a fan of the Dungeons and Dragons game, so she came up with a character and participated in local Renaissance Faires.

She then went on to write poetry, play in a band, and work in a holistic health center. Four years ago, after 19 years in New York, she moved to the Bay Area to re-make herself—as a fairy.

She and Noelle are meditators in the Buddhist tradition who want to bring mindfulness practice and spiritual connection to the world through creative play. Noelle does face painting, body art, and henna; Manda does fairy strands as well as hair chalking and feathering. Before and after she ties the strands of Thai silk to individual hairs (a process that typically takes about a minute or less for each) Manda activates tuning forks to help people feel grounded and connected to the experience.

The application of sparkly “fairy hair” strands is becoming increasingly popular.

My fairy hair (I currently have about a dozen strands in my tresses) is a real icebreaker: people ask me about it and marvel at the way it catches the light. Manda tells me that’s not uncommon. One of her 100-plus clients is an emergency-room physician who says her patients are more open and trusting when they’re face to face with a sparkly doc. 

Schoolteachers say that their “cool factor” with students is greatly increased, and that autistic and other special needs kids respond particularly positively.

Many of Manda’s older clients say that they feel livelier after receiving fairy hair, and that they enjoy the conversations that the sparkles spark. Manda has woven the strands into a few beards as well, to good effect. She charges $1.50 per strand; people typically request 10 to 20. My strands last for many months.

In Novembers, Manda will be attending the tenth annual Faeriecon convention in Baltimore. “The event is rife with all kinds of creativity,” she says, and she’s looking forward to the weekend of storytelling, art, music, costumes and shopping. There will be panels, presentation, workshops and two masked balls.

Some people might say that Manda’s choice to immerse herself in the realm of fantasy represents an escape from reality. They’d be wrong. Manda has a concrete purpose: to help bring out the uniqueness and magic she says is inside everyone. “I just want to ramp up their fairy mojo, and. bring their inner sparkle to the outside,” she says. “I want to live more into being the magic I want to see in the world.”

If you want your next party to sparkle, visit VeryFairyEvents on Facebook.


C.J. Hirschfield has served for 14 years as executive director of Children’s Fairyland, where she is charged with the overall operation of the nation’s first storybook theme park.

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