I just spoke to friend and writer Claude Jay the other day and he told me that Paulette Gay, The Scarf Lady had died over the New Year’s holiday. In shock, I could only think about when I first met her after moving to Harlem from the West Coast. She was one of the first people I met in Harlem at her Scarf Lady Boutique at 408 Lenox Avenue (at 130th Street). She always encouraged other people by showcasing and selling their wares — and she designed and sold incredibly beautiful scarves and headwraps.
The store was a second career for Paulette — she was a Verizon technician for many years. Eventually her love of fabric, color and texture led her to open The Scarf Lady, and she traveled all over the world to find fine fabrics. But Paulette did more than sell beautiful accessories — she also worked with women who were in prison, and those who were undergoing chemotherapy and losing hair. She worked for celebrities from B.Smith (see pictured), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Maya Angelou. Her message was that a woman can be beautiful even while getting cancer treatment — and her classes and demonstrations in head-wrapping were an inspiration to many. Whenever you were in her shop she demonstrated the technique of head-wrapping. As she would explain, head-wrapping is all about “tying and tucking.” She had a beautiful spirit!
Paulette Gay, the ScarfLady made her transition on Thursday, December 30, 2010.