The category is: Hair. When it comes to black hair, it’s never “just hair.” As the ongoing fight for the freedom to wear our natural hair when, where and how we choose via the C.R.O.W.N. Act indicates, our hair is rarely allowed to simply be our crowning glory; it’s as political as it is personal.
On March 20, Netflix will celebrate the life of one of America’s first black hair care pioneers in Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker, starring #StrongBlackLead Octavia Spencer (also an ideal opportunity to #NetflixandStayStill—shoutout to activist/organizer Leslie Mac). But with the network’s help, the TGU50 2020 celebrates ten of the hairstylists, entrepreneurs and innovators who carry on Walker’s legacy in style. From those who work magic with our natural textures to others who allow us to live out shape-shifting fantasies through the wonder of wigs, these hair mavens inspire us to beautifully rock our #StrongBlackRoots.
Felicia Leatherwood, Hairstylist
For almost 30 years, celebrity stylist Felicia Leatherwood has been a leading natural hair expert.
When fans saw textural icon Issa Rae rocking a long, sleek auburn blowout for her recent film The Photograph, they took notice. The mastermind behind that unexpected look and almost all of the enviable styles Rae has rocked over the past several years is celebrity hairstylist Felicia Leatherwood. The globally-recognized beauty industry veteran and natural hair expert’s versatility has been key to her growth as an artist and businesswoman, and her expansive vision continues to pay off. In addition to creating a cult-favorite detangling brush made for naturalistas, Leatherwood also consulted on My Black Is Beautiful’s highly-acclaimed 2019 haircare launch. Understanding great hair starts on the inside, her holistic approach to hairstyling keeps our favorite celebrities’ tresses not only gorgeous but healthy.
Lacy Redway, Hairstylist
Embracing and elevating natural hair in a white-male dominated industry is celebrity hairstylist Lacy Redway’s form of activism.
Lacy Redway coifs the manes of a list of Hollywood’s elite too long to print. But while the Jamaican-born stylist is skilled with every texture, her affinity for black hair remains the motivation behind her work, as proven by her work with red carpet favorites like Tessa Thompson, Tiffany Haddish, Zazie Beetz, and Angela Bassett. Notably, Redway’s career was built behind-the-scenes on runway show beauty teams, where she was often one of few able to style textured hair. Now, Redway is not only in demand by the celebrity set, but determined to uplift our hair in an industry that often still considers our textures an inconvenience. Her undeniable talent and increasing influence are changing both Hollywood and the fashion industry’s perception of the possibilities of black hair.
Mia Jackson, aka Tokyo Stylez, Hairstylist
Tokyo Stylez’s jaw-dropping wig creations have elevated the lace-front game.
Whether she’s creating natural, flowing tresses or avant-garde styles, Tokyo Stylez’s impeccable wig work is both a blessing and a balm. Mia Jackson, who goes by the aforementioned moniker, started styling hair at the tender age of 11 and rapidly built a reputation for her talent creating trendsetting, often extravagant artificial coifs. A style icon in her own right, the native Nebraskan handcrafts each work of art from human hair sourced from all over the globe, creating dramatic transformations for famous clients like Nicki Minaj, Doja Cat, and perhaps Jackson’s most versatile client, the chameleon-like Cardi B.
Ursula Stephen, Hairstylist
Ursula Stephen is an innovator in the world of hair, jet-setting across the globe to style famous clients while also managing her upscale salon in her native Brooklyn, N.Y.
Styling a who’s who of celebrity clients, designing the hair for designer runways and running her eponymous salon is all in a day’s work for legendary hairstylist Ursula Stephen. Stephen has been doing hair since her days as a vocational high student in Brooklyn; these days, the Unilever global ambassador’s extraordinary work graces the runway, magazine covers, and the streets. Stephen believes embracing a client’s hair texture is the key to producing gorgeous styles, and black hair runs the gamut in composition. Her open-minded approach to hairstyling has graced the heads of Gabrielle Union, Rihanna, and Zendaya, all of whom have relied on the confident stylist for eclectic, often iconic styles that have graced the covers of Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue and Elle.
Vernon François, Hairstylist; Founder of Vernon François Haircare
Vernon François’ innate ability to help black women embrace their natural hair texture is the foundation of his success.
