Hello everyone! This piece will be the sixth installment of my series titled “Da Hood Prospects”, where I’ll introduce readers to inner-city youth that are rising stars in their respective fields of work. Enjoy, and please share it with your friends.
Awa Stylez: “I started doing hair in 8th grade, but I wasn’t really trying to take it seriously because I was playing basketball. Then I got into high school & I stopped playing basketball. I started focusing on hair more.
I started braiding because I figured out that you could make money off it, doing hair. You could promote people in the school running businesses, and I started realizing that I could make my own business myself.
Then, that’s when I started braiding.”
Roki: “Talk to me about your childhood.”
Awa: “Growing up I never really asked for much, because you couldn’t really ask for a lot. I wound up just doing everything on my own. I was just very considerate of other people.
You didn’t want to bother them or stress them out. That’s how considerate I was. I always put others before myself. I started thinking, I’m going to just do it on my own.
That’s how I really built my character up. I just started handling things on my own.”
Roki: “How’d you get the name Awa Stylez?”
Awa: “My sister helped me pick out my name. She said it needs to be creative, and then, I couldn’t really put anything together. I saw “styles” (name of hairstylists) everywhere, with an “S” at the end. I said why not do Awa Stylez with a “Z” at the end, so it could be different.”
Roki: “What’s the best & worst part about doing hair?”
Awa: “The most difficult part is balancing the time you do hair, and your schoolwork, and your personal life. Finding time to manage all of those things because hair is very time-consuming.
It’s not one, two, three. You have to dedicate a whole day to doing hair. The hardest thing is organizing your schedule to make time for everything.”
Roki: “How’d you perfect your craft?”
Awa: “I practiced on myself & mainly my sister. Then I started practicing with other friends, asking them if I can do their hair because I was still trying to learn. I would do my friends without charging, and then practice on my sisters, and then practice on myself.”
Roki: “Where’d you gain your knowledge of hair from?”
Awa: “Definitely YouTube.”
Roki: “You see yourself adding someone to your team in the future, or carrying on the one-man show?”
Awa: “With braiding, I plan on doing this by myself, only because I feel I can already handle it. But in the future, I plan to stop braiding & doing other stuff like running a shop.
Of course, when I run a shop I’m going to have other people helping me, other people working for me. But as of right now, I like working by myself because I know my schedule.”
Roki: “Talk to me about “Supplied with Awa?”
Awa: “That is another side business for me to get into, what I really want to do. I really want to make stuff, and invest in things and sell them, because that’s what I always wanted to do.
I’m doing that with braiding, so when I get bigger, everybody already knows I sell stuff, I do hair, I’m running different stuff. They already know, it’s all the same brand. It’s all Awa Stylez, but in different things.”
Roki: “You’ve transitioned from a home-based hairstylist to having your own salon. What’s that been like?”
Awa: “It was a good thing that I changed from the salon & home, because now I offer more services, like washing people’s hair or doing boy braids. I could expand.
At the same time, it’s more comfortable at home. It’s kind of different because when I’m at the shop, I have to leave, I have to go to the shop, I have to braid there, I have to pay a commission. I’m not getting all the money that’s earned for my work.
I like doing hair in my house. But at the same time, the shop creates different opportunities I wouldn’t be able to have in my own home.”
Roki: “Where do you see Awa Stylez in five years?”
Awa: “In five years I see my brand, not me doing hair, I see it as a shop, a salon. I see myself selling more stuff because, during that time, I’m going to be in college and stuff, working on bigger things. I’m not going to be based in, where I’m from. I’m not going to be New York-based. Hopefully.
I’m trying to go to a bigger place. Expand much bigger. Have people working for me instead of working for myself. And being a big boss.”
Roki: “What’s the most rewarding part about what you do?”
Awa: “The best part about what I’m doing is I’m very independent. I’m making my own name, I’m making my own money. I’m buying all the stuff I need. The best part of it is I build myself. And also how happy I make clients.
Because when you do people’s hair, and they love it, when you transform somebody’s hair and they start smiling, it makes you feel good. I gave her that extra confidence, I’m doing her hair, and she’s happy. It’s not all about how I build myself up.
I love how I help people out, and being reasonable with my prices so they love coming to me, and perfecting my craft.”
Roki: “Why do you charge clients less than the competition?”
Awa: “It’s mainly because you don’t want to go to the salon, and pay $150 to do your hair. You wanted that to go towards other things. You didn’t always have $150 to go do your braids. Especially if you have siblings.
Another main reason I started doing hair is so I could take that extra cash off of other people, and just do it for myself, for way cheaper. When I started doing hair, I used to talk to my mom about my prices. She told me don’t charge too much, because you got to remember if that were you would you want to be charged that much?
It’s like why not make that easier for people. And it’s not like I provide the hair and stuff. I gotta be reasonable. I gotta think about everything and how they getting hair, how they getting back the hair.
