She wants to lead the glamorous life!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Trina, Naturally: An Interview About Business, Dreams & Hair

Trina doing what she does best.

This is the second time I have featured my hair stylist of 16 years, Trina, on my blog.  She is a wealth of hair care and style knowledge, so there is always endless insight she can provide.  The first interview, we touched on some of her hair care tips.  This time around, I wanted to focus more on the business side.  I mean, after all, when we hear politicians discuss small businesses, how often does your local hair salon come to mind?  Every time you have sat down in a swivel chair, been adorned with a cape and put your hair in the hands of someone wielding flat irons, smoking hot barreled curlers or a pair of sharp shears you personally supported a small business.  For some, their support comes as often as weekly or as little as annually for special occasions, trims, chemical treatments or color.  Regardless of the frequency of your visits, the hair industry is big business.  Whether the stylist is renting a booth or owns the “shop”, those individuals act as their own CEO, president and operations team all rolled into one.  The competition within the industry has always been fierce, yet in the wake of the natural hair “movement”, women are becoming less dependent on their stylist and more self-sufficient and knowledgeable about their own hair.  If you stopped 10 random natural-haired women on the street, at least 7 of them have done their own hair.  With YouTube videos, meet-ups, product swaps and natural hair bloggers infiltrating your Facebook and Twitter timelines, there is so much information and there seems to be less of a need for going to the salon.  Visit your local Target, Walgreens, CVS or even Whole Foods and you are sure to find an end-cap or two featuring natural hair care products.  So with all of this information and DIY tips floating around, where does that leave our beloved stylists?
I took the opportunity while having my hair finger-twisted at Trina’s N.V. Hair Studio, located in downtown Chicago, to delve deeper into the subject.  I wanted her opinion.  When I first met Trina, I was a junior in high school; I just wanted my hair to be cute and manageable.   At that time, she was renting a booth.  Now the salon I go to is hers.  This year marks Trina’s 29th year in the hair industry.  She graduated from Wilford Academy in September 1984.  Growing up, she was fascinated with hair.  She recalls her mom sending her to school with her hair looking one way and at some point throughout the day she would change it.  As early as the 3rd or 4th grade, she would do her sister’s hair and make “concoctions”, but back then she never “really claimed it”.  Since Trina has been in the business almost as long as I have been alive (she is not old, just started her career right out of high school), she has seen many changes take place in the hair care industry.  Some of the changes that stand out to her are the number of products and product knowledge by customers.  There has been an increase in choices for both salons and products.  One change she is not happy with is the “assembly line” mentality of some stylists these days.  Trina wants to put the “care back into hair care.”  
Trina has fully embraced the natural hair movement.  She has even started N.A.P.E.E. (Naturally Attractive Proud Energy Empowerment) Cakes a name she has created and hopes to brand to be synonymous with healthy hair.  The goal is to change the negative thoughts attributed to nappy hair and to use N.A.P.E.E. Cakes as a source of education and a forum for those with natural hair.  Trina admits the so-called natural hair movement has changed the hair industry a lot.  Especially for the professional who did not “jump on the train”.  She regrets that there are hairdressers who are “turning [natural hair] clients away because they can’t do it.”  What are the benefits of the movement?  “It’s great that women have embraced their hair.  [But] it’s a lot of work.  It’s good work.  Most heads need a break from the creamy crack.  That’s my campaign.  That is my point.”  Trina hopes N.A.P.E.E. Cakes will encourage women to embrace their hair no matter the coil or curl.  Making what may have previously been considered nappy i.e. bad hair, into the “new good hair”.  She wants women to “wear it and wear it well.”  N.A.P.E.E. Cakes workshops feature a wide range of hair textures and, of course, cupcakes.  “Who doesn’t like cupcakes?”

