Cover photography: joanna gray
To know her is to love her. She is a powerful presence, a creator and mentor. Her creative, ‘think-outside-the-box’ ability has taken her where others dream to be. She is an advocate for diversity and inclusion – leading the way for black stylists to see themselves within the beauty space. Believe it or not… hair was not where she started. She was a devoted social worker, only doing hair on the side. Always putting others first, she is kind and forthcoming; she is Janet Jackson, and we are so proud to have her as our cover artist.
How are you feeling about your place in the industry today?
“I feel great about where I am in my career, but I still feel like I have so much more to do and this is just the beginning for me. There are so many different avenues to venture out in. Whether I’m doing hair or education, teaching or learning, there is so much more growth needed for both myself and this industry. I never want to be stagnant – the artist in me is always looking for more. I bore easily so I’m always looking for a challenge. I’m always looking to do things that I have never seen done before. As a young artist, I never saw anyone who looked like me doing the things that I am doing today. There was no one at the forefront in beauty with capabilities and the opportunity that I am grateful to hold today. I was basically paving my own way, creating my own future. So now, even at this point in my career I am very curious as to what else can I do. What other opportunities can I create? I feel like the Canadian beauty industry is not quite there yet when it comes to supporting black artists. All other countries are doing it -we need to catch up. As a black artist I know that I would be further along on my journey if I was white, and even further if I was a white male. The beauty Industry is heavily dominated by white males and most opportunities are afforded to them. Nonetheless, I admired what they were doing, and they gave me the drive to create my space, so that I could then create a space for others. Today though, the stage is starting to look a little different.”
Who Inspires you?
“Ted Gibson from ‘What Not to Wear.’ He was who inspired me to be who I am today. I saw him on television doing makeovers and transformations, and I wanted that. It didn’t exist in Canada – at least not for me. He was an entrepreneur, he worked with celebrities, he owned his own salon, and had his own product line. He was basically doing a little bit of everything and I fell in love with everything he was doing. It allowed me to see the beauty industry with a fresh set of eyes. I realized there was more to the beauty industry than just being behind the chair. And from what I saw and what I knew, Ted Gibson was what I wanted to be.”
If you were to do this all over again, what would you do differently?
“As you know, I kind stumbled into this career. But if I had to change anything, I would’ve started a lot sooner. I started late in terms of obtaining my licence and just taking things seriously. I never planned on being a hairstylist; I ended up working in a salon part-time just to make ends meet. While doing so, I fell in love with hair and became very passionate about it. That said, I did not know the seriousness that came with doing hair. I was in love with the creative aspect of it all. As time went on, I could create, create, create – but I didn’t have the theory or technical knowledge behind what I was doing. I didn’t understand how things were really done. I just had the skills to see something and recreate. That wasn’t enough for me, I needed to know it all. If I trained a little sooner I would’ve. I would’ve also travelled a little more to see more sides of the beauty industry. I feel like as an artist you kind of need that. It makes you a more well-rounded artist -you need to be exposed to different cultures, countries, and classes. It helps you as an artist.”
What did it mean to you to win a VZN Award?
“Oh my gosh, I was so surprised. I didn’t even remember that I was up for this category. My head is always on the next job. I don’t know who is seeing my work or who it resonates with. It was such an honour to be recognized and celebrated by the VZN Awards. Even just to be a finalist amongst some of the most talented artists in our industry. Then to receive such a high-achieving award (Stylist of the Year), I have no words… I am humbled. I am so thankful to be seen. Seen by the VZN awards, by my peers, by other artists, by this industry. That is most important to me. This award also confirms that I’m on the right track, all my hard working is paying off, and I am not doing anything in vain. As a black woman in the beauty industry, you are rarely seen. You are at the bottom of the totem pole. You have to work three times harder than your peers to be equal and you’re still not seen. Being seen is just confirmation that I am doing a good job, which is always a good feeling for anyone who is working their ass off to be the best that they can be. Being seen is confirmation that I am doing something right. Being seen allows others like myself to also be seen. It gives hope and inspiration – it’s a trickle effect and I am so glad to start it. Being seen is important.”
What is mentorship to you?
I feel like JouJou Hair Studio is based on mentorship. I created that salon with this in mind. I had many stylists inquire about my journey and there was no better way to share than to build a team. I have the privilege of guiding both young and seasoned artists on their journey. Working at JouJou allows me more one-on-one time with stylists to train and give different opportunities in the salon or on set. I love sharing the different opportunities I have that give stylists both personal and styling growth. I love seeing them through that. This part of my passion also led to me creating my Texture Master Class. After the murder of George Floyd and all the craziness in the world and our industry, I felt it was time for me to mentor stylists in an area in beauty that had been underrepresented since I started. Texture and the importance of understanding all hair types. It is important for me to change the narrative for the next generation of stylists and this industry. The Texture Master Class is an introduction to texture and the beginning of a series of classes to come. Our industry needs it. I am an all-hair stylist. Anyone who sits in my chair can get their hair done, this is something I pride myself on and implement in the Salon. We cater to everyone.
What is a Janet Jackson secret?
As much as I love to mentor and love my salon team, I look forward to the days when my mentees spread their wings and start their journeys independent of me. I will always be there to support. But it makes me so happy to see them go on to do bigger and better things