While she used to think of July 4 as the day that celebrated freedom, Juneteeth has replaced that holiday in Hunter’s heart.
“My focus is on Juneteeth, because that’s the day we were freed as slaves.”
But it hasn’t always been a well-known holiday.
“I heard about it when I used to do the walk across the bridge,” she says, referring to the annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee over the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala.
Hunter values freedom in other ways, too.
For 18 years, she worked at a well-known clothing store. But she couldn’t be constrained by the dress code there. She had her own sense of fashion and wore what pleased her, even if she had to cover it up with a work smock.
Since she continued dressing to suit herself, they hid her away in the receiving department.
“I put my smock on, put my little work clothes on, and they were like, ‘We just can’t break you!’”
She got to the point she dreaded going to work. “I was like, Lord, am I going to be doing this for the rest of my life?” Then the store downsized and she was let go.
She had forgotten her phone that day, so when she made the 45-minute drive home, she had plenty of time to do some thinking. Initially worried about making her mortgage and car loan, she felt God speaking to her. “I am about to deliver you, and you’re sitting here thinking up excuses,” was the message she felt God was giving her.
She thought about substitute teaching. She thought about selling adult toys. “I was like, I cannot do it. This is not me.”
Then she thought about how much she loved fashion and retail.
In 2012, she ordered some handbags and sold them door-to-door or from the trunk of her car. After two years, she told God she wanted more.
“My son has a restaurant. I used to sit in his restaurant and draw on a yellow pad. I said, ‘When I get my store, this is how it’s going to look.’”
Selling accessories and handbags gave her her “first taste” of being a business owner. “I went up to this mall and got a booth. It was very, very, very expensive.”
From the beginning, she had a vision. “People used to come just to see how I had decorated my booth so elegantly.”
“I was there for about a year,” she says. But foot traffic at the mall was decreasing, and so were her sales.
Praying for answers
“I began to pray to God again.” She believed it was time to open a store, and the one she wanted was vacant. “God, I feel like if I was on this block,” she prayed, “I would be able to make a difference.”
That was 10 years ago. “I got the taste of being in my business on my own.” Once again, she started with handbags and accessories, and five years later she added clothing.
“It has been a great, great success.”
She wanted to be able to help other women dress to fit their own style. With Hunter’s pink hair set off by her amazing outfits, she’d dress for imagined occasions.
“I’m going to have tea this morning. I’m going to have brunch. That was a way of expressing to me where I wanted to go in life.”
She has now expanded to online sales.
“God blessed me with a website two years ago. I go live every Saturday. I show them the merchandise I have. I have handbags, I have clutches. I have a sunhat. I have fascinators. I have sunglasses. I have bralettes. Shapewear. What I do is, I take pictures for my website.”
She’s her own model. She has pictures of herself wearing the week’s new apparel loaded and ready to go every Saturday morning. She describes each piece, how it fits and how it feels. She posts all her new apparel for the week.
“This has a slit. I’m showing you now,” she said as one example of how she makes sure buyers see all the details. “I just give a great description of the merchandise.”
She has two young women helping her with online and phone orders during the Facebook Live.
“It’s like a mini fashion show every Saturday.”
Curvy Girls Can Wear Anything
“We as curvy girls, we have been put on that burner. We can’t wear this, we can’t wear that. So that’s what I do. I love to inspire curvy girls. It’s not what you wear, it’s how you wear it. I salute the curvy girls.
“I’m a curvy girl, so why would I get small, medium and large, which I can’t wear?” she says.
“What I want you to know is that I’m about building women. Bringing confidence to women. As a curvy girl, they were saying we couldn’t wear certain things. I bring confidence to women to make them feel good.”
Making Women Feel Pretty
But it goes beyond that. Hunter works to build up women going through tough times.
“A woman said she just had her last chemo and wanted to be beautiful. Whatever they’re telling me, it’s personal stuff. I cry with them. I sit and listen to the women and I put myself aside, even if I’m going through something. This woman, she needs to talk. She’s going through a personal journey.”
“I have cancer, my hair is coming out, but I just want to be pretty in some Pink Icing,” another said. “And we began to pray together.
“I am in business to sell, but it brings me so much joy when they come in and they want to talk.”
Other women say they’re inspired and would like to start their own businesses. “I tell them, go for it. Make sure it’s something you want to do, not what you see someone else doing. I’m not the one to knock your dreams, but it’s not easy.”
It’s not all “glitz and glamor,” she says.
“It’s me loving other women. Hey, if you’re not a curvy girl, you can still come into Pink Icing” for a handbag or a one-size-fits-all item.
She’s passing on her knowledge of fashion, business and life to the next generation, too.
“There’s a program in the schools where they pay the kids to come work and be trained.” She has three young ladies from the program, and she’s teaching them the fundamentals of how to own their own business.
“I’m going to take them to the Birmingham Civil Rights museum. I’m teaching them the ropes of life,” she says.
“Sometimes it’s not just the women.” Sometimes men tell her, “I really love what you are doing for our women.”
Hunter has four sisters and two brothers. Her parents have passed away. She also has two sons, 34 and 39, plus three granddaughters and two grandsons. She’s never married.
One of her sons owns a soul food restaurant called Kaylyn’s where her other son works, too. Hunter lends a hand on Sundays.
Business, it seems, is in the family blood.
Read this New York Times story to learn more about our nation’s newest federal holiday.