Find out how editorial hairstylist Naeemah LaFond continues to break barriers—whether she’s working behind the scenes or on stage.
Tell us about yourself and why you decided to become a hairstylist.
I was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York and am the daughter of Haitian immigrants. I grew up surrounded by women who love beauty and fashion. Even in times when we didn’t have much, the women in my family always found ways to do their hair in the latest styles and dress in the coolest outfits— even if they had to make their clothes themselves. I grew up around roller sets, braids, at-home colour treatments, all of it. My love for hair was engrained in my DNA but I think that I began to notice it myself when I fell in love with Barbies as a little girl. Having Barbies allowed me to create and use my imagination.
With that said, I didn’t look at being a hairstylist as a career option until I was in college and found myself always doing everyone’s hair for parties and events. I realized that it didn’t feel like work for me. Inserting myself into beauty moments was something that just came naturally because of my upbringing, but in college I was really able to see how much my love for hair stuck out like a sore thumb. My destiny was calling. I left school and came home to Brooklyn to start my journey. The rest is history.
You do a lot of work at Fashion Week. Tell us about that and what it was like this year at NYFW for autumn/winter 2020.
Fashion Week is my favourite part of my job. The little girl in me who grew up watching Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer and Naomi Campbell strut the runways comes alive every single time I have the privilege of working the shows. This year in particular was a career highlight because of the Christopher John Rogers show. Working that show, I just knew that something special was happening. The statement hair, the inclusivity, the love in the room. It’s one of those moments where you can literally feel yourself walking in your purpose. So when I woke up the next morning to tons of press about the hair, I was flying high as a kite.
What’s the secret to working with a fashion designer for their show, while still being able to push yourself creatively?
Remember that it’s not your show. You are there to help bring a vision to life. When a designer gives you some creative freedom, that’s always the best, but you can’t expect that to be the case every time. Keep in mind that you can add your signature in the details.
What do you most enjoy about editorial hairstyling?
The artistry of editorial styling is what draws me every time. Editorial styling is where I’m able to be the artist that I am. Where salon styling is based on current trends and looks, concepts for editorial styling can sculpted from your imagination, pulled from past eras, and referenced from all parts of the world.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I get my inspiration from people and the past. The woman who sits in my chair is always my first source of inspiration. I can then pull references and create something of my own. Research has been so vital to my success. Without knowing the history of hairstyling you can really limit yourself and your point of view.
You’ve become known for creating beautiful hair with finishing techniques. Why is finishing so important to you? Why don’t more hairstylists dedicate time toward learning finishing skills?
Finishing skills are what I enjoy the most. For me it’s the most creative part of the hair styling process. It’s a personal choice. Where some may be pulled more towards the cut or colour process, I’m really moved by sculpting the hair.
Education appears to be a big passion of yours. Why is it so important to you and what do you think the industry is missing in terms of education?
Education for the most part is what determines how successful you will be in this industry. ‘Education is Key’ isn’t a term exclusively for standard education. This relates to all forms of information related to your career. The more you know, the more you grow.
As a woman of colour, how have you overcome obstacles and not let yourself get discouraged by the lack of diversity in the beauty industry? Any examples that you could share with us?
When I first landed the job as amika’s global artistic director there were many times that I felt discouraged. I was the only black global artistic director, of a mainstream hair brand at all of the industry events and shows, and I often had experiences where I felt unwelcomed by the industry. However, those experiences were balanced by the support of many people—specifically black people who would stop to acknowledge me and let me know that I inspired them and gave them hope. So yes, I often felt discouraged, but my determination was never wavered. There was a bigger task at hand and I was locked in on making sure that my presence opened doors for other people that look like me.
As amika’s global artistic director, what do you most enjoy about working with the brand?
What I enjoy most about working with the brand is the people. For me, when I work for a company, the personal experiences mean more to me than anything else. You can get a paycheck anywhere, but having the opportunity to work alongside people who are kind, supportive, and fun allows you to really do your best work and live up to your fullest potential.
What’s next for you? Any goals you’re working towards that you can share with us?
I don’t really like to publicly share too many of my goals, but I can say that opening doors for people that look like me is still at the top of the list.
How Brands and Industry Decision Makers Can Support Black Hairstylists by Naeemah LaFond
1. Hire us as hairstylists on your creative teams. Don’t just put our work on your mood boards—put us on the call sheet.
2. Create Equal Opportunity. Don’t ONLY hire black freelancers when you have black talent/models—we can do it all.
3. Normalize black creatives in the beauty industry and in the editorial space. Publish our work in your magazines and other media platforms.
4. Normalize hiring black leads. There is a fine line between being an assistant and being a ghost artist. Also, don’t only hire black assistants when you need someone to do braids or prep natural hair for you. Black assistant can also do it all too. Open the areas of opportunity.
5. Be INTENTIONAL about inclusivity. We want representation in all of the opportunities not just the ones you need a black perspective or a black face for. Go out of your way to make it happen.
6. Black hairstylists also have specialties and are multilayered. Recognize that we are also mega influencers, celebrity stylists, film/TV hairstylists, editorial stylists, theatre hair stylists, wig specialists, hair cutting specialists, hair colour specialists, not just experts on black hair. Allow us to lend our voices to all conversations whether it be on your panels, educational platforms, or as contributors to your publications.
7. Hire black educators. Put them on your teams, on your stages, and in your video tutorials. We are curriculum writers, content creators, experienced educators, and motivational public speakers.
8. Add natural hair/ texture education to your repertoire. As a salon owner, make curl care and natural texture education mandatory so that your services can be available to anyone who walks into your salon. Seek those educators who specialize in this category to come into your salons and teach.
9. Salon owners: Create space for equal opportunity and advancement within your teams
10. Understand that an artist being black doesn’t automatically mean that they specialize in curl care/natural texture. Some do, some don’t (see #6). Just as non-black artists have the creative freedom to do all hair without a label being imposed on them, we want the same respect. Let us tell you what our expertise is.
11. Give credit. Don’t wipe out and discredit our contributions to the beauty industry by renaming and repackaging techniques that we have created or techniques that we have been using for years.