When Vernon François stepped onto the scene nearly 20 years ago, he sought to change the stigma behind afro-textured hair in his home city of London, England. In the years since, the ginger-haired stylist’s love of textured hair is evident in his ability to create exquisite and even elaborate looks for celebrities like Lupita Nyong’o, Serena Williams, Elaine Welteroth, and Melina Matsoukas. In addition to his boundless creativity, François’ commitment to teaching #TeamNatural how to correctly care for their textured tresses prompted him to launch his own line of luxury-level products, providing all of the critical components for non-celebs to not only style but nourish and grow healthy, vibrant natural hair.
Mahisha Dellinger, Founder of Curls; Host of Mind Your Business With Mahisha on OWN
Mahisha Dellinger singlehandedly took ownership of her life and brand when she launched Curls hair care in 2002.
Building a brand takes time, money, dedication and patience. For Mahisha Dellinger, those four guiding principles helped her become an immensely successful businesswoman. Establishing Curls, a bestselling organic natural hair product line that was one of the first to cater to natural hair in 2002, she helped pioneer both a beauty movement and a business boom among black women. In 2018, Dellinger’s wisdom gained Oprah Winfrey’s respect; the stunning entrepreneur was given a television show by the media mogul titled Mind Your Business with Mahisha. On the show and in life, the CEO and haircare innovator uses her own experience of transcending childhood poverty to make a difference in the lives of other black female small-business owners.
Nai’vasha Johnson, Hairstylist
Curl-whisperer Nai’vasha Johnson creates textural masterpieces worthy of the red carpet.
Nai’vasha Johnson’s love affair with natural hair started when she was in junior high school. She was the neighborhood “hairstylist,” offering cute, bushy-curly ponytails and other black hairstyles that were the rage back in the day. The Memphis-born, self-proclaimed “Official Curl Queen” went on to earn her cosmetology license from the Paul Mitchell School in Atlanta, and earned her cachet as a stylist by creating glamorous looks with her client’s natural hair textures. A huge advocate for hair care, Johnson’s conscious approach empowers clients like Yara Shahidi, Tracee Ellis Ross, and Janet Mock to entrust the curl diva with their delicate manes.
Tristan Walker, Founder, CEO of Bevel and Form Beauty
Tristan Walker’s incredible journey from Silicon Valley executive to grooming product tycoon is a shining example of black excellence.
A former executive who advocated for diversity and inclusion in Silicon Valley, Tristan Walker was already a luminary in the racial and cultural sector of business when years of frustration trying to find grooming products tailored to the needs of black men led him to found Bevel in 2013. Initially launching the company with a line of skin-friendly single-blade razors, Walker soon introduced skincare and shaving products that allowed clients to recreate the barbershop experience at home. As Bevel became a household name, Walker built on its success with the 2017 launch of FORM Beauty, a technologically-advanced hair care brand intended to “continually improve hair health over time.” In 2018, Walker & Company was acquired by household product innovator Proctor and Gamble.
Myleik Teele, Creator of CurlBox
CurlBox is the go-to subscription service that celebrates natural hair.
When Myleik Teele launched CurlBox in 2011, she had no idea how offering a subscription service that catered to natural-haired women would disrupt the hair industry. In fact, Teele’s struggle to find suitable products for her own natural mane was the driving force behind the birth of her brand; though natural hair enthusiasts can now find product options any and everywhere, not so long ago, that wasn’t the case. But while others complained, Teele took action: She curated products by bravely testing them on her own hair before offering them to her customers. Now, the mane maven teaches others to empower themselves by providing tips via her popular podcast “My Taught Me,” as well as a recommended reading list.
Erica Douglas, Beauty Chemical Engineer, ‘Sister Scientist’
Erica Douglas knows hair—literally.
Erica Douglas—also known as “Sister Scientist”—formulates products specifically for natural hair. Her cutting-edge formulas are used in well-known black hair products like Hair Repair, Organic Root Stimulator’s Olive Oil treatment and Curls Unleashed. The successful beauty chemical engineer is also an educator, teaching black women how to care for their hair. Douglas’ mission is to debunk the longstanding myths about black hair growth and texture, breaking down the technicalities of black hair care in an easy-to-digest approach. In 2014, she established the mSEED Group, a company that assists startup personal care companies with product development and research, branding, and manufacturing. Douglas does the work behind the scenes so small companies can get the push they need to be successful.
The Glow Up 50 is presented by Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker. Watch Self Made on March 20, only on Netflix.