NEW YORK CITY — Public Advocate Bill de Blasio may be rising in the polls, but it’s his son, 15-year-old Dante, who’s risen to superstar status after the world got a glimpse of his striking Afro.
In an exclusive interview with DNAinfo, Dante dished on his inspired hairdo, his newfound fame, and his role in his dad’s bid to become New York City’s next mayor.
The teen said he's been mostly unfazed by the wave of attention he's gotten in the wake of his cameo in his dad's campaign ads, but admitted the attention was “still kind of weird.”
“Honestly, for years my hair was really just for me. I didn't think people would love it so much,” Dante told DNAinfo New York in a phone interview Thursday.
“A lot of people recognize me,” he said with a shy laugh. “Some people want to take photos and I’m really just happy.”
According to Dante, maintaining the fabulous 'fro, which he's been cultivating since the third grade, doesn’t take a lot of work.
“I have to pick it out every day and I wash it every week and I get trimmed about once a month,” he said.
He added that he doesn't use any special styling products, shampoo or styling gear, only a favorite purple pick “that's just kind of large."
He does have some professional help — a family friend, Riqui Braithwaite, a natural hairstylist at Harold Melvin Beauty Salon on the Upper West Side, makes monthly housecalls to the de Blasio household to maintain the locks.
Braithwaite, who befriended Dante's mom Chirlane McCray many years ago, has been cutting Dante’s hair from a young age. She only uses scissors, no electric clippers.
She remembered Dante introducing her to the cartoon series “The Boondocks,” whose main character, Huey Freeman, inspired his hair.
“He showed me the little kid's hair and I said, 'ah, that is your hair,'” she said. “It made me not cut his hair evenly all around so he could get a similar look as that character.”
Dante said he first fell in love with the 'fro in the third grade, after being inspired by the African-American pride that was associated with the rise of the afro in the 1960s and '70s. Ever since then, he said, it’s been a topic of conversation.
“At the time I really just liked the style,” he said, “I was just bringing back the style that meant a lot.”
“A lot of older people like to talk about how they used to have Afros, like in the 70s and 60s, because that was the time when it was really popular,” he added.
While his personal style has been known among his friends for a long time, Dante says having it on display in his dad’s ad came as a shock to some of them.
“They can't really believe I was in a commercial,” he said.
Braithwaite said she was excited to see Dante starring in the famous ad for his father: “When I saw it on TV, I said, 'oh — that is so cool!'”
Not that she was surprised by Dante’s performance.
“It's interesting to have seen him as a really little kid and see who he's grown up into,” she said. “Dante's a just a very laid-back, cool human being.”
For Dante, he’s just glad to be able to help his dad.
“I’m glad to help my dad however I can,” he said. “Honestly, it's my hair and I’m glad to show it off.”