The category is: Hair. They tease. They twist. They tame, tint, trim and artfully tangle our tresses. They are our TGU 50 Hair honorees, ten innovators who have elevated textured hair to new heights.
Whether drawing from the diaspora to showcase Black hair as the ultimate creative medium, building empires from a legacy of kitchen cosmetology, or creating fantastical illusions through wig work, these ten masters of hair know it’s more than just aesthetics. At its roots, it’s affirmation.
International hairstylist Jawara is one of the most sought-after names in fashion. From the start of his career in a Brooklyn, N.Y., salon at age 16 to being awarded numerous accolades for his work, he has since been named the senior beauty editor-at-large for i-D Magazine. Jawara’s accolades include being listed among the Business of Fashion 500, the Dazed 100 and receiving a British Fashion Council New Waves Creatives Award. His work has appeared in countless magazines including British Vogue, Vogue Italia, Dazed, W Magazine and his notable clientele include Beyonce, Naomi Campbell, Solange, FKA Twigs, Megan Thee Stallion and Alicia Keys. Jawara’s signature style of intricate braids, sculpted silhouettes and creative use of accessories draw inspiration from his childhood in Kingston, Jamaica.
Hairstylist to the stars Kellon Deryck may be a fresh face to some, but with over 10 years in the game and superstar clients like Missy Elliott, the City Girls and “Thee Hot Girl Coach” aka Megan Thee Stallion on his roster, it’s safe to say Deryck is true to this, not new to this. A Boston native, Deryck began his career path at 17, shampooing hair at the Charles Gregory Salon. Now he’s securing wigs and securing the bag, having recently launched his own line of wig products as well as his own salon in Atlanta. When he’s not living his best life with muse and “twin” Megan, he’s sharing his knowledge with the beauty community at large through seminars and workshops around the country.
If there’s anyone who deserves flowers for their consistent contributions in the world of beauty and hair, it’s veteran celebrity hairstylist Kim Kimble. Not only did she supply the (wo)man power behind Beyoncé’s ultra-long, ultra-sleek box braids in her visual album Black Is King, but hers are the steady hands behind the beautifully coiffed heads of stars like Kelly Rowland and Storm Reid. Kimble is also an expert in innovative haircare products, wigs, extensions and tools for textured hair and women of color, so it’s only right that 26 years after the opening of her first salon, the California-based stylist’s very own line of natural hair products, aptly titled Kim Kimble Signature Collection, finally lace the shelves.
From Regina King to Zendaya, celebrity hairstylist Larry J Sims has teased the tresses of some of the best in the entertainment industry and beyond. Originally starting his career as a professional dancer in Chicago for major artists like Missy Elliott and Pharrell, Sims eventually recognized that his mane love revolved around all things hair. A mentee of the late Christopher Maldonado, Sims’ profile began to rise, landing him the opportunity to work with people like Mary J Blige, Yara Shahidi, Tracee Ellis Ross and Queen Latifah. He’s also served as the spokesperson for Smooth and Shine and Got2Be products and is the co-founder of Flawless by Gabrielle Union, a natural haircare line dedicated to all textures.
If there was ever a person perfectly suited to the task of turning Academy Award-winning actress Viola Davis into legendary blues singer Ma Rainey for the George C. Wolfe-directed Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, it’s BAFTA and Drama Desk Award-winning hairstylist Mia Neal. With other notable projects under her belt such as The Amazing Spiderman and the Adam Sandler/Lakeith Stanfield, Netflix feature Uncut Gems, Neal has proven she has what it takes to tastefully and meticulously transform talent. That’s exactly why she’s already made history as the first Black woman to be nominated (and will hopefully win) for Best Makeup and Hairstyling at this year’s Academy Awards.
Nancy Twine got an early education in natural hair care. When she was a child, she would help her grandmother make her own signature hair products and decades later—after realizing that store-bought products didn’t live up to her expectations—she took inspiration from her grandmother’s coveted recipes, pulled together a team of chemists and launched Briogeo Hair Care. The unique and texture-specific products are not only made from clean ingredients but rapidly gained traction and recognition from major retailers worldwide. Previously the youngest African-American woman to ever launch a line at Sephora (an honor now belonging to 2021 Glow Up 50 Beauty honoree Trinity Mouzon Wofford), Twine’s luxury-level products made Briogeo the company’s fastest-selling natural hair care line, now found in locations worldwide. One of Glamour’s 35 Under 35, Twine’s legacy is quickly growing as she shares her expertise with up-and-coming beauty entrepreneurs.
Chicago-based interdisciplinary artist Shani Crowe’s name may not be immediately familiar, but there’s no doubt you’ve seen her work displayed. Whether it’s a featured piece on display at the Museum of Contemporary African and Diasporan Art (MoCADA), the Soho House Chicago, or atop Solange’s head for an illuminating set on Saturday Night Live, Crowe’s intricate braiding styles have continued to garner the attention and adoration of all who bear witness. With hair as her medium, Crowe dedicates her artistry to elevating and paying homage to the beauty rituals across the African diaspora. Crowe’s styles and portraits have been recognized by notable platforms including Vogue, Elle, Glamour, Essence and The New York Times.
From her childhood obsession with performance arts to the launch of her company, Red Mystique Art, Shanna Anise has over twenty years of experience in the haircare industry. Her education spans from the Duke Ellington School of Arts to Howard University to Alvin Ailey School of Dance and Theater in Harlem, but Anise has always come back to hair. “All aspects of my background have evenly contributed to my artistry. The best classroom I had was performing on stage,” says the stylist, whose work was featured in the bestselling photo book GLORY: Magical Visions of Black Beauty. Featuring over 200 magical images of Black children in intricate costumes and avant-garde hairstyle, the book’s cover look was one of many created by Anise.
Swain, the self-proclaimed “Beyoncé of baby hairs” is best known as the talent behind Lizzo’s ever-changing tresses. The duo met on the set of the “Good as Hell” video in 2016, and a creative dream team was born, along with an array of hair-raising looks. A performer in her own right, Swain is never afraid to play and experiment, whether with inches of flowing hair, Rococo-inspired silhouettes, or Lizzo’s 2021 Grammys look created with hair clips Swain copped “from the Slauson Super Mall [that] morning.” But Swain’s no newbie to creating conversation-worthy moments; not only is she the genius behind Lizzo’s looks, but she was also the mastermind behind Zendaya’s faux locs at the 2015 Oscars.
Tracee Ellis Ross holds a lot of titles: comedic actress, style icon, America’s favorite Girlfriend, best friend in all our heads, outspoken activist..the list goes on. Thanks to her popular natural haircare line Pattern Beauty that’s flying off the shelves of almost every Ulta Beauty nationwide, she can now add successful business owner to that list. Not bad for the Primetime Emmy, Golden Globe, Critic’s Choice and NAACP Image Award winner who was also recently appointed Ulta’s diversity and inclusion advisor. “Black hair has been at the center of political and social and cultural revolutions,” Ellis Ross recently told The Glow Up. “We have had maps to freedom braided into our hair.”
Want more? Watch our video to see these maestros in action!
(Video production: Felice Léon; Animations: Heather Hass)