Laurentius Purnama and his son, Jude. Photograph by Christopher Leaman.
It’s 4 p.m. on a Wednesday afternoon, and I’m sitting in a butter yellow Queen Village kitchen, watching six-year-old Jude Purnama as he slurps up his after-school snack of bubble tea, a weird milky concoction dotted with gummy-like blobs that he hunts with a spoon. The kitchen, like the rest of the house, is a riot of homey clutter that teeters on messy but lands just this side of lived-in. A bright green credenza teems with tchotchkes; vintage canisters are clustered on the tops of shelves; cabinets are papered with Jude’s artwork. A speaker atop the fridge plays a schizophrenic loop of music: Billy Joel, Lady Gaga, the Beatles, Katy Perry. In the brief interludes between songs, there’s the faint mewing of cats — a trio of them, Spot, Maude and Charlie Chan — who slink through the house and periodically wind around my ankles. Katy Perry belts out her fiery fight anthem, all about rising and roaring, but the whole scene calls to mind a more down-to-earth soundtrack: Our house is a very very very fine house with two cats in the yard. …
Even amidst all this color and clutter and noise, I’m drawn mostly to Jude’s hair, a silky brown mop that crests over his ears and falls just below the nape of his neck. It’s beautiful, in the way most little-kid hair is: shiny and bright, of a shade that women spend hundreds of dollars to get in a salon. It’s the color of a coffee bean, but under the kitchen light, I notice streaks of reddish gold. They’re subtle but unmistakable. “Like lava!” Jude says. I mention how beautiful they are.
“Oh, that’s not all natural. I highlighted his hair! Babylights! It’s a light bayalage, just to give it some dimension,” his dad, Laurentius, says. Jude nods, plucks a gelatinous bubble from his glass, and pops it in his mouth, as if this is all perfectly normal. But in this family, a six-year-old with bayalage highlights that cost more than some people’s rent is normal, because Laurentius is Laurentius Purnama, a 43-year-old former hairstylist to the stars and the owner of one of the most high-end hair salons in Philadelphia, a sleek white-and-glass sanctuary that caters to the city’s most well-known — and well-off — citizens. Read more »