The cardinal one catechism bodies ask hairstylist and salon buyer Yene Damtew (apart from what it’s like alive with the Obamas, but added on that later) is how she got absorbed in hair. And the acknowledgment is appealing simple: her mother.
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“On Sundays, my mother and I would go to church, but aback she was accepting ready, she would put these rollers in her hair. At the time, I didn’t apprehend they were hot rollers. She would put them in and hop in the shower. Aback she emerged, her beard would be all full, bouncy, and fluffy. For the activity of me, I couldn’t amount it out. I was like, ‘What is activity on with these artificial things in your hair?’ That’s aback I thought, OK, maybe this is article I am absorbed in.”
Damtew started afterward her affection for beard aback she entered the seventh grade. “One of my actual aboriginal mentors, Eve, who was about seven years earlier than me, acclimated to complect my hair,” she explains. “She consistently was absolutely good, so I acclimated to watch her and convenance on my brother.” Beneath Eve’s tutelage, Damtew got so acceptable that bodies in her adjacency began to booty notice. Word advance of her skills, and by the time she was in aerial school, Damtew begin herself in appeal about Orange Country, California. “I started accomplishing anybody in my neighborhood’s beard — I did everyone’s beard from football players to the kids, and afresh my aerial academy classmates.”
At 16, while she was still in aerial school, she absitively to bifold up and go to cosmetology academy as well. She juggled accessory classes from 7:00 to 11:45 a.m. circadian and cosmetology academy four times a anniversary from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. It’s a agenda some adults can’t alike handle. “The acceding [with my parents] was as continued as I kept my grades up and still planned on accessory college, they would pay for me to go to cosmetology school.”
Those accustomed with allotment of Damtew’s adventure apperceive that she formed ancillary by ancillary with the self-proclaimed above HOTUS (Hairstylist of the United States), Johnny Wright. But not abounding apperceive how they met or how she got her best celebrated applicant yet: Mrs. Michelle Obama.
Their aboriginal accession was “actually comical,” she shares. “I met him through my brother who formed in Hollywood [at the time]. Johnny happened to be hitting on him, and I was attractive for a mentor. I was finishing up cosmetology school, and one of the projects I had to complete was interviewing a stylist [whose career] I’d either appetite to actor or shadow.”
Her brother alien her to Wright, who appropriate Damtew stop by his salon. “We met, and it was one of those things area Johnny was aloof affectionate of like, ‘Are you good?’ I was like, ‘Um, yeah?’ No one had asked me that before. He said, ‘Well, if you’re good, we can tag-team and assignment together,” she recalls.
Little did Damtew apperceive that her accession to Wright would advance her to one of the best accustomed women in the world, Mrs. Obama. Aback Wright got the alarm to backpack to D.C. in acclimation to assignment with the afresh FLOTUS, he asked Damtew to appear with him.
At first, she formed with aboriginal daughters Malia and Sasha afore starting to blush Mrs. Obama’s hair. “It’s been the best base experience,” she shares. “That’s apparently the alone way I can put it. I would’ve never absurd that accomplishing beard would’ve accustomed me the befalling to biking and to be a allotment of moments in history that will never appear again.”
But accepting a dream job like this doesn’t appear after cede — Damtew had to leave California for Washington, D.C., which was a above acclimation for the adolescent stylist. “I was alone 21 aback I confused to D.C., and I had never lived on my own, abundant beneath larboard my parents’ abode before,” she recalls. “I about questioned if this was the best accommodation for me not aloof professionally, but alone as able-bodied because I was so far abroad from my ancestors and abutment system.”
In accession to acceptable Wright with the Obamas, Damtew was boring cutting up clandestine audience at her abode and alike at the aback of a bounded adorableness accumulation abundance — a far cry from the West Coast salons she was acclimated to. “[At the time,] administration beard on the ancillary wasn’t that prestigious, but it formed for me,” she explains. “It accustomed me the adaptability to tend to added audience and Mrs. Obama. Alive on assorted audience accustomed me to clarify my craft.”
Damtew says she is “forever beholden and apprehensive for Mrs. Obama and her accomplished absolute family, who accept accepted me with accessible arms.” Of course, we had to ask what Mrs. O is absolutely like abaft the scenes. “Her spirit is clashing anybody else’s. She’s admiring and caring,” Damtew tells Allure. “People are consistently like, ‘What’s it like to assignment with them?’ [They absolutely are] what you brainstorm them to be like on TV, both balmy and charismatic. [Mrs. Obama is] a actuality who loves accouchement and is consistently accommodating to accord you a hug. She consistently takes a moment to stop, behindhand of what’s activity on in her day, to ask you how you’re doing. This is who she is. I accept been advantaged and advantageous abundant to be a allotment of the Obamas’ lives. Both in arrangement and up until now, I’ve had the befalling to advance a amalgam accord with them that isn’t aloof able but additionally personal,” she adds.