Trina throughout the years (clockwise):  Top Left- 5th Grade and Senior Photo, Right- before marriage and kids (1995 & 2005),  Bottom Right- daughter (R) and step daughter, Bottom Left- at last years inaugural N.A.P.E.E. Cakes event

With that said, I asked Trina how she competes with all the home techniques.  “I don’t” was her definitive answer.  Instead of making “How To” videos and blog posts the enemy- to hair stylists, she too has learned a lot from them.  Trina takes time to decode some of the products and their uses for clients in need.  “It can get overwhelming.”  Furthermore, she laments, women are spending their “last [dollar] on hair care products, [when] it’s all about DNA.  I want to bring the best out of your hair.”  Although loving hair care and products is not exclusive to Black women, there is something particularly special about our spending habits when it comes to our hair.  Trina says that that kind of attention and affection is not new.  It goes “way back.  We have always based things on hair.  We describe people by hair.  No other culture does that.  We have such diversity.”  She is right, think back to how you describe a Black woman, it usually goes something like this:  She has short hair.  She has a weave.  She’s the one with the braids.  She had a bob.  Her own family was always “fascinated with hair, in particular, her grandparents.  Trina recalls often cutting her hair while in beauty school and her family getting upset.  Her grandmother would tell her to “let your hair grow and wear your lip rouge.”  As a culture, Trina says, we look at “hair as beauty.  Hair can change things, change our moods.”
Trina counts YaYa from America’s Next Top Model cycle 3 as her current “hair hero”.  She adds Diana Ross and daughter, Tracee Ellis Ross, “I’m naming all natural women, aren’t I?”  Viola Davis made the cut, no pun intended, for just that- her haircut.  “I love that she cut her hair for the Oscars.  She stood her ground.”  Rounding out the group of hair and style icons is Solange.  “I love her whole style.  She’s got it together.”
With the wave of do it yourself product lines and salons going out of business all the time, Trina simply credits her clients for keeping her small business afloat.  She says most of her clients have been coming to her for over 15 years. “Old clients keep the doors open.”  Her definition of success is “going to work and being happy first.  The money will follow.  God, health, family, fun- surrounding yourself with people you look forward to seeing.”  Some other keys to her success are, “staying focused, learning new things.”  The hair industry is “full circle.”  A stylist must learn to take old “remedies and make them work for now.”
As the mother of an 11 year old girl, Trina wants to pass along the deep-seeded idea that she can do anything in life.  “She’s my inspiration.  She is fearless and coming out of her shell.”  A recent letter, her daughter Brooklynn wrote to her, ended with, “Mom, one day I think you’re going to change the world with the hair [you do].”  Trina, with pride, gushes, “She sees that I’m doing something I love.  I want to make a mark; change lives one curl at a time.”  In the next 5-10 years, Trina wants to see New Vision Hair Studio become incorporated into N.A.P.E.E. Cakes, becoming a household name.  Her ultimate goal is to host and create more style and hair workshops for women and young girls; with the thought that the workshops can one day grow into a fully-functioning hair school, providing young women an outlet and trade.

Trina (Center) surrounded by hair models at the N.A.P.E.E. Cakes event

Trina's Tips for Summer Natural Hair Care
Tip 1:  Hair Mask
If you have never tried a hair mask, this is a great time to do so.  Use a oil hair mask the night before a shampoo.  Include a nice amount your favorite moisture conditioner, don't be shy!  The more hair the more product.  Part hair in four sections (if the hair is natural, you can skip this step).  Apply the mixed conditioner and your oil of choice- coconut, olive or grape seed- to the hair.  After applying to the entire head, add another round of the oil of your choice.  Detangle with your fingers and put on a plastic cap.  Let this sit overnight.  This is a great pre-treatment before you go to the salon or as a DIY shampoo.  From here you can wash-and-go with a PH Balanced shampoo or create a twist-out.  The result is super hydrated, moist and shiny hair.  I love, love, love this!

Tip 2:  Try Color
Ladies, if you are natural and you don't have color, your hair can sometimes appear dull and dry no matter how conditioned it is.  Consider getting a tone on tone color (your natural color), to add depth and shine or go a few shades lighter.  If you have hair commitment issues, try a few highlights to add personality to your style.  Talk to your stylist and get a good consultation.  DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME!  

Tip 3:  Enjoy
Have fun!  Let your hair be a reflection of who you are within.  

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