For years, Maya High wore wigs or braids because she wanted to.
When High met curl specialist Shakera Kemp, her feelings about the natural texture of her hair changed.
âI was lucky enough to really fall in love with my curls and it was gorgeous,â High said. “I was like, ‘Wow, it’s me, it’s my natural hair that looks like this.'”
Also known as The Cuse Curlfriend, Kemp is a hairstylist who specializes in educating, trimming and styling naturally curly hair. Kemp is based in the Sola Salon Studios at Marshalls Plaza on Erie Boulevard. While her living room chair is open to everyone, the Curlfriend has made a name for herself among people looking to revitalize their curls, especially black women.
âIt’s the same if you’re talking to someone who specializes in blonde or color,â Kemp said, wearing a âCurlfriendâ jersey with the number 12 on the back. âI’m going to tell you to go to the specialist, because that’s why they are experts in the matter. “
Kemp ran into some curly-haired influencers on Instagram in 2018 and thought, “I probably could do this.” The bubble quickly burst when she found two hairdressers on YouTube who debunked everything she had learned about curly hair on the internet.
âAfter that, I was like, ‘Okay, if I’m going to help people with their hair, I’m going to go to cosmetology school so that I can give people the proper and correct information,â Kemp said.
As the natural hair revolution has picked up online, the industry continues to discriminate against curly hair, Kemp said.
“Cosmetology school doesn’t talk about it either, so a lot is still in the books saying [curly hair] should be relaxed with chemicals, âKemp said.
Kemp considers herself an educator. In his one-chair studio, clad in orange walls and a ‘Slay All Day’ sign, Kemp teaches people how to take care of their specific hair type, anchoring his teachings in science.
During High’s maintenance cut, Kemp methodically explained why and how she was cutting certain areas of hair to High, who was wearing a “Vaccinated, but I don’t trust you” mask.
Many of the hair care myths that Kemp debunks relate to shampooing, consistency with cleaning hair, using oil in hair for tighter curls, and nourishing hair masks.
High said Kemp taught her what the texture of her hair looked like, how to put product in her hair, what routine to follow based on High’s activities, and how her colored hair would perform. High had never seen a curl specialist before. Until she found Kemp, High was doing her hair at home in the sink.
High told Syracuse.com she learned from Kemp that washing your hair once or twice a month isn’t healthy.
âHair doesn’t grow in dirt,â High said. To that, Kemp responded with a laugh.
“It’s always so funny when they regurgitate everything I sayâ¦” Kemp stopped, stifling a laugh.
Kemp enjoys seeing her clients preach what she has taught them. Most of her clients experience their defined curls for the first time thanks to her.
âYour hair is tied to your self-esteem and who you are, so it feels good,â Kemp said. “It feels good to know that I’ve been helping someone do what they’ve wanted to do for a very long time and that they’re excited.”
Kemp sees 24 to 25 clients per month and they typically come every eight to 12 weeks. Kemp even has male customers and they love the experience.
âMost of the time, I’m their first salon experience,â Kemp said.
When asked if men have more to learn about their hair than the average woman, Kemp replied, âOf course they do. They use a 6 in 1 body wash.
Can men learn more about hair care too? Of course, Kemp laughed. “They use a 6 in 1 shower gel.”
For Kemp, the future is full of possibilities and always hair. She would like to open her own salon and train others to specialize in curls.
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