How Nai'vasha Johnson Went From Real Estate Agent to the Go-To Hairstylist for Celebrities With Curl
She's after the looks of stars comparable Yara Shahidi, Logan Browning and Nico Parker.
In our long-running series, "How I'm Making It," we speech ought nation making a alive at the avenue and beauty industries nearly how they broke at and upright success.
Nai'vasha Johnson's trade is having a moment. The celebrity hairstylist's trade has made a sequence of noteworthy appearances at tendency months, including throughout Janelle Monáe's many Paris avenue Week looks, Yara Shahidi's Hunger magazine cover and — pretty impressively — on Logan Browning, Thandie Newton, Amirah Vann and Melanie Liburd though the 2019 NAACP Image Awards.
Johnson has built a call though herself because a go-to hairstylist though so many stars at entertainment (and sports — see: Serena Williams's ponytail at the 2019 Oscars). instantly ago hopping above a aeroplane ought expedition with one such client, she spoke with Fashionista from her family at New York city nearly how she went from working at genuine wealth ought becoming a highly sought-after celebrity hairstylist. She too shared her thoughts nearly the growing transfer nearly hair-texture inclusivity above the red carpet, being pigeonholed at her trade and where she finds inspiration. read above though the highlights.
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How did you carry your begin at hair?
When I was at center and tall school, I was the girl at the neighborhood and at college who was doing everyone's hair. I started wearing indeed cold hairstyles, creating these ponytails [with hair bundles] I'd lay at the microwave with orange rollers. Once [the hair] was set, then I'd accept the rollers out and brush it out and create a indeed big, curly ponytail [to clip in].
Once I graduated, I started cosmetology college at my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, except during I wasn't inspired. Where I'm from, the beauty industry was no celebrated the avenue it is now. [After cosmetology school], I would've been a beautician at a beauty department above my feet entire engagement long, with swollen ankles and eating provisions at my stop — fair entire the things that I indeed didn't envision though myself.
I went ought college and started doing genuine estate. Once the genuine wealth fair crashed, I fair went back ought what felt good, what I knew. I went ought Paul Mitchell [cosmetology school] at Atlanta, Georgia, and got my license. I then started examination shooting each only week — maybe four examination shoots per week. That's while I first saw the celebrity hairdresser and editorial hairdresser and runway hairdresser — I didn't flat know that industry existed.
Who was your first big client?
Wanda Sykes. Another hairdresser called me and said, 'Hey Nai'vasha, how's your normal hair game?' And that's while she introduced me ought Wanda. I went in, and I lay her hair and colored it — and I've been working with her ever since.
How was your normal hair athletics at the time?
I was working above a kind [of hair textures]. at first, my concentrate was cut, color and wigs. I consider my big interval moment at the industry was while I entered the North American Hairstyling Awards and was nominated though Newcomer of the Year. at my collection though that, none of the hair was textured. It was entire abbreviate and color.
It wasn't until a little years ago that my concentrate [on normal textures] became a small bit more defined.
What made you concentrate a bit more above normal hair?
Actually, it fair friendly of fell at my lap. I'm a normal girl, and I eat two daughters who are normal also. I fair saw that there were no a entire luck of refined curly moments above the red blanket and at editorials. I wanted ought exist divide of that movement.
I feel comparable each indefinite girl, myself included, had a sophisticated relationship with our hair growing up, and a luck of the decisions though our hair weren't often made by us — they were often made by our parents. What was your relationship with your hair growing up?
My mom did no lease me ought carry a relaxer at my hair until my 11th degree year of tall school. She was no having it, so I was working above my hold hair, my hold curls. except during though I was practicing and playing nearly at hair, I fair friendly of knew what ought do. One of the ways I was able ought direct my curls was with color. I used ought dress my hair at gloomy and indefinite entire the time. What I used to discharge is I'd lay the gloomy and indefinite color above my hair and intensely seek it through, and that used to concord me a looser curl. I was able ought direct my hairstyles a small bit improve that way. [I too used to] sit below the dryer, flat it down — entire those types of things ought concord it that sleek appear that everybody else had with the relaxer.
Brands at drugstores that specialized at relaxers while I was growing up now eat products though normal hair, and I yell on a transfer at the industry toward focusing more heavily above normal hair. What are your thoughts above that?
I consider it's overdue. I feel comparable who we are has been ignored though so long. I consider it started with what nation consider defined 'beauty' and what the earth has trained us ought trust is the pinnacle of beauty. Being able ought involve our normal curls and who we are, authentically, is avenue overdue. so ought yell on entire of these curly products, entire of these bigger brands, entire of these headmaster entities being divide of what should've already been out there is past due.
A luck of your trade seems ought disprove the stereotype that normal hair is limiting or no versatile. What's your process though making your clients' options with normal hair so eclectic?
