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Let’s talk hair with Liena


DONNA SEALY

Let’s talk hair with Liena

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AS A BUSY MUM and businesswoman, 37-year-old Liena Babb knows the struggles other women face when juggling family and work commitments.

She also knows how much women love to look good and have their hair and make-up correct. After all, she and her two sisters saw this first hand when they were growing up.

Speaking with EASY magazine from her St Michael home on a sunny day, Liena recalled, with laughter, getting into trouble with one of her sisters after dabbling in her make-up when she went out. And while that fascination with fashion, colours and looking pretty continues, it was her passion for braiding or as most of us would say, plaiting cornrows, that took her down the path she is presently on.

The owner of Lieshua’s Beauty Studio does nails, is a make-up artist, a teacher (she teaches hair braiding at the Bush Hall Community Centre), makes jewellery and handbags and quite recently she has found a way to marry style and convenience.

“I’ve been doing [braiding] from the time I was 15 years old . . . . I remember days of not doing work at school and just doing hair in the bathroom. Those were my bad days,” she said before breaking out in laughter at the memory.

Liena is in the business of making wigs.

“I do normal braids and braided wigs. I actually braid each one by hand and I put them onto the caps so you can get them in different styles. Regular, long and short, afro kinky, invisible corn rows – all the popular braiding styles that you can think about, I get them on a cap,” she said.

“I got the idea after sitting long nights thinking, because I wear braids most of the time, that’s me, that’s my signature. People would come and say ‘Oh, I love your braids (which I usually wear pretty long), but I can’t sit down those long hours’. So, I said I could put the braids on a cap and you can put them on when you want, you can have braids today and tomorrow something different. Or, if you’re having a bad hair day, why not have your wig cap?” Liena said.

After researching and gathering as much information as she could, including the various techniques she could use, Liena is now competent.

As the conversation continued, passion resonating in her voice, Liena said the wigs are an “easy way of not sitting down for long hours” and even though she knew she was on to a good thing she was still surprised by the response when she participated in Girlfriends Expo earlier this year.

“The day of Girlfriends Expo was the first time I had them on display. I had seven wigs –  singles, rope twist, afro kinky, invisible cornrows and the bob. I also had one you could wear as a piece. I started to cry after people started trying them on because . . . it actually worked. Up to that time, I didn’t know how it would have worked,” she disclosed.

She is grateful to the officer at Fund Access for providing her with the opportunity.

“I live, breathe, and dream hair. I would dream of a style and it would be on my mind that I can’t sleep. For me, there was no other option. This is what I always wanted to do. Even when we spoke about career choices at school, I always would put down hair dressing,” she recalled. 

Liena is sharing her love for braiding with her students and she noted the course isn’t just for those who want to do it professionally. She has taught women who want to be able to plait their daughters’ hair or even their own hair.

“I have students as young as 15 years old. I teach braiding as well as wig making and I also teach nails as well. With braiding everybody says, ‘I could braid, I could plait’. Yes, you can braid, yes you can plait but I teach them how to perfect it, how to make the braid look natural and neat because some people do it and then there’s a hump there and a hump here and the hair is not braided smoothly, and it is not flowing or the same size. Each braid has to be the same size, it has to be consistent and the braiding has to be consistent,” she said. 

She said it was important to teach participants the principles because of the potential they have to go further and make money beyond Barbados.

“I teach them the rules and regulations, no shortcuts. They learn about sanitation, customer service, how to deal with their different clients and their different moods. It isn’t only about braiding but how to get the client to come back,” she added.

Liena can tell you more than a couple things about the technique of braiding.

“Braiding should come natural to you but it becomes you from practising. For me, and this is what I teach the class, if a grain is out of place I feel it in my fingers.

“I automatically switch to even it out. I don’t know how it happens.

“Braiding involves three strands which have to be the same size . . . and I teach them when they transfer to make it smooth so your braids are consistent. It also comes with rhythm too and when you stop plaiting to talk, for example, you have to find it again to continue.”

She also spoke about plaiting around the fingertips, with the flat part of the fingers and plaiting with the hair around the fingers and her advice is to continue how you started.

Liena has also heard the complaints about people losing the hair around their edges and she said, “not bragging or boasting”, but this did not happen to her customers. In fact, her braids, she noted, lasted from three weeks to four months.

“I have a love for it. I think it’s in my DNA. I Google a lot of stuff such as if I do this or do that. I search for products, what they’re made of, if heat will affect them. I do a lot of research to make my art unique and to make my products of high quality,” she said.

When she isn’t braiding or teaching, she spends time with her “soon to be” seven-year-old son Joshua and she makes jewellery and bags which she might sell at the odd flea market.

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