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There’s no splitting hairs for Kelly


DONNA SEALY

There’s no splitting hairs for Kelly

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THERE’S SOMETHING about knowing who you are and loving you that is so liberating. Ask natural hair stylist Kelly Sealy-Benjamin, the owner of Nubian Naturals Hair salon, who gives each woman who enters her Husbands, St James salon the feeling that they are beautiful.

The conversation began with her telling me how she got started and ended with her plans for the future, but in between she dispensed some advice about hair care and the versatility and creativity in styling natural hair and locs as seen in the photos on the salon’s Facebook and Instragram pages.

Kelly told EASY magazine that she always loved working with hair and she had her first job – in a salon – when she was 15 years old.

“I started after school. My grandmother, who has passed away, saw the desire and drive that I had to do hair, which was not just natural hair at that time. She got me my first job at a salon in Sheraton.

“My after-school schedule was to come home and do my homework and then rush to work. It would be like $50 and you’re feeling like it’s a lot of money but not realising it’s $50. You’re making your own money and feeling like a boss,” she said laughing at the memory.

The Garrison Secondary School alumna said her teachers would remember her as the girl who was “in the bathroom and lunchroom doing hair all the time”. So it was a natural progression for her to own her own salon which she did three years later, when she was 18 years.

“The object was to provide a space for people with natural hair, where they could feel comfortable and still be pampered just like anyone else who had a place to go. If you look around you would see salons set up for people with chemically altered hair, weaves and braids and the average natural hair person has no place to go other than to a friend’s house or on somebody’s doorstep so I decided to start Nubian Naturals,” the 33-year-old said.

“The salon is a natural environment so we try to use as many natural products as possible. We make our own gels, I make the oils here . . . . Then there’s a product that’s 100 per cent organic . . . called shea moisture which works really, really well. There are subtle little things you can use like baking soda, castor oil, natural shampoos that you can make with hibiscus, scrunchy needle.” 

Kelly said she has worked with chemicals before and her “biggest problem”  was that they affected her sinuses and she got burns on her fingers from the relaxers.

As mothers and daughters continue to be celebrated this month, Kelly is not in favour of mothers relaxing their girls’ hair.

She explained: “Let that be the child’s individual choice. As an educated parent you do know the risk with chemicals and minor burns that adults suffer. I’ve had my hair relaxed before and let me tell you it’s awful, so for a child to go through that process . . . .They’re children so they will scratch their heads the night before; they’re going to scratch their head the morning and the scalp will become irritated. Then they have to sit through the shampooing and then on top of that you’re going to style. That’s too much . . . . It’s too much for a young scalp.”

Her recommendation is simple.

“Become more aware of how to maintain a child’s hair in a natural state. There are so many styles you can do. It may be a bit tedious because some children have really thick hair but it is to find a comfort zone for that child and work within it,” Kelly said.

Turning to women contemplating the big chop to go back to their natural hair, she said it doesn’t have to be done in one fell swoop.

“I always ask clients to come in for a consultation cause I want to feel that person’s energy, I want to see what type of person they are and if they would go cold turkey and just chop. Some people prefer to do it gradually, so put a braid on. We clip the ends so they wouldn’t get any breakage or damage because if you get split ends and it goes right down to the root that’s damaging the regrowth, the virgin hair that’s coming out. There are different processes.

“When I started my hair, I just woke up one morning and shaved it all off. I had the weave, braids, relaxers, the hot curls, finger waves – I had it all everything except Jheri curls. That era in my life had expired,” she said. 

As the days get hotter and people head to the beach to cool down, Kelly said they must consider that the salt water would damage their hair. She advocates “convenient” shorter or pinned up styles to help deal with the high temperature and beach outings.

“As a promoter of anything natural, I also talk a lot about diet. If you don’t have a healthy diet you can’t have healthy hair, skin and nails. It all comes together as a package,” the hairstylist said.

And in terms of maintenance of the hair, the hairstylist said that while some people say that relaxed hair requires a bit more care, it was basically the same for natural hair.

“If you have a plant and you don’t take care of it, it is going to die . . . . You need to water it, you need to maintain, you need to moisturise, you need to mist so it’s more or less the same amount of care but just a tad more depending on the person and how they treat their hair and what their diet is like.”

Additionally, she has helped change the way people view their own hair and natural hair. It is part of her to educate those whom she comes into contact with about eating properly, exercising, taking their vitamins, and most importantly, loving themselves.

She loves being creative and her hope is to take Nubian Naturals to another level.

“I try to do more every year. I am professional. I am an overachiever. I strive for excellence so my next thing would be to do Snoop Dogg or L’il Wayne. I have been in international magazines before, I’ve worked with a couple of people. I just want to do a good job and make people happy,” she said.

And then she went back to styling her client’s hair. (Green Bananas Media)

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