City Paper is not for tourists
Beyond the traditional vacuuming, mopping, and dusting, Falecia Richmond’s “We’ll Do It” maid service also comes with a tidy little backstory. It goes like this: Eight years ago, Richmond was the proprietor of a successful maid service specializing in topless maids. Then, Richmond weathered a series of unfortunate events—she saw her son shot in a botched robbery attempt, broke her leg, separated from her husband, had her phone lines disconnected, and was evicted from her apartment. The days of topless maids were over.
In return, the story goes, Richmond gained spirituality. Last month, she relaunched her maid service as a spiritual housecleaning outfit. In place of bare breasts, Richmond offers clients precious stones, which promise to cleanse their homes of negative energies. The operation’s new motto, “Reverse the curse,” reflects Richmond’s personal redemption as much as the services provided.
The real story is messier.
In 2000, Richmond was living on Connecticut Avenue NW, driving a Mercedes, and running the topless maid service out of her home. In other words, says Richmond, “things were off the chain.”
“We blew up. It was like an overnight success,” she says. Richmond will divulge no specifics about her clientele, services, or employees, except to say that she would receive “about 50 or 60 calls a day” in relation to the service. Then, Richmond’s phone not only stopped ringing; it was disconnected. The problem, says Richmond, stemmed from an ad she placed in newspapers supporting Al Gore’s presidential bid. The ad was a tantalizing endorsement of the candidate, says Richmond: “Washington Topless Maids: If you vote for Gore, you get a half discount,” she says. The ad listed her phone number. “And after he didn’t win, I got a discount to get out. I lost my Mercedes. I lost everything.”
In 2002, Richmond filed a complaint with the D.C. Public Service Commission against Verizon, her telephone provider. According to the commission’s decision, “In her Complaint, Ms. Richmond alleges that Verizon DC disconnected her telephone several times over the last five years. Ms. Richmond states that, each time she advertised her business, the telephone lines went dead. The Complainant also asserts that she was overcharged several times and could not pay for her telephone ads.…Because Verizon DC will not reconnect her service, Ms. Richmond contends that she lost her apartment, her business, and her car.”
Verizon had a different perspective on the matter. “On December 2, 2002, Verizon DC responded to Ms. Richmond’s Complaint alleging that Ms. Richmond owes balances on multiple phone bills to Verizon DC and other Verizon jurisdictions.” The complaint was dismissed after Richmond showed up to the hearing five days late.
Since she moved to the District in 1985, Richmond, 47, has been starting businesses—and losing them. Financial information service Dun & Bradstreet lists several incarnations of Richmond’s maid service in its database, all with slightly different names: “We’ll Do It Maid Service,” “Will Do It Maid Service,” and most recently, “We’ll Do It, LLC.”
Richmond’s history of start-ups—and shut-downs—is also embroiled in a history of landlord-tenant cases. Since 1998, Richmond has been sued by Double H Housing Corp., Charles E. Smith Residential Realty, and American Rental Mgmt. Co., all in an attempt to get Richmond to pay up or get out.
After losing her apartment at 4801 Connecticut Ave. NW and setting up shop again at 4433 19th St. NE, Richmond claims to have cleaned up her act. A lot of it has to do with her discovery of spiritual stones. Last month, Richmond met Kwakuanokye, a 54-year-old Jamaican shaman and faith healer who travels the world with a messenger bag filled with stones that read personalities and project positive energies. “He came to me like a special rock, like a shell in the ocean,” says Richmond. “You can find a shell, and that’s how I found him.” Kwakuanokye is used to this. “I’ve had people off the street just come up to me and start unloading their burden,” he says. “They don’t know anything about me, but their spirit is attracted to me.…It’s really very simple how the energy is real energy, and energy will bring like things together, and that always works.”
It wasn’t long before Richmond and Kwakuanokye became business partners. Now, alongside its traditional cleaning, “We’ll Do It” advertises Kwakuanokye’s expertise in “Helping people with finances, marriages, relationships, jobs, helping the deceased to cross over and loved ones to cope with their passing and all other spiritual needs.” (“We’ll Do It” has placed ads in Washington City Paper.) Says Richmond, “He told me about what he do. He told me about his stones and things and I said OK, let’s see how it works!”
So far, it hasn’t. According to Richmond and Kwakuanokye, the spiritual aspect of the business has yet to book a customer. Richmond says she won’t suggest the new service to any of her current clients. “You don’t mix religion with business,” she says. “If the person has a problem, then, yes, I will ask them, and I will notify.” Richmond says she knows a person with a problem when she sees one. “Sometimes, you can walk in a client’s house, and they have candles burning, that had burned, and some of them will turn black,” she explains. “You can read the candle.”
Despite the lack of interest in the service’s spiritual incarnation, Richmond says she won’t yet return to her topless days. “My father’s a minister, for one reason,” she says. “If I could open it again, I know I would get fed, and I got a great clientele” for the topless service, she says. “I think it’s because of my conscience. I love the Lord.…I’m a Christian, and God is a jealous God. I don’t want to put myself in anything that’s not of God.” Richmond says both God and government have convinced her not to return to the erotic business. “I’m so afraid of so many things now,” she says. “How can you not be afraid after so many things done happen to me?”
But Kwakuanokye will not be here for long. Soon, he has plans to visit Ghana, Israel, and Florida. “It seems nice, when you’re outside looking in on the life of a shaman,” says Kwakuanokye. “The shaman gets to see the world, to see many people. But the other side of that is, a lot of times that shaman don’t know where he’s going to sleep.”
Still, Richmond says she’s been converted by the stones—which she finds both in the Christian Bible and in Kwakuanokye’s looser religious background. When Kwakuanokye takes a pendant of clouded quartz and stares at its movement for a full minute to “clear the energy,” Richmond looks on, enthralled. “I love stones!” she says.
When Kwakuanokye leaves, Richmond plans to carry on the spiritual cleaning in his absence along with her 10 employees. “This is William, who’s been with me for a while,” says Richmond, indicating one employee, a quiet middle aged man is a baseball cap and worker’s pants who sits on, looking bored. “He’s learning the spiritual part of it, so we can be ready to go in and know what he [Kwakuanokye] does.”
While waiting for spiritual calls to come in, her regular service is “successful.” A cryptic note on the company’s Web site—willdoitmaidservices.com—could be why. unique, cleanings…call for more details! it reads, with an added nudge: nothing is too werd 2 us. Those who call for more details can book a topless maid.
“If I have to, I have girls lined up ready to go,” says Richmond. “I might have to run an ad that says if you vote for Obama, you get a half discount.”
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