RIP, Nicole

Nicole Barrett, Dallas media personality and Kinky Friedman Cigars mogul, passes away at 46

Nicole Barrett, Dallas media personality and cigar mogul, dies at 46

Nicole Barrett
Nicole Barrett, April 6, 1975 - August 10, 2021. Facebook/Nicole Barrett
Nicole Barrett
Barrett was owner and CEO of Kinky Friedman Cigars. Facebook/Nicole Barrett
Nicole Barrett
Barrett was named one of Dallas' "Fresh Faces of Fashion" in 2013. Photo by Joanna Lewis
Wendy McGraw, Nicole Barrett, Terri Menking, Tricia Sims, Joni Krieg, Kunthear Douglas
Barrett with Wendy McGraw, Terri Menking, Tricia Sims, Joni Krieg, and Kunthear Douglas at the 2017 No Tie Dinner benefiting AIDS Services of Dallas. Photo by Crystal Chatmon
Nicole Barrett, Regina Bruce
Barrett with Regina Bruce at the 2016 Ally's Wish Boots & Blessings Gala. Photo by Bob Manzano
Nicole Barrett
Nicole Barrett
Nicole Barrett
Wendy McGraw, Nicole Barrett, Terri Menking, Tricia Sims, Joni Krieg, Kunthear Douglas
Nicole Barrett, Regina Bruce

Nicole Barrett — Dallas talk show host, barrier-breaking entrepreneur, social justice advocate, and friend to many local charities — passed away unexpectedly on August 10; she was 46.

Charismatic and charming, passionate and principled, Barrett felt just as comfortable discussing hot-button topics with politicians as she did cracking jokes with close friends over long lunches or texting sweet messages to volunteer for the next big fundraiser, her friends say.

“She was a triple threat … loving, tough, and funny all in one,” says close friend, Dallas event planner Steve Kemble.

Born April 6, 1975 in Dallas — the great-granddaughter of a sharecropper — Barrett fell in love with theater while a student at North Mesquite High School and pursued acting at the College of Santa Fe in New Mexico. A recipient of the Greer Garson Scholarship for Acting, Barrett not only starred in plays but took her talents to the pageant stage, where she earned several crowns.

Later, Barrett pursued passions for broadcast journalism and politics, eventually hosting The Nicole Barrett Show on radio station 570 am KLIF and TV station KTXD-TV. She not only focused on hot topics and politics but interviewed celebrities like Lily Tomlin, Patty Duke, the Temptations, and a future U.S. president.

“In (February) 2016, I sat front row at a Press Conference for then-Republican nominee, Donald Trump,” she recounted to Voyage Dallas in 2018. “I asked the question heard around the world: Mr. Trump, how do you feel about the recent endorsement from (former KKK Grand Wizard) David Duke?’ Mr. Trump replied, “I Disavow it.” That question was repeated on CNN and would top the election news cycle until Election Day.” 

In more recent years, Barrett had shifted her professional focus in an entirely different direction — cigars. She became the successful owner and CEO of Kinky Friedman Cigars (for which the colorful Texas singer-politician remained the spokesperson). Barrett was especially proud to be the only Black woman in America to own a cigar company, Kemble says.

Seizing every opportunity to use her radio and social media platforms for advocacy, Barrett became an outspoken supporter of women’s rights, domestic and sexual abuse victims, diversity, and anti-bullying and harassment causes.

"I am deeply affected by women’s rights issues, domestic violence and abuse, and harassment," she told Voyage Dallas. "My experiences inspired me to link arms in solidarity with other victims, of any injustice, and refuse to be silenced. It all prepared me to be a survivor, and to advocate for those without a voice."

Barrett was also a fixture on the Dallas charity scene — a larger-than-life presence who happily clinked glasses with prominent philanthropists, fashion stars, and reality TV regulars. She was a member of the Dallas Theater Guild Board, Les Femmes du Monde, and TACA; and involved in numerous other charities, including Leukemia Lymphoma Society, Children’s Cancer Fund, and Dallas Arboretum’s Mad Hatter’s Luncheon.

Friends describe Barrett as a “firecracker” who adorned her petite frame with bright, sassy dresses and sky-high heels. She’d never miss a chance to hop in a group photo and flash a wide smile — just like her old pageant days. She also possessed a kind spirit and sense of humor that easily attracted people to her, Kemble says.

"Our lunches were legendary," he says. " Many would start at 11:30 am, and literally go til 4 pm. One of our favorite places was the bar at the Capital Grille in the Crescent. Nicole would literally schedule different people to come by every hour, and by 4 pm we had gone from a two-top table to a table of 12. We would discuss everything from politics, to the Dallas social scene, to how she was relaunching and growing Kinky Friedman Cigars."

"Nicole Barrett inspired so many, loved so deeply, and lived so loudly that no one will ever forget her,” he adds.

Survivors include her mom, Linda Barrett, described by friends as her “pride and joy,” as well as a host of family and friends.

A celebration of life will take place at 11 am Saturday, August 21 at Greater Cornerstone Baptist Church in Dallas, with interment to follow at Restland Memorial Park. Read the full obituary here.