Afro hair stylist confesses: “I shaved my Barbie’s hair.”

Models show themselves from their fairest side as afro hairdressers and cosmetic brands fight for attention. The Afro Hair and Beauty Live show in London is the place where Britain’s most talked about stylists showcase their revolutionary ideas and latest fashion trends.

By Anne Saenen
Published by Radio Netherlands Worldwide, Africa Desk

At every beauty product stand, women with head microphones talk hairdressers through their creations. Their voices mingle with loud background music. “Voilà, this will make your hair manageable and sleek,” says one of them while others comment on their own models.

In the middle of the noisy exhibition centre a stylist with short cropped bleached hair turns to one of her colleagues and gives her directions. “Do it like this,” she shows as she pins the model’s hair up.

Contemporary and quirky
Twenty-four-year-old Shade Oloniyo is an upcoming afro hair stylist from America. Together with a team of hairdressers they are preparing for a competition later this afternoon. “My style is contemporary and quirky,” she says. “I’m very passionate about my profession. I think that’s what make me stand out.”

As a young girl Shade started experimenting with hair. “I shaved the heads of my Barbie’s. I was a rebel already,” she laughs. When she was thirteen she started her first summer job in a salon shampooing costumer’s hair. But when Shade reached university age, she decided not to get the qualifications to become a stylist.

Female Richard Branson
“My family didn’t think hairdressing was a real profession. They wanted to see BA or BSc in front of my name. So I enrolled to do a nursing degree in the UK. But just before I would start, I decided to follow my heart and get a qualification in hair and beauty, after all.”

Since then Shade has worked in a salon in Croydon, South London and won numerous beauty awards. But that isn’t her biggest achievement so far: “I am a senior stylist, an art director and I do make-up too. I’m proud that I achieved all that at my age.” And there is no stopping her. “I want to become the female version of Richard Branson. I want to build my own empire in the beauty industry.”

Fashion shop fantasy
Unlike Shade’s family, Naomi Deru got the support from her family during her degree in Fashion Design and Marketing at the London College of Fashion. They even came up with the idea of opening a fashion shop in Streatham, South London.

“I finished my degree last month,” says the 24-year-old fashion designer. “But I was already working in our new shop.” About a year ago her mother and brother started fantasising about what they could do with the empty retail space in the high street. Early this year the family opened up Finetex Creative.

Being different
According to Naomi their shop is different from other African fashion retailers in the multi-cultural neighbourhood. “We don’t only sell African print fabrics, I design and produce ready-made African clothing. And we have a tailoring service, too. That’s what makes us different.”

Although the shop has just opened its doors, Naomi sees a bright future ahead: “It’s hard work and quite a responsibility, but we’ve already sold some of our clothes and fabrics in other cities around the UK.”