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Crowning Glory: An Experiment in Self-Discovery Through Disguise

In this witty and life-affirming memoir, Stacy Harshman tracks her amazing experiment. By wearing dramatic, identically styled but differently colored wigs for weeks in New York City, Stacy Harshman learns more about who she is and what she can find in herself as a redhead, a raven-haired goth, a brunette, and a blonde.

Blueink Reviews

In this candid, well-paced nonfiction work, an insecure woman’s social experiment of dramatically changing her appearance through wigs leads to emotional healing.

Author Stacy Harshman, an unemployed artist and musician living in New York City, was 33 when she designed a six-week controlled experiment that involved her masquerading as the type of confident and enticing woman she clearly wasn’t. The author had struggled for years with crippling panic attacks, depression and psychotic breaks, and the alternate personas brought attention she sorely craved.

Her plan was to wear striking, colorful wigs augmented by edgy clothing and then hang around locales including Wall Street, the West Village, Soho, Uptown and more. She hired sidekickBonnie to unobtrusively follow her to observe and record specific looks and reactions she received and from what types of people. Along the way, the project ignited a critical spark within her—“a little pilot light of happiness twinkled inside.” As her confidence grew, so did randy connections with men and overall social momentum.

Harshman’s vividly penned story, peppered with lively dialogue, is honest and insightful and sneaks in amusing details about the author’s “attention addiction.” Upon realizing that thebasket-weave mesh of her wig was showing while strolling around the Met, for example, she writes: "I swear the back of my scalp was blushing. How humiliating to be caught wearing a badly constructed wig in one of the most respected art museums in the world."

Harshman allows readers a peek inside her head at her emotional demons. And photos of theauthor wearing luscious, flowing wigs and various modes of dress are a highlight.(Unfortunately, they are depicted in black and white, although her experiment clearly emphasizes the importance of the vivid wig colors and dress in drawing attention.)

This is a highly readable book that sends an important message to those battling deep insecurities. It is likely to draw a sizable readership, both from this audience and general readers alike.

D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review

Crowning Glory -- An Experiment in Self-Discovery Through Disguise may initially sound like a psychological self-help read; but in actually it is an unusual memoir based on the author's experiment in wearing a number of wigs in New York City, assuming personas which change as often as hair color in the process of discovering who she is and how appearance changes psyches....

...Her initial experiences after she dons her first wig ("Usually one brother sat in a catatonic daze up front, while the other kept an expressionless post at the back. Every week for two years, they had mumbled “Hi”, and had maybe managed sad smiles, but today, it was clear that neither twin recognized me. As I waited for the elevator, they shocked me with their cheery banter, awkward flirting, and giggles. Giggles! On my way out after the lesson, a UPS man offered me the package he was delivering as a gift, two young guys fought for the honor of opening a deli door for me, and one older dude looked back at the wrong moment and ran into a newspaper stand. What the hell was going on?") are dramatic and leads her into an unexpected exploration of the influence of hair in self-image and psychology.

Photos throughout do a terrific job of illustrating these colorful transformations as Harshman tells her story, adding visual impact to an unusual research process that weaves in and out of dating and personal relationships, the reactions of strangers, and how her hair affects all facets of her approach to life; whether it be on the dance floor, in internet cafes, or on the street.

Expect a lively romp through the dating world with plenty of opportunities for exploring the results of Harshman's changes. In the course of conducting these experiments, Harshman finds her own healing path through life, altering her world and finding a different kind of romance in the process.

Any reader who would consider the process and result of self-transformation will find Crowning Glory a lively, pointed story of what it means to change one's image and, consequently, one's life.


Foreward Reviews

It’s confidence by coif in this account of a young woman’s undercover journey through New York City.“My hair has been my archenemy since seventh grade,” Stacy Harshman bemoans in her entertaining memoir Crowning Glory. The book documents how wearing various wigs helped Harshman to build self-confidence andrecover from depression.

In 2005, Harshman decided to embark on a sociological experiment-cum-personal challenge: each week forsix weeks she donned a different wig, and with the help of her assistant, Bonnie, she carefully recorded the reactionsshe received from onlookers and potential partners. Each day she chose three New York City locales, taking in eventslike lunch, happy hour, and late night socializing. Recalling the time she was hospitalized for a psychotic break in 2000, she marvels at how changing hairstyles could help her feel self-assured and sexy.

