Why Hollywood's Buzziest Hairstylist Puts Curls First

Natural hair isn’t a trend — it’s what’s growing out of our heads — but we still can’t help but swoon when a stylist is able to push our curls, coils, and kinks to new and unique heights. Celebrity hairstylist Nai’vasha Johnson does that with every red carpeted event or press tour that she’s on.

Just look at her roster: Yara Shahidi, Zendaya, Skai Jackson, and John Legend have all been lucky enough to grace her chair. Even though her Rolodex is the ultimate Who’s Who, Johnson is still humbled by the love, especially considering her beginnings as a realtor in Tennessee. “Every time I get an opportunity, it blows me away,” she tells Refinery29. “I’m constantly getting surprised daily.” And so are we: Johnson’s natural hairstyles constantly have us screenshotting and pinning, making us wonder what’s next. But before we muse about the future, read ahead to see how the budding star got her start.

Southern Roots

“I was that girl in high school who did all of her friends’ hair. I went to cosmetology school directly after, and then took a break from it. In Memphis, where I’m from, doing hair isn’t that glamorous. They don’t treat hair as an art form; they treat it as a trade. So I put it on the shelf for a long time and did banking and real estate. Once the market crashed, I reinserted myself and picked up hair from there.

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“At that time, we were living in Atlanta because my husband is in the military. That was the first time that I had an opportunity to see the beauty industry being treated as something for celebrities, as opposed to being just a neighborhood beautician. In Atlanta, you were a hairstylist or a hairdresser. You hung out with celebrities, and you had features and editorials. That intrigued me.”

First Steps

“In 2013, I did a reality TV show called Big Rich Atlanta. That was the first time I really had an opportunity to be on the other side of the camera and be behind the scenes in that capacity. I remember being most surprised about the pay, to be honest. I didn’t realize that you could make that type of money being a hairdresser. I only knew about the $25 haircut. In the professional industry, the sky is the limit. My perspective of the beauty industry changed, and once that happened, I didn’t stop.

“I never assisted, either. I was always so afraid that no one would really help me, because it was so competitive. So I studied on my own. I practiced on my own. I did everything on my own because I didn’t trust that anyone would say ‘hey, Nai’vasha, let me put you under my wing and take you in.’ No one ever did that for me, so I did it all for myself.”

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Her Big Break

“My first big name was a reality star, Ariane Davis of Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta. I had an opportunity to go with her to her first New York Fashion Week runway show, where she walked for my really good friend Avnah. Everything started happening after that. I surrounded myself with industry people, like designers and fashion stylists. I started contacting photographers and other makeup artists and other wardrobe stylists, and then I started shooting. Once I started shooting all of the time and doing editorials, people started reaching out to me and taking notice of my work.

“Another moment was Zendaya’s pixie at the 2015 Grammys. It was the first time she was seen with a big haircut. Her stylist, Law Roach, had it in mind, to create a moment for everyone to think on and talk about. We wanted to show that Zendaya grew up and was coming into her own.

“Yara had that moment, too, at the 2017 Emmys. Her hair wasn’t as big and curly at that moment. She wasn’t in kitten heels. She had this ultra-chic wet look that was off her face, with a beautiful custom Prada gown and gorgeous makeup. America’s darling had grown up.”

Photo: John Shearer/WireImage.

Shaking Up The Status Quo

“I went to a beauty school where we didn’t train on textured, Black, or curly hair. All of the training we did was on white hair or Asian hair. It wasn’t until the latter part of my Atlanta experience that I got into natural hair. Even then, I was still pressing it out and making it smooth. Now, I take those beautiful images I love so much — like maybe a Sassoon haircut or an Aveda updo — and turn that into a textured look. I’ll put a really clean bob on the kinkiest, curliest hair I can find, or the waviest girl that I can find.

“One of my favorite looks is Uzo Aduba for the Emmys, because that was such a risk. And to see Viola Davis celebrate her big, kinky, textured hair on the carpet for the Globes was so good, and I was so happy about that. Before the Emmys, no one was doing that. I can’t remember another moment where someone rocked thick, kinky hair on the red carpet. To see women of color rock the red carpet with all of this texture, it’s an awesome day. It’s a beautiful day in beauty.”

Frequent Flier

“I’m based in New York, but travel roundtrip a minimum of four times a month. I frequent Los Angeles the most. Life is still so different for me. Now, I don’t have to be quite as in your face and sociable with my clients. I don’t have to see as many people. When you’re doing about nine or 10 people per day, that’s a whole lot of socializing, a lot of personalities, and a lot of being on your feet. If I’m with someone like Yara for the day, I’m primarily only with her just for the day and not for the week.