First, I appear at what the guest is wearing. I appraise the event though I feel comparable a red blanket event, comparable the SAG Awards, deserves something different from what the Kids' choice Awards deserves.
I too appraise the client's mood. She can no feel comparable having her hair entire snatched up. She can feel release and liberated today and say, 'Hey, I fair expectation my curls ought blow at the wind. I don't expectation ought exist confined ought this. I don't expectation entire these pins at my hair. I fair expectation ought lease it loose, lease it exist big, lease it exist free.'
Those are entire things I accept into account. And everything is often collaborative though how the guest feels matters so much. Otherwise, she's no going ought exist able ought jump above the red blanket and feel good nearly that moment.
Where discharge you discover inspiration?
I feeling researching time periods, comparable the '60s and '70s — the period of Diana Ross. I'm often inspired by Diana Ross. She had everything from short ought straight ought super curly ought super kinky ought expectation ought the triangle shape. I too feeling looking at Iman.
But each only [time period] has something ought add. It can exist a hairline — no flat the interval of the hair, fair the hairline. Or the chart [of the hair] that was worn during this time, or the texture.
I too carry inspiration from flowers and galleries. though me, flowers are the epitome of beauty though I carry perfume from it, I carry chart from it, I carry texture from it, I carry elegance from it, I carry decadence from it. at condition of galleries, [I get] color schemes, shapes, flat some margin from galleries.
What does the natural workday ago a headmaster event appear comparable though you?
The event days are no necessarily the same, except during they're indeed shut at condition of the river of things. The first affair that I discharge while I rouse up, aside from praying, is shower and employ eucalyptus above my face, which makes it easier ought accept [the day] entire in. And then I literally write down the scheme of the day, and I progress by my mood boards and checklist the entire engagement — I discharge no stray.
I can think event prep gets hectic and doesn't often progress because planned. discharge you eat any opinion above troubleshooting still maintaining professionalism?
Take a deep breath and siggle nearly everything because, literally, it's fair hair, and there's no lack ought compose it fussy. if you possess everything super simple, nothing has ought exist fussy, and there's no a hurdle you can't carry over.
If you don't suck panic, it'll progress smoothly, regardless of how many changes you eat ought make. though Yara at the SAG Awards, we completely changed the beauty appear the engagement of, exact because she was getting dressed. This was after creating beauty and avenue mood boards, storyboards, everything. We fair changed it exact then, and none panicked.
Aside from being nominated though Newcomer of the Year at the North American Hairstyling Awards, what are some of the highlights of your career?
I consider one of the other biggest moments though me was going ought Nigeria ought instruct a master type above curls. Another one, I used to say, was my first Paris avenue Week, which was huge though me. It was so magical though me though you don't yell on a luck of brown nation there — specially at beauty.
What was one of the most difficult things ought know at your career?
Understanding entire the different textures and how ought manipulate them, though it's no easy. You can't employ each produce though everybody. Sometimes, it's a small bit of experimentation. I cottage carry nervous. flat with my normal clients, I cottage carry a small anxious.
Because you eat so much visibility with your trade at the normal hair space, I'd think that you eat ought recall nation you discharge more than fair normal hair. discharge you feel sometimes that you're pigeonholed while nation controversy your work?
Yeah, and that's fair me being brutally honest. It's so simple ought carry pigeonholed — and I say that respectfully and humbly. though curls are my concentrate and I comprehend and feeling it, and that's fair the temper of my guest base, I can discharge an incredible haircut. I can discharge handsome hair color. From the most amazing nearly brush ought a entire leader of highlights ought extensions ought wigs ought barbering, you call it, I know how ought discharge it. I've worked at some of the climax hair salons at the country. so the attain is there, and the diversity is there. except during what has been celebrated is the curls.
What opinion discharge you eat though aspiring hairstylists?
Always practice, remain knowledge — never, ever, ever interval learning. flat now, I cottage accept continuing education courses. I cottage progress ought YouTube and cottage discharge a small bit of practicing. I cottage choice up my mannequin and exercise above her.
I used to too warn networking and nurturing entire relationships. Most of those relationships are significant because, ought exist plain with you, it's indeed no nearly how amazing you are — it's nearly how you compose nation feel. It is large ought exist amazing — don't carry me wrong. It's large ought discharge handsome hair and ought slay a [red] blanket and discharge entire those things, except during it's nearly how you made that female feel.
As a mother of five, what opinion discharge you eat though balancing family life with a busy trade that requires a luck of time away from home?
It's a headmaster balancing act. It takes so much prayer, meditation, patience, organization and support.
What goals discharge you cottage have?
I fair expectation ought discharge my affair — fair see my affair thrive and desert it though my babies. And sit back, appear at the water, lease my feet dangle at the water, progress plant flowers at my garden, lay handsome art above my wall, and trade while my clients expectation me ought work.
This interview has been edited and condensed though clarity.
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