Beautiful flaming red hair... well groomed and flipped into large curls with the right amount of body and shine. Indeed Nadia Mohammed's hairstyle was the first thing that caught my eye when I visited Nadia's Unisex Salon in Bradford Mall, Henry Street, Port of Spain, for the interview.
"Come in, come," she said, all bubbly and accommodating. She was doing a relax, cut and colour on one of her clients. "Aye, please don't put me in papers, I run away from work to get my hair style. I just had to come, coming by Nadia's is an addiction," her client who I referred to as Ms Runaway stated. "I will just be a minute, this woman here is one of my best clients!" Nadia interjects.
I introduced myself and she flashed me a brilliant smile, "I used to have a lot of Express clients you know. Sunity Maharaj, Joannah Bharose and some of them used to come as well!" she stated. Observing my reaction to her hairstyle (I was still in awe) the hairdresser with some 20 years service under her belt, commented, "Hmmm you watching my hairstyle? Do you like the colour?" "Yes I do, I am intrigued by it, what colour is it?" I inquired.
She laughed heartily passing her hands through her hair. "I used rollers and then used my hand to style. This is my very own blend of reds. I love red with a passion. Red hair and red lipstick are my signature styles and ever since I was a child my trademark was passing my hands through my hair. I like when I walking down the street that people wonder- 'what colour is that in her hair?' I like to stand out, I like to turn heads. I like to dress up and carry myself well. But the most important thing is that I like to create the same aura for my clients. I like people to look at them and give the same reaction!"
Ms Runaway, who is seated comfortably in the hairdressing chair, at that moment turned to Mohammed and her muttered, "Red is not my signature colour !" "Of course girl, you know I giving you the usual brown!" the 42-year-old assured. This petite and attractive Trinidadian reminded me of Barbie. She was dressed in a grey pants, black shirt, silver accessories and heels, somehow she reminded me of the doll.
As she rinsed Ms Runaway's hair it occured to me that she wasn't your ordinary hairdresser decked in protective robe with hairclips attached to it. Something about this sassy, spunky woman was different.
Within seconds I discovered her drive as she revealed that she had climbed insurmountable hurdles to reach where she was today, and that was what gave her edge.
"You want to hear my story? Well, I will tell you nonetheless. I started from nothing you know? I used to work for just $20 a week at Susan's Unisex Salon"... Wait, $20? She continued, "That was my first job and the late Susan Nandelal trained me. I was always fascinated by beauty. Growing up I had long hair and I used to put my hair in all sorts of styles.
"I was a hottie. I used to have my hair spiral curls and everyone used to ask me if I was a dougla, I used to tell them 'no siree I am 100 per cent Indian.'"
Mohammed credits the vision and support from her parents as one of the major factors for her success in the beauty industry today.
"I went to St Joseph's College and on graduating my mom looked at me and said, 'I sending you to a hairdressing school since all you like to do is comb up and dolls up!'" With that decision made a young and sprightly Mohammed began her hairdressing course at Susan's at the age of 19 and some months later she began her career in hairdressing for a meagre $20 a week.
"My family was very humble. My mother and father used to sell vegetables in the market and my sister, brother and I used to help them every morning from a very early age. I used to reach at the San Juan Market for 3 a.m., sell my family produce and then leave at 8 a.m., shower by my aunt and afterwards report for duty at the salon in Shoppes of Maraval," she declared.
Suddenly, a memory popped into her head that ignited a big knowing smile. "You believe that I used to dress up to go to the market? My jeans and T-shirt used to always be trendy and guess what? My hair was always well styled. That was my marketing trick for my family's stall: you had to look good to sell good!"
"You sure right," piped in Ms Runaway. In the midst of her makeover, she seemed very enthralled by Mohammed's story as well. "Girl, you know what is my philosophy?" Mohammed quizzed while skilfully trimming the ends of Ms Runaway's hair. "If you are beautiful, why hide it? Your image says a lot about you as a person and it is the feature that creates first impressions so you always have to carry yourself well. Second thing is, as women we have to always maintain our beauty because you never know who you will meet and when especially in business. A client once came to see me at home and I greeted her in pajamas wearing heels. I wear heels everywhere even on the beach!" she revealed.
Looking at her disposition it was quite evident that this mother of one lived her philosophy to the fullest. "I believe that when you in the beauty business you have the look the part. Who wants to go to a hairdresser wearing a tangy hairstyle with split ends? You have to look to claim what you serve and you must have an engaging personality. I just moved to this location and I think it's the right fit for me. The business has expanded to include manicures, pedicures and waxing. Oh my gosh, this story will be nothing without Kizzy!" "Yes, Kizzy!" answered Ms Runaway.
"Who is Kizzy?" I queried. "Kizzy was my very first worker. She came to me for a job and I said to her, 'Girl, I may not be able to pay you well' She didn't mind and 10 years later (today) we are the best of friends and we have the best business relationship you could wish for. I would be nowhere without her and the support from family. Just imagine while I was plying my trade as a hairdresser my sister was a certified accountant and my brother, a director in a large company. Not once did my siblings look down on me, they supported me all the way because they too came from market vending to the place they are at today."
"A lot of people look down on hairdressers but they don't know of our success stories, our challenges or the great strides we can make in the world of beauty! We just here for a while on this earth, people dying every day, so while we here we have to make the most of it," the Piarco resident said. She then revealed a stunner. "Do you know that I had my picture taken already for when I die to put on my casket? I want people to remember Nadia in a special way!"
Unbeleiveable! I think to myself.
In the future, the beauty expert hopes to leave a legacy for her workers (which includes Kizzy and her dedicated nail tech, Cathy) and probably her hairstyling skills and talents to new hairdressers.
Regrettably, because of time constraints, I couldn't stay to see the outcome of Ms Runaway's hairstyle but judging from Mohammed's hair I was sure that it would turn out high fashion and beautiful. Nothing below the high standard at Nadia's Unisex Salon!
From the Editor—
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