The book is an appealing cross between a scientific study and a spy story. Each section is headed with the date and the chosen “Fields of Research” with their location and timing. Bonnie kept field notes and “Stare Stats”detailing all the people who gave Harshman more than a passing glance. On the other hand, the delicious idea of working undercover to learn more about one’s self and others makes for a lighthearted read.

Meticulous research methods have allowed the author to recreate scenes and dialogue in realistic detail. Thecharacterization is also effective: there are stand-out portraits of minor figures such as Mischa, a flamboyant Russiandiamond dealer, and also of all the alter egos the wigs represent. A red wig turns Harshman into “Kali,” bold “FireGoddess,” while a black wig worn at Halloween transforms her into the vampiric “Nada Jolie.” The fun companion photographs give hints of the different personas she was able to inhabit.

... the book is written in a fluent, carefree style, with unusual and illuminatingmetaphors like “I had been growing a real-me seed inside a wig-covered greenhouse.” Harshman provides a convincing account of her recovery from mental illness alongside the narrative of her wig-wearing adventures.

 Crowning Glory will suit readers of recent hair-themed nonfiction, as well as fans of edgy  Belle de Jour–type memoirs.


Indie Reader

Combing through the expansive standards of beauty in: CROWNING GLORY

By Stacy Harshman       

IR Verdict: CROWNING GLORY is a refreshingly unique memoir celebrating beauty and sensuality as being much more than skin deep; and it is a love story where the heroine falls in love for the first time with the person she is on the inside.

A spunky twenty-something New Yorker, transplanted from Chicago, has her curiosity piqued by the male attention she receives while wearing a red wig she bought on eBay on a whim. Intrigued, she launches a full scale, carefully plotted experiment to observe the type of reaction she gets while wearing a red, raven-black, brown and blond wig in turn, with surprising results.

Stacy has a history of being treated for manic episodes and is bored with a physically lukewarm boyfriend, both of which cause her to doubt her desirability where men are concerned. She begins her great wig experiment with a fair amount of trepidation and uncertainty about her attractiveness, but at the same time is fascinated by how much attention her long, sexy locks seem to draw. As she dutifully completes a week’s worth of social observations wearing each of her four wigs with her assistant Bonnie by her side, Stacy learns a great deal about her own sexuality, what men want from her and what she wants from a relationship. Stacy discovers an unexpected ally and confident in Bonnie, who in many ways helps Stacy heal from some of the past traumas in her life. Throughout her experiment and interactions with new men in her enlivened dating life, Stacy continually searches for the answer to whether the attraction she experiences from men is to her hair, or to her.

CROWNING GLORY is an engaging, fast-paced, unique memoir chronicling an experiment in beauty. Reminiscent of the saucy charm of Sex and the City, CROWNING GLORY unfolds from the perspective of Stacy’s outings in New York City amidst Wall Street lunches and a hopping night life, all while wearing different wigs. While the story primarily follows her experiment, going so far as to provide data on the glances, looks, and notice she receives wearing different wigs and outfits, there are two additional story threads telling the story of her past experiences struggling with bipolar disorder and sorting through her feelings attached to her current relationship with a man who has supported her as a friend and lover throughout much of her adult life.

All angles of this story are interwoven beautifully, and threaded together with a lively mixture of dialogue, balanced descriptions of New York’s social setting, and salty prose and internal musings which are, in many spots, hilarious and witty. The data provided on the experiment grows tiresome in some areas when a breakdown of numerical observations becomes suggestive of a scientific academic article and less a fun memoir, but these are easy areas to skirt past in pursuit of the next installment in the story and the full-color photos, which contribute to the memoir’s lively, fun feel.

CROWNING GLORY is a refreshingly unique memoir celebrating beauty and sensuality as being much more than skin deep; and it is a love story where the heroine falls in love for the first time with the person she is on the inside.


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Kirkus Reviews

In this debut memoir, Harshman writes candidly and humorously of her rather unusual attempt to reinvent herself. As she recovered from depression and bipolar disorder, she impulsively decided to buy a red wig, and she was heartened by all the attention she received when she wore it. Out of curiosity and a desire for a new sense of purpose, she began to try on different colored wigs and compare the reactions she received. Each new wig brought on a new personality, complete with an exotic name (such as “Kali Amsterdam” or “Nada Jolie”). Thanks to a Craigslist ad, Harshman gained a sidekick, Bonnie, nicknamed “Agent Thorn,” who helped her keep records and steer clear of trouble. The two women had some entertaining high jinks as they navigated different parts of New York, but the heart of the story is Harshman’s continuing search for self. She writes that she realized that she’d lost her way and had fallen out of love with her longtime boyfriend, and the wig experiment aided her process of remaking herself. The author’s idea is a highly entertaining one, and her final revelation is predictable but still meaningful ...

