North Carolina man, Stafford Braxton, is set to launch Santas Just Like Me in response to demands for more Black Santas.
According to its official website, Santas Just Like Me has entered its 10th season, as Braxton launched the organization in 2013. The organization recruits and hires Black Santas for holiday events and photo-ops, as he said demand is high for Black men wearing authentic white beards and classic Santa Claus outfits.
“I’m looking for the beard, but I’m also foremost looking for the spirit,” Braxton said about the requirements for joining his org. So far this season, his six Santas–all listed on the Santas Just Like Me site–are fully booked with about 60 events, including one at the popular luxury department store Neiman Marcus.
“We’re doing Neiman Marcus this weekend in Northern Virginia. We were the first Black Santas to do it last year, and they’ve asked us to come back this year because the response was so overwhelming,” the 61-year-old added. “The reservations got full so quick. They said something’s wrong with your reservation portal. They can’t make anymore. They couldn’t make anymore because there weren’t any more, so we extended two more times until we did seven hours on a Sunday.”
The Huntersville native shared that one particular Black Santa inflatable brought joy to a Black woman who spotted him at a North Carolina mall.
“I have this big 8-foot inflatable Santa on the set, and she was like, ‘We’re going to have a Black Santa here, in Gastonia?’ I said, ‘Yes, ma’am.’ She was happy, man,” he said.
He initially caught wind of the growing demand for Black Santas while working as a photographer in an NC mall over a decade ago. There, he took photos of children with a white Santa Claus and noticed that more African American families were inquiring about Black ones.
“People would come up to me and say, ‘Hey, are you guys going to have a Black Santa?’ I would look at them reluctantly and say, ‘You know they’re not going to let y’all have a Black Santa up in here’ in that vernacular,” Braxton said. “The flame began to burn in my heart to provide a Black Santa to provide that opportunity in the area that I was in.”