Because even though braiding is really time-consuming, and it’s really tiring, it’s still worth it because what you’re doing is making them happy.”
Roki: “Compared to your start & where you are now, what’s been the biggest improvement in your work?”
Awa: “Parting. My parting is really nice now. Before it wasn’t as neat as it could’ve been. But now I really put pride in my parts and stuff like that.”
Roki: “What’s your number one style of hair?’
Awa: “I’d say my knotless braids. Because that’s something I do a lot. It’s on my page a lot. That’s something people really say about me. That’s a popular style now. And I don’t charge much for it.”
Roki: “What’s something you’re clients can say you pride yourself on?”
Awa: “I hold a lot of pride in how neat my work is, and how I perfect it. Even though I’m not the best yet, I know I put my effort into my work. Nobody can I say I rushed their head. Nobody can say I was rude doing their hair.
When my clients sit down I make sure I perfect their work, and I make sure I make them feel comfortable. I don’t let them just sit there quietly, I make sure they’re comfortable, have what they need, charging their phone, everything.
I make sure they set when they get their hair done. They can always say that my service is professional and comfortable.”
Roki: “Ever been a time where a client didn’t like your work?
Awa: “I never really had issues with clients but I do recall one time I did somebody’s hair.
You know how your braids are not set, how it is loose and stuff, she told me & I handled the situation professionally. I told her instead of me redoing that one braid you come back and I could give her a new style.
It was the right thing for me to do because when I did her hair I was modeling her for a new style I never did. I couldn’t get mad that the style wasn’t perfect, because I never did it before.
When that situation happened the best thing for me to do was do another style. I knew how to do it, which is box braids and knotless and I gave her that so she could be happy, and so I can have more stuff to post.”
Roki: “Ever been a moment where you considered not doing hair anymore?
Awa: “There were definitely times where I wanted to stop doing hair & running businesses because it’s too much, especially when school started again. It was too overwhelming.
But one thing you need while running a business is somebody to talk to, somebody to give you good advice. Somebody to tell you you need to get going, and I have that. Somebody who really helps me out.
It’s not like you can handle a business by yourself strictly. Because you have to really be strong mentally, and physically to be doing that. You really need somebody to talk to. You can’t just hold it in.
If you are tired you need to give yourself a break. If you need somebody to talk to, you need to talk to somebody you trust and someone that’s going to give you good advice.
And also you can’t hang around people that give up easily. Once you are around them you are going to have that mindset. You have to be around people that keep going no matter what.”
Roki: “How’d you describe yourself to someone that’s never met you?”
Awa: “I would describe myself as very strong-minded. I would describe myself as very considerate, or very kind, and caring. Last thing I would describe myself as is independent.
I say I’m very independent because I make sure I’m able to handle everything myself.
I run my business alone, I get everything I need alone, I invest in my businesses alone. Every day even if I’m not braiding, business-wise I’m very independent. I do everything on my own.”
Roki: “How’d you describe your family’s support of your business?”
Awa: “They’re very supportive. I know they get tired of me being in the living room so much doing hair. But they’re very supportive of what I do. They help me out a lot.
They give me space for me to do hair and stuff. My sisters, it’s good to express how tiring it is to do hair to them. They somebody you want to complain to. Like “oh my god I’m so tired I don’t want to do nothing.” They’re just people you can talk to about anything.”
Roki: “What would you say to the young ladies interested in becoming hairstylists?
Awa: “What I would say about upcoming stylists in New York City is that it’s very competitive. People aren’t as considerate as you might be. People want to always just be ahead of you.
What I’ll say to you is just make sure you’re determined in what you’re doing. You have to be very determined or you’re going to want to give up. You see too many people doing it, or you think she’s doing it better than you.
Or see she’s got more followers than you. You can’t look at people having followers, you can’t look at the clout. You can’t look at stuff like that. You have to look within yourself.
Do you really want to do this? Are you going to love doing this? Do you see yourself doing it for a long time? Think about that. You can’t be doing it because other people are doing it. You have to do it because you want to do it”
What I would tell myself is to just stay who I am. Not get overwhelmed in becoming bigger. And just always stay Awa Stylez.”
Hometown: Bronx, New York
Address of Shop: 1404 Castle Hill Ave
Favorite Hairstylist: Braided By Lici
Dream Location To Style Hair: Atlanta.
Who do you want to see on Da Hood Journal: Hannah’s Boutique.
What do you say to the haters: “Stay mad, I’m going to continue doing what I got to do to be successful.”
If you made it to the end, thank you so much for reading. Leave a comment if you enjoyed this piece. And please, share this with your friends!
Special shoutout to Khoudia, Nafi, Aissatou, Roki, & Farouk. You all played an instrumental role in the success of Awa Stylez.