I had the privilege of speaking with Alicia of La LumiHair in Tunapuna, a Trinidad Hairdresser.
The interview was conducted on Wed 7th July 2021 between 12:00pm and 1:00pm via Google Meet.
Why did you choose the specialty you did?
It took me some time to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Hairdressing became my calling in my mid-late twenties. I’m 31 now and fairly new in the industry. On social media, I started following Rebecca Taylor and she was truly inspiring. I fell in love with hair from then, particularly colour. *tousles purple curls*
I describe myself as a “Curl Enthusiast”. In my experience, it was difficult finding a stylist who could appropriately deal with my curls. When I did find my hairdresser, she was good but not totally able to give me what I wanted. I have taken some tips and learnt from Shamilla Dewi how to care for curly hair. But there is room for growth and improvement in this specialization in our society. And there is definitely the market for it here as well.
In December 2020 – January 2021 I started my own business concentrating on Curls, Colour and Cuts. I personally don’t perform Relaxing services because it goes against everything I stand for, which is loving and accepting your natural hair.
What special skills are required for a Trinidad Hairdresser?
Definitely having a good attitude and being able to pivot.
In March 2020 when the country was first shut down due to the worldwide pandemic, I held onto my pennies and prioritized my finances until the economy reopened. I really tried to keep my spirits up by focusing on the positive aspects of life and not the limitations.
When I started working on clients, I rented a chair at Madame Maharaj studio since I was not yet making enough to cover booth rent. As I built my clientele, eventually I transitioned to a spa that offers hairdressing and other services if a client wanted a pedicure, massage etc.
Surround yourself with like-minded people. People who are already doing what you do or persons who are doing what you aspire to do so you in turn can learn and be encouraged to be even better.
What type of training was required to become a specialist?
My formal education is up to O’Levels. This meant there is a limit to the level of income I would earn as an employee in the workforce. I was employed at a Law Firm pre- Covid. It made ends meet but I wanted to pursue hair seriously as my passion for it grew. I was able to save some money towards tuition for a course but it was extremely difficult to do so due to financial constraints.
In June 2020 I was jobless. I was let go from my full-time job at the firm. I lost hope and was a bit depressed. Then I came across the chance to attend a 2.5 month long Cut and Colour class from Madame Maharaj School of Cosmetology. They had a couple gaps to fill in their full-time programme so I seized the opportunity since it fell within my budget.
Local, legitimate hair school options are quite limited. The programmes take a long time to complete and are expensive. I did not want to waste my time and money on a “fly by night” course either. The certificate I work for must be recognised and have the ability to open doors in this career.
The course I did is not a full NVQ but it can count towards Level II Hairdressing when I do find the time to complete the full programme. The certificate is accepted by distributors of professional salon products because it is from a recognized institution.
I follow other curl specialists online and learn from them as well. What I learned about taking care of curls I did not learn in school. I learnt from research, experience and observing others in the industry.
How long did it take you to get really proficient?
Honestly I’m still learning and growing. There is so much left to discover. In hair school, the curriculum mostly focuses on straight hair. The majority of us from the Caribbean diaspora have some sort of curl pattern, be it wavy, curly or coily. And most of us have a minimum of three curl patterns on our head.
How our hair grows out the cuticle is different. Where the hair bends to form a curl is the most fragile. Our climate is also vastly different with it being extremely humid in the tropics. Our hair is not meant to lay flat, and that’s ok.
I am more proficient in dealing with type 2 and type 3 curls. I need more practice and experience dealing with coily-er textures.
What’s the most exciting thing about your specialization?
Seeing my clients transform after a service. I think most times I am more excited about their hair results than they are! I aim to please, providing an overall relaxing, rejuvenating experience for them.
Also, trying new products/ product combinations to see how they work on different hair types. I source products locally as well as internationally (She is a Bounce.Me fan too!). Import fees can be a pain though. Local producers are doing a good job with production. But I would like to create a line in the future especially for all curl types with fewer adverse chemicals.