INTERVIEW EKOM @e.kommm
PHOTOGRAPHER WARD & KWESKIN @supervision_agency @wardkweskin
What was the moment you knew that you wanted to join the beauty world and become a hairstylist?
I started out working in clubs and bars, DJing, throwing queer parties and raves. I ended up with a day gig DJing at a hair salon on the weekends and picking up some front desk shifts during the week. I saw all these cool people creating looks, making money and getting off at 6pm.I was curious about changing my lifestyle, and then my father passed away during that time. He was a lifelong addict, and it immediately felt like a very clear message to change the path I was on. I signed up for beauty school almost the next day.
You create something beautiful within a variety of hair textures and curl patterns, which unfortunately can be a luxury for many POC. How important is it for you to be able to deliver for these diverse clients?
From day one backstage, I was very aware of the disparity between how texture – specifically Black hair texture – was treated vs non Black hair. It felt very fear based, and I had not made it there to be afraid. I made it my journey to learn to be the best at what was very underserved, and I am still on that journey. I think our responsibility as hairstylists is to break down the systems in place that tell us what is “easy” and what is “hard”. I ask questions and I remain curious to every person’s unique texture. Texture is like a fingerprint, and it carries with it culture, class, environment. One can never know it all, stay open and ask every POC that sits with you questions that consider these elements. Make it part of your daily practice.
You have done hair for many big names, shows, and editorials. When did you get your first big job and how does it feel to look back at it now?
I hate to be a cliche but I am a beauty school dropout. I have a dear friend Tony Kelley. He was my instructor in beauty school while he was on hiatus from Guido’s team. When he went back to NY to do shows, he invited me to come. I dropped out and went to NYC for fall shows and my first show was Marc Jacobs. I had ZERO idea what I was doing, but Tony really helped catapult me into a place where I could really feel challenged. I was on the circuit after that in London, Milan, Paris – completely addicted to the adrenaline, the hustle and the team work. I’m so grateful for his guidance. It truly changed my life course and subsequently my generational wealth and success. I travelled to places my parents could only dream of and made more money than they ever had in their entire lives. As a woman of color, these were not small things. There are very few of us backstage and fewer of us leading shows and shoots.
Do you ever struggle when deciding on the best hairstyle to seamlessly transmute the message or theme of a whole look? Is there a process to it or is it just creative instinct?
I think the most challenging thing is to remain open and flexible while presenting strength and confidence. It’s a practice that has served me well to learn – in my work and in my personal relationships. The process is different every time to me, it feels psychedelic and I love that about it. I want to feel changed by each thing I do. It’s why I’m here.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far in your career?
Remember that there is only one you. The compare and despair mentality of Instagram, etc. can take you into imposter mode. You must resist this, especially as a person of color, a woman, a queer person, a trans person, those of us who are Other. You owe it to yourself to lean into what makes you special. You can make the same wig as someone else, but YOUR energy matters. Your point of view is no one else’s, it belongs to you and who you decide to share it with.
Is there any advice you could give to aspiring hairstylists trying to make a name for themselves?
Ask yourself what actually makes you happy or activated. Where do you thrive? Do you love nature? Clubs? Film? Find what inspires you authentically and that will make you shine and be a teacher for you in how to keep your life balanced. Hair is not the point, money is not the point. The point is that we all get to be together in this lifetime. Don’t let the pressure ruin the joy, to be here is a privilege!