“I was born in Greenville, MS. My dad’s father and his brothers had a rolling store from 1940 to 1970 in the Mississippi Delta. Their uncle had an old country store, so theyr loaded up the basics: food, material, cotton, grains, and candy and took them through the rural parts of the Delta. They took care of people and got them what they needed, moving into a bus when they needed more space.
My mom’s parents lived in Leland, the childhood home of Jim Henson and where he first drew Kermit the Frog. I loved puppetry, and knowing Kermit the Frog was from my hometown seemed special. After living briefly in McComb & Jackson, we moved to Mobile when I was in 8th grade.
I was always imaginative, but I can’t draw. I went to the University of South Alabama for 2 ½ years to study graphic design. I was a social butterfly and a terrible student, but my color theory classes and my new friendships were worth all of my student loan debt.
My best friend helped start the first Bobbi Brown makeup counter in Mobile, and I joined her. A totally different woman was always in my chair, sometimes every 20 minutes. It was rewarding to pop cheeks with blush or find just the right lipstick color, then hold up the mirror to show a woman her beauty. Something so simple can light someone up or totally change her mood. It can boost the confidence they thought they lost.
I was blessed with a high level of education in the industry because makeup lines aren’t training their teams like they used to. Makeup became my main career and I have been in the beauty, fashion & production industry for 23 years. One of my jobs is working with clients for their special moments, especially brides and Mardi Gras courts.
During Mardi Gras, we aren’t just their beauty squad doing hair and makeup, we are their bestie, their bodyguard, their big sister, and their surrogate mom. We get to be a part of this wild moment in their lives that they have been waiting for since they were kids.
There is so much tradition in Mardi Gras courts. It is fascinating behind the scenes and seeing all of the personal details—from a gorgeous crown that has been in the family for generations sitting on top of a microwave next to a pile of bobby pins, to the girls eating Hardee’s biscuits before putting on cocktail dresses. I fall in love with all of these girls and want the best for them.
It is the same with brides. I am a part of their most special day. But having been through a marriage and a divorce, I like to give them real deal simple advice. I write in their guest books, ‘always date, always kiss, and always smack each other on the ass. Keep a spark, Be good to yourselves as a couple and keep it fun.’
I was a teen mom at 16 and married young at age 20. I was swept into an adult world very quickly, and I realized my ex and I were very different. By age 27, I was a different person. All of this happened before I learned about my needs as a woman, and the needs of my heart. I was 30 and had been a mom for 14 years before I even knew details about how my body works. I tell my brides and debutantes to be educated about their bodies. If they have questions, we try to give them the rundown. I wish I had had someone in my life telling me these things. Your parents may try, but you also need it to come from someone you can relate to who isn’t related to you.
I am still a romantic. My parents were in love their entire lives, and my dad left my mom love notes every day. I was spoiled with the idea of what love looked like.
It was heart-wrenching to watch my dad have early onset dementia and be depleted by his own mind. He was diagnosed at 68 and gone by 72. He always stuck out a hand to help others, helping in any way he could. In 2020, I lost my dad and the best man in the world to Alzheimer’s.
Three months later, I was in a bad car wreck. We were hit from behind on I-65. I was driving my friend’s car and was the only one badly hurt. I hit my head and pulled major muscles in my hips and back, but it could have been much worse. At the wreck site I tried to act like I was more okay than I actually was. The emergency crew was not helpful. I had to ask to be checked out once I was able to get out of the car.
I still won’t drive. My friends and mom have been good at helping and understanding my trauma. That was a hard time. Mental therapy and a few EMDR sessions have helped tremendously, but I still have a ways to go. Empathetic, caretaking people put pressure on ourselves to help others, but we don’t ask for the help we need. People assume we are okay.
I am inspired by every thing and person in my life. I love gathering random thoughts and then bam, it comes together. Pre-planning is not part of that process. You can look at one of the fashion/art shows that I put together to see how my brain works. The NEU DAWN show is my soul laid out on a platter. It is color, fashion, art, music, and more than 70 of my favorite talented artists in one big happy wild art moment.
Painting on a canvas still blows my mind, and I can’t do it, but I can dress up a store window or make a costume come alive. I opened Lunatix & Co. in 2010 for local artists to sell their clothes, accessories, and art. We were open for five years. Even though some of us who had businesses in downtown Mobile aren’t open anymore, we were an important part of the resurgence. We showed the community what was possible.
I have been waiting for years to celebrate Eugene Walter’s 100th birthday. He once had a penny poppy show, an old-school neighborhood game that he played with the neighborhood kids. They dug holes in the ground and placed treasures there, then covered up the holes with pieces of paper. They made the adults pay a penny to see their treasures. I’m going to recreate it with artists and antique collectors as a part of our year-long celebration. It will be during the August Artwalk. It’s my birthday month and I always do something fun during that Artwalk.
Rounding out the Eugene Project, I’m going to do an event with cocktails, canapes, and costumes. I only had one interaction with Eugene Walter. I met him at the Mobile Theater Guild in 1997, and he told me I reminded him of his cat. A friend who was close to him said that was one of the best compliments he could give me and that I should feel honored.
I also work with photo shoots for Access magazine. We have a wonderful giant circle of warm, creative people in Mobile that is different from other places. Lately I’ve met people moving here from bigger cities such as Chicago, New York City, and LA. They come here and say, ‘Whoa, what is this town? I’ve never met so many nice people or seen so many trees.’ We don’t realize how blessed we are. When I hear someone say, ‘People are so nice here.’ I think ‘Yes, and I’m right where I need to be.’”
A few of Courtney’s magical windows displays from The Haunted Book Shop