A social experiment unexpectedly initiates a profound healing journey in Harshman's eye-opening memoir.
Diagnosed bipolar, suffering from depression, and constantly dealing with panic attacks, thirty-three-year-old Stacy Harshman is fed up with five months of unfulfilled private therapy. In a moment of desperation to escape from her dismal mental and emotional state, Stacy purchases a red wig unaware that the hairpiece will dramatically change her life. Donning the stunning "Showgirl" as she prances throughout New York City, Stacy feels empowered as complete strangers feed her with flattering responses. Impressed by the transformation from her mousy-looking hair to her styled do, Stacy wonders if people's reactions would be the same if she had a different colored hair. That thought turns into a five-week/six-days-a-week social experiment appropriately named Crowning Glory and the topic of Stacy's memoir.
Stacy hires a gal she dubs Agent Thorn to observe and record people's responses. Going undercover and assuming a new life each week, Stacy documents her external (interactions with public) and internal (how she feels) experiences. Pretty much keeping to the same "diverse settings and Manhattan neighborhoods," Stacy transforms into red-haired Kali Amsterdam during the first week. The raven-haired Nada Jolie, the blonde Raya Mer, and the brunette Paula Isla follow on weeks two thru four. Lastly on week five, Stacy makes her rounds simply as herself with the hair from her own head. Through ups and downs and sexual encounters with cyberdates, the over two-hundred-hour experiment has its way with morphing and reshaping Stacy—ultimately building up her self-confidence.
It is astounding how one comment can have a negative effect on a person's life. During her childhood, Harshman internalized a family member's statement about her hair. Harshman concluded that she's ugly—a nagging stigma that stayed with her into her early adult years, and thus the attraction to full-bodied and eye-catching colored wigs. Almost ten years have passed since the Crowning Glory experiment. Certainly, Harshman is not the same person that she was back then. The wacky and wild five plus weeks definitely pushed her closer to accepting herself—something that professional therapy couldn't nail down. As Harshman aptly confirms, "It was as though I had been growing a real-me seed inside a wig-covered greenhouse."
Harshman's one-of-a-kind life changing story is nothing less than compelling. A balanced combination of journal entry, storytelling, and background history, Harshman's writing style is direct and at times visceral. Harshman leaves no stone unturned in her desperate attempts to escape her lackluster introverted lifestyle with her present boyfriend. While capturing times when she succumbs to panic attacks and grapples with uncomfortable as well as unsuccessful sexual escapades, Harshman also incorporates plenty of hilariously awkward and embarrassing moments. Such highlights include her wig hair getting caught in the subway doors, a price tag stuck on the seat of her pants at a popular hipster bar, and a psychic reading with Mama Marie—just to list a few.
Today, the multi-talented Harshman is quite the entrepreneur. Taking all her challenging and creative circumstances and turning them into something beautiful, Harshman's musical talent has produced six albums. Her passion for color led her to not only become an artist, but also to launch Andarina Designs, a custom lighting design company.
Quill says: Crowning Glory is not only entertaining, but also a powerfully positive read.