Hairstylist Dionne Smith on Representation in Beauty

Too usually, one of the best magnificence tales go Untold, solely based mostly on an individual’s pores and skin color, faith, gender expression, incapacity, or socioeconomic standing. Here, we’re passing the mic to a number of the most formidable and gifted voices in the trade to allow them to share, in their very own phrases, the exceptional story of how they got here to be — and the way they’re utilizing magnificence to alter the world for the higher. Up subsequent: Dionne Smith, hairstylist and founding father of her magnificence model Signature By Dionne Smith and the Ebony Afro hair coaching doll.
My hair journey began from a really younger age. My dad was a Jamaican-Caribbean man, and he is rather a lot older, he is not with me anymore, however he was a kind of actually old-school, conventional individuals. He used to set chores for all the youngsters, and I’ve two youthful sisters, and my weekly chore on a Sunday was to clean each my sisters’ hair, blow-dry it, and plait it earlier than they went to high school. At first, I used to be round 12 or 13, so I did not wish to sit round and do my sisters’ hair, however then the extra I began doing it, the extra I began to fall in love with the concept of it. That’s after I began to study to braid.
I quickly acquired inventive with the braids, and after I used to go to high school, individuals began asking my sisters, “Oh my gosh, your hair appears so good.” The mums would say, “Where did you get your hair carried out?”, and my sisters would inform them it was me. Before I knew it, I used to be doing mates from faculty, and mums used to convey their kids. I used to be making my very own cash from a very younger age — paying for my very own lunch in school, shopping for my trainers, shopping for all of the issues I wanted. I additionally began to fall in love with hair.
I’ve at all times been actually enterprise savvy, so I made up these enterprise playing cards, and as ladies have been getting on the bus, I’d be giving them my enterprise playing cards.
Although I used to be making the change as a baby, and it was enjoyable and all the things, for some cause, in my thoughts, I did not assume hairdressing was going to get me to the place I wished to be. It wasn’t going to provide me the life that I would like; it is simply hairdressing. As a baby, you are at all times taught to develop up and be a health care provider, be a lawyer, be a dentist. That was drummed into my head as a baby. I did not actually know a lot in regards to the inventive trade, I simply loved it.
I began doing all types of jobs; I drove a bus, I labored in a pub, I labored in retail. At the time, I did not realise how profitable hairdressing was. I stored getting pulled into it. It was one thing I had at all times carried out on the aspect, however then I believed, “I have to make some more cash, I wish to begin taking the hairdressing extra severely.”
I’ve at all times been actually enterprise savvy, so I made up these enterprise playing cards, and as ladies have been getting on the bus, I’d be giving them my enterprise playing cards like, “Hey, I do hair as effectively.” From that, it simply grew and grew and grew, to the purpose the place I used to be getting burnt out as a result of I could not maintain on high of all of it plus elevating three boys as a single mom. I went half time and slowly constructed up on the hair aspect till I used to be making sufficient cash to have the ability to do it full time.

After that, I had a shopper, one in all my neighbours, who initially I believed was a spy or one thing, however then I realised that she was seeing the shoppers coming in and out of my home. One day she stopped me on the road and requested if I’d do her hair. She shortly turned an everyday shopper, and our relationship acquired so tight that she put me in my first salon — she actually gifted me 10 grand and put me in my first salon.
She would at all times encourage me and say, “I feel you must open a store, you are wonderful, take a look at all these creations,” and I’d reply, “I’m simply not in a place to try this, I would not know the place to begin.” She stored saying she might assist me till in the future she mentioned: “Dionne, what do you want? Like £10,000? There’s a store actually on our avenue, go and converse to the supervisor and see if he’ll give it to you.” I believed she was joking at first, and I stored saying that it did not really feel proper. But each time she got here in, she’d say, “I really feel like you are able to do this.”
I spoke with my mates, they usually advised me I ought to do it. So I mentioned to my neighbour, “OK, I’ll take the cash beneath the situation that whereas I’m paying you again this cash, I’ll offer you free haircare,” and we agreed on these phrases. She’s nonetheless my neighbour now. That’s why I actually consider you can attempt to run away out of your items or run away from what’s destined for you, nevertheless it’ll come and discover you. From there, all the things began to fall into place. I began with the unique salon, then outgrew that salon, went across the nook to the principle highway, and opened up a much bigger store, which had six seats for styling, two magnificence rooms, and two nail areas.
It’s actually arduous for me, even now, to swallow that Afro hair just isn’t a compulsory module in training — whether or not you wish to study it or not.
One day, a woman referred to as Alex Box, who’s a make-up artist, got here into my salon. I did not have any concept who she was, however she wished hair extensions. She later advised me that she struggled to search out anybody who might put hair extensions in correctly, and he or she was telling me how huge it’s in the European market. I had no concept. I used to be simply so centered on Afro hair. She launched me to her agent, who then requested me to help a few of their stylists, one in all whom was Malcolm Edwards. I began to help him in any respect these London Fashion Week reveals, and it was one other world. I used to be blown away.
From there, individuals simply stored encouraging me. I’ve at all times been inspired. I went on to win Sleek’s Best Cornrow Based Weave — Weave Wizard Award, and after that it acquired me pondering perhaps I ought to enter the Wahl Awards — I did, and I received finest braids in the Wahl Awards. It gave me quite a lot of confidence.
It acquired me pondering that I did not simply wish to be a salon stylist, I wished to do all the things. I wished to do hair wherever hair was wanted. But after some time, it acquired to some extent the place I began to get a little bit overwhelmed as a result of I used to be doing quite a lot of session work in addition to being in the salon. I had to choose. I believed, “It’s my time to shine now. I wish to fly a bit now,” so I shut store. I made the choice to shut the salon down and go freelance. It was one of the best determination I’ve made in my life.
I spent a lot time constructing a profession and all the things, however then COVID-19 hit. I believed to myself, “OK, Dionne, what’s subsequent? I’m not sitting down doing nothing, I’m going to make this occur.” I wished to convey out my very own line, so I did. I’ve my straighteners, Signature By Dionne, and I additionally wished to convey out an Afro coaching head.
It’s actually arduous for me, even now, to swallow the truth that Afro hair just isn’t a compulsory module in training — whether or not you wish to study it or not. It’s at all times troubled me since you surprise, how will you name your self a hairdresser if there’s hair sorts coming into the salon you can’t do? To me, you are not a completely certified hairdresser. The factor is, I’m not blaming anybody, as a result of even with quite a lot of European stylists, they really wish to study Black hair however they’re scared to mess up somebody’s hair. But then what do they apply on? Where do they study it? There’s nothing to facilitate their studying. I believed to myself, that is the time for me to convey Ebony, the Afro doll coaching head, to the world and attempt to assist these individuals.
I get so many emails from European mums who’ve had mixed-race kids which have by no means seen or touched textured hair in their life. They do not even know what to do with their kid’s hair or the place to begin. Children then develop up with points and problems due to these items. That’s why Ebony is a lot larger than simply an Afro doll, if you consider everything of what it represents. It’s not simply hair, it is all the things. There’s a lot tradition connected to our hair. The dialog round Afro hair — I’m combating for it.

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About the Author: Jessica