One Man’s Touching, Hair-Based Tribute to Michael Jackson

By
Photo: Jada Yuan

As the year draws to a close, we find ourselves thinking back to the celebrities we lost in 2009. And as we try to honor each of them in our own special way, we know that we will never, ever be able to find a way quite as special as how Mattheu Hinton has honored Michael Jackson. We first met Hinton, the 36-year-old director of strategic alliances and brand management at Universal Motown Republic Group, in September at a GQ charity event for which he'd booked the musical guests, Kid Cudi and Akon. He was networking and enjoying his glory moment in a nice suit and tie. Then he turned around, and we almost fell to the floor. Like some party-hopping Professor Quirrell, the back of his head had another face! And not just any face. MJ's face.

We recently checked back in with Hinton, who tells us that his "ode to Michael" is still going strong. It all began two weeks after Michael's death, when Hinton started feeling like he hadn't done enough. So he paid a visit to his longtime barber, Master Strong Guy, who also gave Hinton the "hair tattoo" of Obama he'd rocked for months after the Inauguration. When Hinton walked into the barber shop and asked for a Thriller-era Jackson on the back of his head, Strong told him, "'I was waiting for you. I knew you were going to be the one.' "

Hinton goes in every Sunday for maintenance and Strong adds more curls or perfects the lips. He likes the attention it gets when he walks down the street, and the stories about Jackson he gets to hear. "When people touch the back of my head, it reminds me how many people Michael touched," he says.

Navigating business meetings — Hinton matches musicians like Lil Wayne and Erykah Badu with commercial brands — has proven more difficult. "I have to wear certain things to balance it out," he says, "but I can't cover him, and I wouldn't. The funny thing is that because it's Michael, it kind of stops the meeting. From the front you can see there's something there, so when I walk in the room, I say, 'And by the way, I have an ode to Michael.' You know, just get it out there. But in music, we're allowed to be edgy; women have really bizarre haircuts. I think it shows them, 'He's a forward thinker, he's a guy who knows how to connect the dots, he's a guy who has a finger on the pulse.'"

In the New Year, Hinton plans to move to a more nostalgic Michael-with-Afro image inspired by This Is It, which he saw twice (he also bought the CD). And in a month, or at least by March, he'll shave it all off. "It was my ode and I don't want to run it in the hole," he says. "Eventually, of course, I'll go back to being normal."

Here's Hinton's barber, Master Strong Guy, admiring his handiwork: