Power Women of the Diaspora: Celebrity Stylist Talks How She Expanded Brand Globally

Felicia Leatherwood went from local beautician to international haircare phenom

(Image: Thinkstock)

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Let’s talk about your career transition from celebrity stylist to natural hair educator. What events or experiences inspired you to develop a niche in natural hair?

Honestly, I always gravitated toward natural hair and loved the texture of it, but I didn’t like the smoky smell of straightened hair. For me, natural hair really tells a story about how you treat yourself. I love being able to ‘read’ natural hair. I could easily examine your natural hair and diagnose any hair breakage or scalp issues.

At the same time, I realized regardless of the texture or state of a woman’s hair, she needed to understand how nurturing her diet, body soul and spirit are also important to growing healthy hair.

Why did you start the hair empowerment workshops?

I used to watch people on TV in the healthcare fields administer drugs to help people in need all around the world. I always felt like I wanted to do something like that but I knew the medical field wasn’t necessarily for me. So, I asked God how I could give back to people of color from a place of love. I didn’t know what that was going to look like until I started my natural hair workshops.

I started workshops in locations like Florida and St. Thomas. Because of social media and word of mouth, I started receiving emails from women requesting that I come to London. My number of events has increased since then, and I am planning to conduct more workshops in Africa this year.

What sets your brand apart from other stylists?

I really love people, and I know how to do hair, but my full intention has always been to create an atmosphere of love and give it as well as receive it wherever I go. I try to hug everyone at my workshops and form connections with my audience. I don’t believe you should ever get to a point where you stop learning, so I keep on top of trends as well.

While delivering workshops, what if any similarities and/or differences have you noticed between domestic and international audiences?

First of all, naturalistas all over the world are amazing, but we are all looking for validation for our blackness and who we are as women. We want to know we are beautiful, worthy and good enough in our own skin.

The natural hair community is so important because you see women supporting one another in droves, but in the past, I’ve noticed in the relaxed community we don’t greet one another with the same love.

I’ve also noticed when I travel internationally to speak, naturalistas have a deeper commitment to learning and understanding haircare because the information may not be readily available.

Kandia Johnson is a freelance communications strategist, brand builder and world traveler who also loves fashion, food and wine. She’s traveled from Brooklyn, N.Y., to Thailand to Africa. When she’s not helping clients create engaging communication campaigns, she’s writing about her globe-stalking adventures for her blog LadybugsInWonderland.com and Travelista.TV.

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