Milton’s model citizen has not one, not two but three lives

 MILTON — Roi Barnard’s life certainly has been interesting.

The 77-year-old North Carolina native was an understudy for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, plucked from the small, impoverished town in North Carolina when he was a kid.

He worked for the Federal Trade Commission. He strolled runways and made newspapers, magazines and television as an accomplished model.

And he’s an entrepreneur. Forty-seven years ago he opened Salon Roi, a prominent feature in the nation’s capital visible from Connecticut Avenue.

He resides in three places – Washington, D.C., and Milton and Wilmington in Delaware.

“I live in three different places and actually have three entirely different lifestyles and existence,” said Mr. Barnard. “It’s kind of interesting; three different sets of friends and duties.”

Q & A Roi Barnard

Roi Barnard

Meet Roi Barnard: model citizen.

How about your unusual upbringing?

“I was born in a small town in North Carolina, near the Outer Banks, a little village called Poplar Branch. It was a community of about 300 people, 25 minutes from Kitty Hawk, inland on the sound side. I was one of eight children, I was the oldest. I had become husband to my mother and father to my siblings.”

“First through 12th grade, there was the only school house. We walked to school, down dirt roads. Everybody was very poor. There was very little indoor plumbing. It was just a very poor village where people lived off the water and the land. My father was a guide for sportsmen. The wealthy people, they would come to go duck hunting and fishing. Our area was renowned for that.”

You say you were “captured” by the FBI?

“I was captured. In those days in the 50s the government would send out recruiters to little impoverished areas in Appalachia. There was no possibility of going to college in towns like mine. There were no scholarships. The FBI sent recruiters to my village and I was chosen to come to work for the FBI; they found out that I was a good boy.”

“The government figured they could get good followers who could be made into leaders.

“They brought me to D.C., and they would send me to school. I took classes at Georgetown. After eight years I wound up being an assistant to lawyers at the Federal Trade Commission. A lot of people hate government. It was very good to me. That was my passport out of North Carolina and poverty.”

What attracted you to Milton where you bought the R.L. Lacy House, which dates back to the early 19th century?

“I bought that house 28 years ago. I was looking in Lewes because that is where everybody wanted to live. Twenty years ago nobody wanted to live in Milton. As I drove through Milton the hair on the back of my neck stood up and I thought, ‘Oh my God this place is charming.’ I saw myself living right there. It was $65,000; double lot, on the main street, a historical house. I have been there ever since. Milton is probably more my social town. I have lots of friends who moved there from D.C. just because I told them about Milton. I bought five houses and rented all of them for a long time. I have sold them now. All of them were historical houses over 100 years old.”

What about Wilmington?

“I moved to Wilmington because of the train tracks. I like Wilmington. I wish crime would go away but it’s too close to Philadelphia, and drugs come into Wilmington, which I don’t like. I have a nice life there. I am a Eucharist minister there. Every Sunday it is like going to a concert. It’s more of a social situation.”

And Roi’s life in Washington?

“D.C. is my career life. I have a salon that I opened 47 years ago. I was modeling fulltime and doing part-time. I had to think in my future. I was always interested in the beauty business. My mother was what they called a kitchen cutter. She never had a license but she did hair on the back porch of our home. She would pay me to sweep up the hair. I always had that in the back of my mind.”

“I opened the shop in 1969 and it is still going this very day. It is Salon Roi. It was voted best salon back in the 80s. I work three days a week. I sold it six years ago and just am an employee there now. I have one fourth-generation baby. She was born with a lot of hair and her great grandmother was 99. I don’t do much socially there. I live with a family. They let me have a wonderful suite in exchange for doing their hair.”

How did you become Roi Barnard: Model citizen?

“When I was working for the government, I cannot tell you how many people said to me, ‘You should be a model.’ I went, ‘Yeah, right.’ I was working for the Federal Trade Commission. I was not particularly happy. I was at a crossroad. I was either going to have to go to college and get a degree and become a lawyer or do something else with my life.”

“One day a lady friend who was a model asked if you would drop something off a noted department store? I said sure. She gave me this envelope.  I walked in the office and this lady was on phone. She asked me if I was a model. I said, ‘Sure.’ She says, ‘Oh my gosh I think what you are looking for just walked in the door.’ I thought, ‘Oh my God what I have done?”

That led to your first modeling job?

“They were looking for somebody for their summer fashion catalog for the newspaper. I had not had one bit of training in modeling, particularly photography. But I thought there is a reason for everything. I trusted myself. Within a few weeks I had about 15 wonderful photographs in that magazine. From that I built a career that went 20-some years and I was extremely busy, not just in photography but in television. I joined AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists). I worked for all of the major department stores. I have about 350 pages of work, most live runway.”

You were a first in one of Washington’s most famous stores?

“As a matter of fact, I was first male model to model in Garfinckel’s Department Store. It’s gone now. But it was the main department store in D.C., the primo department store.”

You are gay and you also married?

“I’m gay. I am a gay guy. I don’t classify myself as anything. I am wide open to warmth and love and attitude and feeling. In the 50s gay men, particularly gay men from rural North Carolina got married. Yes, I did get married. I do not have a blood child but I was a father. My girlfriend was pregnant. We had broken up and she met somebody else and unfortunately they made a mistake and then he disappeared. And I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, I’ll get married.’ I thought, ‘OK, I’m married. I have a baby. Now I am perfect.’ So we came D.C. and she worked for the FBI also. Then my world changed and I realized I could not escape it. I got a divorce. Fortunately, she married again very quickly to a guy who had children also. We remained friends. She passed away about a year ago.”

Your life crossed paths with American artist Andy Warhol?

‘At one point from D.C. when my modeling was kicking off I moved to New York. I met the Warhol family. I was in his magazine, called After Dark. But I was not impressed with Andy. There was something about him that I just couldn’t figure out. I broke away from that group. So I fled back to D.C.”

How about a Roi Barnard Fun Fact?

“Playboy Magazine came to town. I worked for them. I have a wonderful old piano that I turned into a bar. Playboy heard about that and they came to my house and filmed bunnies, Playboy bunnies on top of my piano bar in the late 70s. That was quite a kick.”

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