“Because I’m spending so much social time with my clients, it feels like we’re hanging out with as sisters or cousins. We’re laughing, flipping through books, figuring out our styles. It’s relaxed, and totally different — like night and day”

She Still Has #Goals

“My dream is to work with Halle Berry or Iman. When you think of iconic beauties, those are some of the first names that come to mind for women of color and women, period. Their looks stand the test of time, and I would love to have either one of those ladies in my chair on any day of the week. I know the exact style that I want to do on Halle, too. It’d be epic.

“More importantly, I want other aspiring stylists to know that there’s space for all of us. There’s enough room for everybody. We’ve got to keep celebrating ourselves. I don’t know if natural hair is necessarily a priority for Hollywood glam squads, but I know that we’re embracing it and really loving our authentic selves, which includes our textures.”

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What's The Craziest Celebrity Fact You've Ever Heard?

Did you know that Joaquin Phoenix grew up in a cult?

Learning new things can be fun, but every once in a while you may learn a fact about a celebrity that truly blows your mind.

Learning new things can be fun, but every once in a while you may learn a fact about a celebrity that truly blows your mind.

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For instance, maybe you were shocked to learn that Bill Murray was arrested in 1970 for trying to smuggle almost nine pounds of marijuana through an airport in Chicago.

For instance, maybe you were shocked to learn that Bill Murray was arrested in 1970 for trying to smuggle almost nine pounds of marijuana through an airport in Chicago.

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Kerry Washington Always Does These 5 Things — & No One Has Noticed

We hate to break it to you, but for every example of boundary-breaking red carpet beauty — Rih’s dramatic blush at the Met Gala or Lady Gaga’s thumbprint liner at the 2017 Grammys — there’s an endless sea of no-makeup makeup paired with glowing highlighter and fluttery lashes. Gorgeous? Yes, but it’s also just the sleeping pill we need to snooze through the entirety of E! ‘s pre-show red carpet this awards season.

Luckily, there are a handful of celebs that always deliver something fresh and new — and Kerry Washington is one of those rare few. Quite the opposite of her T.V. persona, Olivia Pope, Washington isn’t one to stick to natural makeup. It makes sense that the fictitious Pope, a D.C.-based crisis manager on ABC’s Scandal, would keep things muted, but off-set Washington goes wild, calling on a host of colors, textures, and finishes for her looks.

In honor of Washington’s birthday tomorrow, we scoured the archives and found something surprising: Despite the star’s chameleon-like tendencies, she falls back on a few techniques time and time again. We’ve rounded up these bold cat-eyes, faux bangs, monochromatic makeup, and more, ahead. Curious? Keep clicking.

1. Colorful Cat-Eyes

Washington knows how to up the ante on the traditional cat-eye. On countless occasions Washington and her makeup artist have opted for bold cat-eyes in fun colors like red or navy.

Photo: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images.

Washington wore a thick layer of metallic blue shadow all over her lid here, extending the color into a wing that stops just shy of the tail of her brow. She let the shade speak for itself by pairing the look with natural-looking makeup and a pair of false lashes.

Photo: JB Lacroix/ WireImage.

2. Curls & Waves

“Kerry’s not as conservative as Olivia Pope,” Washington’s hairstylist, Takisha Sturdivant-Drew, told Refinery29. “She’s not afraid of fashion and she’s not afraid to change her hair.” Unlike her character on Scandal, Washington lives for curls and waves in every iteration. We’ve seen her rock tight, voluminous curls, sleek and shiny waves, and everything in-between.

Photo: John Shearer/WireImage.

She’s even been known to play with color, like at the 2016 Met Gala. “We went for it with the purple,” said Sturdivant-Drew. “And no, we didn’t dye her hair. I used extensions from my line, TSD Hair.”

Photo: Larry Busacca/Getty Images.

3. Graphic Black Liner

When Washington isn’t wearing color on her eyes, she usually sticks with black liner. But we’re not talking thin strips of kohl or a diffused smoky eye. The star often sports liner drawn in edgy, graphic shapes. Case in point: This cat-eye-meets-smoky-eye blend that wraps black liner along her top and bottom lids.

Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic.

Washington stepped out at last year’s SAG Awards wearing a round, graphic eye. The look, which paired black and silver shadow and liner, provided a fun contrast to her romantic gown.

Photo: David Livingston/Getty Images.