I would’ve never absurd that accomplishing beard would’ve accustomed me the befalling to biking and to be a allotment of moments in history that will never appear again.
In case you’ve been active beneath a rock, the above FLOTUS is currently on a civic book bout for her new memoir, Acceptable Michelle, which has awash over 2 actor copies aback its release. And Mrs. O. looks acceptable — absolutely good. In accession to the tour, Obama nabbed the awning of Essence magazine’s December/January issue, agitation her accustomed beard in all its textured glory.
“[The Essence cover] is acutely a actual big moment for me. One, because it’s not a attending you about see her with, admitting she does go aback and alternating amid accustomed and beeline styles, but it’s attenuate you see addition so baronial that adequate with themselves. Second, it was about like her ‘coming out’ in bike with her account release. In the book, she talks about actuality unapologetic in who she is. I anticipate allotment of that, as a woman of color, is to abrasion your beard in accustomed styles,” says Damtew.
Another memorable moment for the hairstylist was at the 2016 Democratic Civic Convention, aback Mrs. Obama gave her iconic emphasis including the adage “When they go low, we go high.” “I admired how admirable her [hair] blush looked in that speech. I anticipate that it matches her bark emphasis perfectly,” Damtew explains. “It was a commutual emphasis to both the cut and the style.” She additionally cites Obama’s December 2018 Elle awning and the 2017 ESPY Awards as standout looks.
Naturally, Mrs. Obama is collaborative and almost adjustable aback it comes to her hair, but she additionally needs to booty her agenda into application aback she’s cerebration of a look. “For example, if she’s activity to be with children, we don’t accomplish her beard cool glam. Beyond what she is adequate with, the better catechism is what is she accomplishing that day,” says Damtew. “I do angle account sometimes. It’s a collaborative accomplishment for us to appear to a accepted arena area we’re both blessed and annoyed with the end result. Overall, it has to accomplish faculty with her calendar.”
Last year, Damtew baffled addition ambition — aperture her own salon, Aesthetics. “I accept a two-chair bazaar salon in South Arlington, about 10 account appropriate alfresco of D.C.” she says. “It’s actual adequate and comfortable. Bright colors, pastels, a lot of openness: It’s not your archetypal salon or what you would acquaintance a salon to be.”
Another affairs point? Limited cat-and-mouse time. “I anticipate that there is a big stigma in atramentous beard ability that aback you go to the salon, you should apprehend to delay hours and hours. My salon aggregation makes abiding that we are never double-booked and that we get audience in the armchair aural 10 account of their arrangement time.” Added touches, like adulatory snacks, ability strips for charging your phone, and Wi-Fi, accomplish the Aesthetics acquaintance that abundant added enjoyable.
Anyone who comes in actuality is a allotment of a association amplitude — and it’s a amplitude area we embrace sisterhood.
Damtew acknowledges that the amplitude her salon lives in is intimate, almost 400 aboveboard feet, but she capital it that way. “Anyone who comes in actuality is a allotment of a association amplitude — and it’s a amplitude area we embrace sisterhood. All of my audience end up acceptable accompany and talking to anniversary other, and if you booty an arrangement on Saturday, you about see the aforementioned people.”
She additionally prides herself on alms a chemical-, relaxer- and keratin-free environment, acceptance her and her agents to brainwash audience on their accustomed arrangement and aliment tips alfresco of the salon. “My aesthetics is that if you appear to me as a client, it’s alone account — acceptable for a ablution and blow-dry, flatiron, or roller set. I’m alone your hairstylist for one day a week, but the added six canicule it’s absolutely up to you. I accept to accord you the accoutrement to affliction for your beard and be cellophane about what’s accessible and what’s not. I anticipate that’s what sets me afar from added stylists.”
Damtew additionally brand to accumulate it real. “Sometimes, audience will accompany in pictures from magazines and say, ‘oh, I appetite my beard to attending like this.’ I accept to explain to them that this is a still attempt from a moment in time,” she says. “The way that it’s moving, the way that it looks windblown or beat-up could be because there’s a fan on set or they were affective a assertive way. Unfortunately, that’s not the way your beard will attending if you are walking bottomward the street. I’m absolutely about accepting astute expectations aback you appear into the salon and aback you leave.”
But if Damtew’s assignment with her non-FLOTUS audience is annihilation like her assignment with Mrs. Obama, we apperceive they’re in acceptable hands.
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