Deborah Rodriguez has worked as a hairdresser since 1979, except for a brief time when she was a corrections officer in her hometown of Holland, Michigan. She used to direct the Kabul Beauty School, the first modern beauty academy and training salon in Afghanistan where she lived with her Afghan husband.
According to the New York Times (April 2007), six women also involved in the beauty school in Afghanistan dispute parts of her memoir, particularly concerning the Beauty School's founding, how she won control of the school and why, and her stories about several Afghani women. The author and publisher say that in the future, they will make it clear Rodriguez didn't found the school and that the Afghani women's identities needed to be protected.
Rodriguez left Afghanistan in April 2007 after returning to Kabul from a book tour to find that her husband, Haji Sher Mohammed, had been sexually harassing salon girls and planning to steal her money. After being warned that she would be kidnapped if she stayed, she fled. The Kabul Beauty School caused outrage in Afghanistan, where websites revealed the salon girls' true identities. They have been denounced as prostitutes who have soiled the reputation of Afghan women.
Rodriguez, who has been accused of abandoning the women, says that she is waiting to sign a detailed contract which would release her $1m. According to the New York Times (Nov 2007) she wrote to one of the women, "If the movie money comes, you will have enough money to help yourself." She says that the women are being misled by people saying that she has money to give them, "I've given them all my money and now I've only $2,200 left. I feel horrible. I don't know how to get them a visa. I had a good opportunity to get them into Brazil but they didn't want to go."
Rodriguez wrote two bestselling books based on her experiences in Afghanistan; The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul and Kabul Beauty School.
Rodriguez now lives in Mazatlan, Mexico, where she is the owner of Tippy Toes Salon and Marrakesh Spa, and where she has established Project Mariposa, providing funding for young women to attend beauty school, with the goal of helping them to become independent and self-supporting.
Margarita Wednesdays, a new book detailing her journey to remake her life after being forced to leave Afghanistan, was released in June 2014.
Deborah Rodriguez's website
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