4. Bangs

Washington has experimented with dozens of different hairstyles over the years. When she isn’t playing with waves, she usually mixes up her look with faux fringe. The unsung heroes of a hair makeover, bangs, bring structure and symmetry to Washington’s sharp bob.

Photo: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images.

Blunt bangs, wispy bangs, side-swept bangs — Washington has tried them all. In fact, when she wears bangs, she falls back on a few tried-and-true makeup techniques, too. She usually keeps her makeup minimal (lots of lashes and fresh skin) so that her bangs can take center stage.

Photo: Alexandra Wyman/Getty Images/smartwater.

5. Monochromatic Makeup

We think Washington’s unspoken beauty mantra is “when it doubt, match.” Monochromatic makeup seems to be actress’ cup of tea, so when she isn’t debuting bold new shade of eye makeup, she’s usually wearing a colorful gown and lip color to match.

Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage.

Monochromatic makeup has a unique ability to pull any ensemble together in a few seconds. Plus, unlike Washington’s flare for bold eye makeup, matchy-matchy lipstick couldn’t be easier to pull off. Here, she coordinated her red sequined gown and satin-finish lipstick.

1. Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images.

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The Grammys Didn't Just Snub "Despacito," But An Entire Culture

“Despacito” by Luis Fonsi featuring Daddy Yankee and Justin Bieber was 2017’s most inescapable song. It spent a record-breaking 16 weeks at number one on the Billboard charts and is the most-streamed single of all time. It served as the year’s soundtrack for millions of people, and not just in America. The sexy single topped charts everywhere from the Czech Republic to Poland to Greece; in Havana, Cuba, in May, it could be heard blasting from the radios of every 1950s-era car. In fact, it was in a Colombia nightclub last April that Justin Bieber first heard the track and, after seeing the crowd’s reaction to the already popular hit, told his manager he wanted to do a remix.

Yes, “Despacito” was the musical unicorn that managed to push past language, genre, and streaming barriers to become, hands down, one of the biggest songs in history — and the first Spanish language song to hit number one in the U.S. since “Macarena” in 1996. And while the Grammys considered the hit big enough to be performed during the show — a moment that drew a standing ovation from the audience — the Recording Academy did not give “Despacito” one single award, even though it earned three nominations: Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, Song of the Year, and Record of the Year.

The big honor, for Record Of The Year, went instead to Bruno Mars’ “24K Magic,” itself an infectious jam beloved by the masses over the past year. And a win for Mars is a win for Latinos, as he himself is Puerto Rican. But “Despacito” was in Spanish, and a reggaeton-pop song at that — and simply much, much bigger. Even just comparing the charts, the Motown-influenced “24K Magic” spent 19 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 and only ever peaked at number two, versus 43 weeks for “Despacito,” many of which were at the top spot. Neither the numbers nor the outraged Twitter fans lie. This was the year that the Grammys had a chance to finally acknowledge Latinos for their impact on American popular culture and music.

Instead, the Recording Academy chose to snub “Despacito.” And that rejection was about much more than one song.

In addition to acknowledging what a success Fonsi and Yankee’s work was, awarding them would’ve given credit to the impact the release had on mainstream music this past year. Since the original release of “Despacito” last January, American music has been infused with a Latino sound. Camila Cabello’ s tropical tinged “Havana” shot up the charts; Beyoncé collaborated with Colombian rapper J. Balvin to do a remix of his wildly popular “Mi Gente,” Mexican-American pop star Demi Lovato teamed up with Fonsi for “Échame la Culpa,” and Nick Minaj added a verse to Farruko’s Spanish trap hit “Krippy Kush.” And Spanish songs by artists like Shakira, Enrique Iglesias, and rapper-singer Maluma also made their way into the Hot 100.

The dismissal of the impact of Latino music is nothing new, however. The genre has long been exoticized, considered separate than American music until one rarity manages to capture the public’s attention, and suddenly, there is a “trend.” We saw that phenomenon back in 1999, when the success of Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ La Vida Loca” ushered in crossover hits from Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony, and Iglesias. But then the “trend” died down, and Latin and Spanish-language music have mostly been ignored by the mainstream since. So while breakthrough tracks by Martin, Shakira, or Fonsi are big enough to dominate the charts and influence culture every decade or so, they’re apparently not big enough to garner any love from the Recording Academy, which has never awarded a Spanish language song with a Record of the Year win.

