Monday, January 18, 2016

Dallas Dweller: Heidi Dillon

Ken Downing, Heidi Dillon, Bill Dillon and Dallas Dillon at the 2015 FGI Night of Stars Gala

Dallas is full of colorful characters. There are those you see monthly in the society pages, whose stories are legendary in this town. But, this feature is inspired by the people that I think you should know more about because of their fabulous style, interesting back-story or amazing accomplishments. Dallas Dweller seeks to introduce you to these fabulous faces.

Dallas Dweller: Heidi Dillon

I adore Heidi Dillon because she is a woman full of contradictions. The minute you think you have her figured out - BAM! - she does something that has your head spinning. She's a professor's wife, Mother, fashion-lover, art collector, talent manager, makeup artist, musician, fiercely loyal friend, hostess extraordinaire... and those are just a few of the many facets of her personality that I have gotten to know over the past few years. Dillon is one of those people who believes that nothing worth doing is worth doing at full throttle. She recently decided that she wanted to learn more about how to better apply make-up. A normal person might have gone over to MAC at NorthPark Center for lesson, but not Dillon. She enrolled at the Make Up For Ever academy in New York City and studied under Scott Barnes. As a result of that education (and the fact that Tina Craig is one of her BFF's) she's now a Contributing Beauty Editor at Like me, Dillon writes how she talks and it makes her work fun to read because I can literally hear her voice in my head, making it feel personal - like she's sharing a secret just with me.

Dillon hails from Minneapolis, Minnesota and which is located directly above Dallas geographically, but she didn’t take a straight road to get here. Instead, she came via the eastern seaboard. She started her adult life at the University of Iowa where she studied studio art for a couple of years, then transferred to the University of Massachusetts to finish her studies. It was in Amherst, Massachusetts that she met and fell madly in love with Bill, the man who became her husband. (I feel the need to point out that she & Bill have been together 40 years, which is a freaking record these days. I'm slow clapping for you, Dillon.) Dillon muses, "After graduate school, we moved to New York City. It was the 80’s and New York was such a raw, exciting place to be. I never wanted to leave. Eventually, though, Bill got a great job offer at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. I intensely dislike that city, but we built a beautiful home on a lake and, since we were childless at the time, traveled several times a month. We lived there for seven years - I call it my great tribulation period - but never considered it to be our permanent home. Thankfully, Southern Methodist University recruited Bill, so off we went to Dallas. That was 22 years ago."

Cynthia Smoot & Heidi Dillon at Art For Advocacy
event at Forty Five Ten (October 2105)
Being an art enthusiast, she got involved with the Dallas Museum of Art as a way to meet people and pretty quickly got sucked into the charity scene. "My very first volunteer job was the Go Van Gogh program at the Dallas Museum of Art. We went out on an adorable minivan loaded with art supplies and taught art classes in the DISD school system. It was loads of fun," says Dillon.

"That landed me a spot on the board DMA Women’s Auxiliary where I really got to know everyone at the museum. The first event that I chaired was a Chanel runway show at the Adolphus Hotel that benefited the Beaux Arts Ball, as it was called at the time. The previous year I chaired the silent auction for the ball.  In 1996, I was pregnant with my son Dallas when I was asked to co-chair the ball. He was 11 months old when the Ball took place in 1997.

Ball Chair is a huge, all-consuming job that very few people want to take on. I think by the time they got around to asking me several people had turned them down. I was a babe in the woods - I had no idea what I was signing up for!! It was a tremendous learning experience even though it was trial by fire. Of course, once you do a big event like that, you get branded with the word “sucker” on your forehead and get hit up frequently to chair other events." Dillon has also chaired the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s St. Valentine’s Luncheon, the Salvation Army’s Fashion Show and Luncheon, Russell Simmon’s Diamond Empowerment Fund Gala, New Year’s Eve at the Nasher and served on "a million committees too numerous to mention here."

Dillon is legendary around these parts for her style, which tends to lean towards European designers with clean, architectural looks. Her favorite color is black and she'd sooner drop dead than wear a floral print.  In 2005 founded The Fashionistas, a non-profit organization that celebrates artists, entrepreneurs and visionaries that make-up the fashion industry. The organization showcases young and emerging designers through monthly Fashionistas Fashion Fridays events. Shirin Askari; Khanh Nguyen and Nini Nguyen of Nha Khanh, Prashi Shah and Elizabeth Anyaa are just a few big names to come out of Dallas that The Fashionistas helped launch.