... In the end, however, what makes the strongest impression isn’t the author’s hair color but her candor and bravery in confronting her mental illness.

A quirky, clever memoir.

Lisa Green

At turns hilarious and harrowing, honest and heart wrenching, "Crowning Glory" has you rooting for author Stacy Harshman as she makes her way through New York using wigs, a spy, and her own gutsy self. What starts as a social experiment - changing her appearance and tracking how that changes the way people interact with her - grows into a deeper exploration of her life, her desires, and the way she sees herself. The book is funny as hell, and Harshman's antics and anxieties as she makes her way through the bars, the clubs, the cafes and the streets of the city will have you laughing out loud, even as you find there's a lump in your throat and tears in your eyes.

Nidhi Adhiya-Huba

Fascinating study of humanity in this experiment.  The honesty of the author and how fragile our mental health and ego are was so insightful.  As the skin shells we wear and the hair color we sport we are targets to judgements.  I found myself rooting for each hair color and seeing the vulnerability each one carries in its own way.  A insightful well written piece - highly recommend to all.

Readers Favorite Book Reviews

Reviewed By Deborah Lloyd for Readers’ Favorite

Crowning Glory: An Experiment in Self-Discovery Through Disguise is a “one of a kind” book, just as the author Stacy Harshman is one of a kind! On a whim, she bought her first red long-haired wig on the Internet. She was stunned by the attention she received whenever she went out with her new red hair. This led her to an interesting experiment of recording reactions of people to her while wearing different-colored wigs. Soon, she hired a field research assistant, Bonnie, and the research began. Stacy developed a personality and name for each wig: Kali Amsterdam was the redhead; Nada Jolie was black haired; Raya Mer was the blonde; and Paula Isla was a brunette. The adventures began as she and Bonnie strolled through the streets, restaurants and bars of Manhattan.

The book is much more than a mere experiment; it is also the story of Stacy’s healing. As a woman who struggled with bipolar disorder and its aftermath of insecurities and anxieties, this experiment revealed to her the real strengths she possessed. Stacy is an excellent writer as she is able to transition smoothly from the multiple reactions (both positive and negative) from other people to her new looks, to how this affected her emotions, and her personal relationships. Crowning Glory: An Experiment in Self-Discovery Through Disguise is an intriguing work. It may challenge a reader to look at their own masks, the things they wear or do to develop a particular image to the outside world. This is a book one will not soon forget.



This book will eventually become a movie. Hopefully soon, I would watch it right now if I could. The story is fascinating and funny. I love the authors sense of adventure. I'm so glad I found this book on reading alley. I'm going to recommend this book to a my friends. Excellent quality writing and story telling.

SPR Reviews

"An original and laugh-out-loud memoir… Crowning Glory deserves to be read… truly unique, entertaining, funny, and heartfelt.” 4.5/5 Stars SPR Reviews

Sunny Turner

Crowning Glory is the best kind of book - the kind that draws you in and then keeps you begging for more. Part social experiment and part memoir, set in the ever-fascinating location of New York City, this tale weaves several genres into a story that is both entertaining and thought-provoking while it asks the reader to consider three eternal questions: how much does our appearance affect the way people perceive us? How much does the way we present ourselves to others influence the way we see ourselves? And finally, who are we really, at our core, anyway? Stacy Harshman, our questing narrator, skillfully guides the reader on a myriad of often-hysterical adventures and misadventures as she dons a series of wigs and personae in order to explore people’s pre-conceived perceptions of others. Sizable helpings of laughter and embarrassment are served along with many important lessons about how humans interact; however, the biggest discoveries Ms. Harshman makes are internal…her experiment helps her develop new tools to cope with mental illness and difficult memories. How could parading around in wigs for several weeks possibly be a life-changing experience? You’ll just have to read Crowning Glory  to find out. Never self-indulgent and always riveting, this book is what happens when Eat Pray Love, A Beautiful Mind, and Sex in the City have a ménage à trois, and the results are absolutely fantastic.

Tammy D.

We all entertain thoughts of what if...
Most of us never move past the point of contemplation.  This book is a beautifully written adventure of someone stepping over that self imposed boundary and living beyond the confines of the mind.
I love the concept of the experiment and am empowered by the growth the author undergoes thought the journey.  It is an alluring trip that will feed the soul!

Ebook Available for Pre-order!

Crowning Glory is available for pre-order from Amazon now!