Tapping into the Latino influence only when it’s convenient is not an anomaly that only happens in music. We see it in politics all the time, like when candidates briefly show an interest in Latino culture just to earn the Hispanic vote. (Remember when Trump desperately tweeted about taco bowls on Cinco de Mayo?) So it shouldn’t be lost on viewers that while the Grammys half heartedly attempted to address the discussion surrounding DACA and the Dreamers, they then chose American singers U2 and Sting to perform the tribute songs — and then failed to recognize the biggest song of the year, which happened to be in Spanish.

“The Grammys tried to make this big stand on immigration and Latino culture, but then they failed to recognize the Latino voice with an award for ‘Despacito,’ so that effort just felt empty and false,” says Latino cultural critic Michelle Herrera Mulligan, a contributor for Billboard, Latina, and more. “And then they have these Puerto Rican artists perform at the Grammys, but don’t recognize their work. Meanwhile, their people in Puerto Rico are being treated like second-class citizens, denied of basic resources after a natural disaster destroyed their homes. And there wasn’t a single word about that during the show.”

A win for “Despacito” would’ve also been historic for songwriting. Erika Ender, who co-wrote the song with Fonsi, is the first Latina to ever be nominated in the Song Of The Year category. Considering that the music industry and the Grammys are both facing criticism for their lack of support for both women and women of color, specifically, Ender’s songwriting credit added just one more to the dozens of reasons a “Despacito” win could’ve been historic.

“And inspiration for me back in the ’80s and ’90s was Gloria Estefan, because I saw her breaking down the walls and making people of all backgrounds around the world dance to Latin rhythms,” she told Refinery29 on the red carpet before the Grammys. “So I always dreamed of making that crossover in any way that I could, and that happened this year. And not just for me, but for many Latin artists. We might be a minority, but our music is loved by all, and when people give it a chance, it always delivers results.”

One could argue that the Grammys do hold a separate Latin Grammys ever year, so Spanish language receives lots of love there. But the difference is that “Despacito” wasn’t just part of the mainstream this year; it was the mainstream, opening the door for more cross-genre, cross-language collaborations, as well as for more Latino artists to cross over into the American market. Not to mention that the song’s singers are both Puerto Rican, which makes them just as American as the rest of us.

“For the Grammys not to acknowledge the impact of ‘Despacito’ was backwards thinking — and, frankly, bigoted,” Mulligan says. “We’re clearly at a cultural crossroads where English speakers are listening to Spanish music and know the artists. This Spanish music boom feels like our culture is striking back at the way this country has of making Latinos feel invisible. So even if the Grammys won’t recognize the song, ‘Despacito’ is sending a clear message. And it’s ‘Hey, America: You can’t shove us off the map. We are the map.'”

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Dakota Johnson Gets Real About That Angelina Jolie-Jennifer Aniston Moment At The Golden Globes

“I was trying to be sly about it.”

The 75th Golden Globes was one award show viewers will have a hard time forgetting.

The 75th Golden Globes was one award show viewers will have a hard time forgetting.

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From Seth Meyers’ hilarious jokes to Oprah’s inspirational speech, the night was lit!

From Seth Meyers' hilarious jokes to Oprah's inspirational speech, the night was lit!

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But one of the most talked-about moments would probably have to go to Dakota Johnson allegedly watching Angelina Jolie ignore Jennifer Aniston on stage.

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Twitter: @KristeiaAhmic

Twitter: @RobMRosenberg

Well, the Fifty Shades Freed star recently stopped by The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon, to let fans know what REALLY went down that night.

Well, the Fifty Shades Freed star recently stopped by The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon, to let fans know what REALLY went down that night.

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At first, she agreed with Jimmy about looking at Angelina Jolie, but then shifted the blame to someone else.

At first, she agreed with Jimmy about looking at Angelina Jolie, but then shifted the blame to someone else.

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And ultimately, she admitted her side-eye game was extra strong.

And ultimately, she admitted her side-eye game was extra strong.

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Or so we thought.

Or so we thought.

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When asked what she was really looking at, Dakota revealed she was trying to take a lowkey photo of the Stranger Things cast at their table.

When asked what she was really looking at, Dakota revealed she was trying to take a lowkey photo of the Stranger Things cast at their table.

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Although she was embarrassed to secretly capture a photo of the cast at the time…

Although she was embarrassed to secretly capture a photo of the cast at the time...

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…the 28-year-old actress had no problem reliving the moment for Jimmy.

...the 28-year-old actress had no problem reliving the moment for Jimmy.

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To hear more from Dakota Johnson’s interview with The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon, watch the video below.

Fast forward to the 3:50 mark for her stories from the Golden Globes.

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