Heidi Dillon, Steve Kemble, Cynthia Smoot and LeeAnne Locken at Fashion X Dallas, September 2015

I asked her where her love of fashion came from? "This last Christmas my brother thought it would be fun to show old family slides. As the first child/grandchild, it was all about me - me in a pink pinafore, me in a blue silk number trimmed with lace ruffles, me in a red velvet Christmas dress. It was very clear that I was born loving fashion and that my mother, grandmother and aunts indulged me." I asked Dillon about jobs she had worked as a teen, expecting her to talk about an internship with a department store or working retail at a boutique. Nope. Always one for a shocker, Heidi divulged, "I used to work in a toy factory. When I was a kid there was this family down the street from me named Schaper who owned the toy factory that made Cooties and Don’t Break the Camel’s Back. Bob Schaper told all of the moms in the neighborhood that he would hire their kids for the summer. The minute I turned 16, my mom walked down the street and had a chat with Bob. I started working the 4-midnight shift the next day - on the assembly line. It wasn’t bad because a bunch of my friends worked with me. My boyfriend would pick me up after work and we would make out for a while. During the day I went to the beach for a few hours before work. But, after a few weeks I got “promoted" to the 7am-4pm shift. That wasn’t nearly as much fun because my co-workers were grownups and that shift cut out my beach time." See what I mean. Just when you think you know where she's coming from or where she's going...  there is a twist.

Heidi Dillon at an Aaron Hendra concert at House of Blues
(April 2015)
And here's another twist. Six years ago Dillon decided that she wanted to be a television producer and so she set out to make it happen. "A famous friend of mine introduced me to her Hollywood agent, I met with him, he signed me and sent me out to meet LA production companies that specialize in “unscripted” television. I met with about a dozen companies and settled on a company owned by a husband and wife duo who just finished a successful series on BET and were getting ready to produce Real Housewives of Miami.

We hit it off on every level and I began to work with them as an independent producer. We started to do some amazing things together and soon made it official and started our production company Morning Dew Pictures. We sold four pilots: Have You Heard About the Hutchinson’s to E!, Young Broke and Fabulous to Style Network, Lee + Lani to WeTV and Chocolate City to MTV. So, now I am a executive producer with a few good credits to my name."  Even though none of the pilots were taken to series Dillon was determined to keep working in television. "When we did Chocolate City I became friends with our primary talent, Ray Cunningham. I saw that Ray had a bigger talent than just being another reality star and, after MTV passed on the series, I asked him if I could be his manager. That was two years ago," Dillon says excitedly.

"Ray is now the WeTV digital correspondent and has his own show on their website called Misster Ray’s Reality Wrap for which he just won the Cynopsis Media award for Best New Digital Show. Tune in and you can hear him dish some “shade” about WeTV shows such as Marriage Boot Camp, Growing Up Hip Hop, Tamar and Vince, LA Hair and more. He just did reality tv’s first award show called The Reallies Awards. Ray also is a regular guest on The Roland Martin Show on TVOne, he frequently discuses celebrity gossip on TMZ Live and appears weekly on Good Morning Washington. I have big plans for him!" Speaking of reality TV, Heidi is on the short list of those fingered to be appearing on Bravo's upcoming Real Housewives of Dallas. When I asked her what she thought about the chatter she grinned and said "Well, I will definitely be watching the show!" Me too, Heidi. Me too!

To read more about the Real Housewives of Dallas, CLICK HERE!


OSC: When you need some "me" time to relax, where do you go or what do you do to relax and recharge (in the Dallas area)?

HFD: "Bill, Dallas and I are huge movie buffs. Other than that, my favorite thing to do to relax is to go to my favorite room in my house called “the hole”. I like to snuggle up on the couch and watch stuff on my iPad."  ​

OSC: What are your favorite restaurants​ and feel free to give me your favorite dish at each one​? 

HD: "There are so many great restaurants in Dallas, but we usually go to Abacus, Biernat’s, Bistro 31 and Nick and Sam’s. I love the pressed hamachi and buffalo at Abacus, the veal osso buco and the buffalo at Biernat’s, and the burrata salad and seared ahi tuna at Bistro 31."

OSC: What are your favorite places to shop?​ 

HD: "Honestly, I am completely addicted to shopping on line. I love the anonymity of it, the ability to quickly price check and the thrill of getting presents in the mail.

OSC: What's your favorite Dallas festival​ or event​?

HD: "Every year we buy a table at FGI Dallas Night of Stars. I love that event because it’s just fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously. They always bring in an amazing designer. My friends always look so “snatch" and we tend to get a little “turned up” at the after-after party. LOL.

 OSC: What do you love most about Dallas?

HD: "I love the life that Bill and I have built here - our home, good friends, being part of the community. All warm and fuzzy stuff."  ​

OSC: What do you hate most about Dallas? 

HD: "Some of the women seem to live in a fear-based climate: fear of not being accepted into the right clique, fear of being blackballed from the clique, fear of being authentic because they might not fit in, fear of what people will think,etc. I could go on and on. It’s more than a little bit sad."

Connect with Heidi Dillon: