The Search for Black Santa
By Misty J. Hoyt
Determined to keep Santa alive during the pandemic, I booked one of the most sought-after Santas in the Dallas area for more dates than we had ever paid the Jolly ‘Ol Elf. I have learned in years past that booking through the Country Clubs was our ticket to profit. It was guaranteed income versus hoping and praying that our marketing skills would pay off. This time, I had selfishly gobbled up this high-in-demand Santa’s schedule and paid hefty deposits, knowing we had one of the few games in town. But, when October rolled around, there were no Country Club bookings. By the first of November, we still had no commitments. Finally, I booked a Santa offering at Legacy West, a very bougie shopping and dining experience in Plano, Texas. We were on schedule once again and their social media power would pin mine to the mat any day.
A couple of weeks later, I was walking my dogs and thinking. After all those years of offering Mr. Claus, I had never once thought of offering a Black Santa. In my defense, it may not have made sense to my country club clientele to bring in Black Santa but I was calling the shots this time. As soon as their office opened the following morning, I contacted the office of Legacy West and asked if we could offer Black Santa on Sundays. Without hesitation, the marketing director said, “Yes!”
But there were two problems with this new idea. First, even when working with a national company as this, would we be able to attract enough attention for this rare offering? Black Santa might not be an easy feat. Secondly, I didn’t actually have a Black Santa. But how hard could it be?
The first problem ended up not being much of a problem at all. My partner agreed in advance to make up for any financial deficit to make sure Santa and Photography by Misty and our team were well compensated. The second problem took a little more effort. Excited by the opportunity, I did some research and, yes, there was a great-looking (no fake beard) and well-accomplished Black Santa right here in the Metroplex. However, all that glitters is not gold. This guy is Black Santa for the Mall of America and does $5,000 an hour Coca Cola commercials. His fee was not in our budget. Now what?
A week or two later, I was headed to get a spray tan one Saturday morning (because that’s what all Texans do on November weekends) when I noticed a masked man with a 10 inch yellow-gloved hand, enthusiastically waving at me. Of course, I looked behind me to make sure it’s me he is waving to, waved back, and headed in to get my tan. When I was leaving and heading back to my car, I noticed that yellow hand again. This time, however, he is motioning for me to come over. Then I heard a “Dyn-O-Mite!” reminiscent of Jimmie Walker (aka: J.J.) on the 1970s sitcom “Good Times.”
I don’t know about you, but I cannot ignore someone waving for me to come over. I love a good story and meeting new people. After several minutes of conversation and a few bits of Dynamite Barbecue, a thought popped into my head. “Will you please pull down your mask and flash me a smile?” I asked. Immediately, down came the mask and up came the smile. Little did he know what he was getting himself into. My next words were, “Will you be my Black Santa?” Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that’s how it’s done!
We did enter this endeavor with caution, however, as I did not want to be painted as anything but what Photography by Misty is known for: having a passion for people and simply wanting to offer darker-skinned babies what they deserved… a Santa who looked like them. I solicited the advice of at least a dozen of my black friends to make sure the name Black Santa was appropriate. They all said the same thing, “What else would you call him?”
We registered with the Black Santa app so people could find us. We sold Christmas books, ornaments, and socks, featuring black families and black Santas (not easy to find, my friends). Photography by Misty ordered custom-made Black Santa onesies and Ts. We wanted it to be an experience that people deserved. There were those who cried, those who told us we had answered their prayers, and Santa said over and over again, “I just want to be a part of the solution.”
Just to keep it real, Santa wasn’t perfect. Keep in mind, he went from bib overalls for his Q endeavors to white gloves and a red suit for making children’s wishes come true. But Santa enjoyed the magic of his role so much that he now wants to be Uncle Sam and the Easter Bunny. So, if any of you photographers want to entertain the idea, I’ll be happy to introduce you to the man. He is a legend, a decorated veteran, and one heck of a grill master.
So far, our Black Santa is more popular than our White Santa and people from all backgrounds are hopping on Black Santa’s lap for pictures. This makes my heart happy. So, don’t be afraid to think outside the common box. Get those creative juices flowing and do whatever it takes to give your clients what they deserve.
Misty started Photography by Misty in 2002 as a family and personal photographer. Today, the team’s passion for people has developed into mainly corporate clientele, from headshots to events, and product photography. In 2021, she was awarded Small Business Person of the Year by the Plano Chamber of Commerce. Learn more about her at www.PhotographyByMisty.com.