- Faith & Family
Salon owners Simone and Yanique Hylton say they never imagined that they would pave the way for a unique niche in the hair industry in South Florida — particularly when the “hair” in question is natural — not weaves. The New York natives grew up immersed in the Rastafarian culture of their father but like many other Black females, they depended on relaxers to maintain their hair while growing up.
While sitting at the dinner table one day Simone recalled her father saying, “It’s a shame that all you women spend so much money and time on your hair and your hair is shorter than mine,” comparing their damaged relaxed hair to his own dreadlocks.
After leaving behind her relaxer and embracing her natural talent for cosmetology, Simone moved to South Florida in the late 1990s with a dream to start her own salon, Natural Trendsetters. But she discovered that natural hair was not an easily-embraced concept in this neck of the woods.
“In the South things take longer because of the mindset,” said Simone. “And in the humidity women were wearing weaves and relaxers and were losing hair at an alarming rate. People chased that instant gratification in Florida.”
To build her clientele, Simone says she had to convince women to go natural because of the horrible health of their hair from years of chemicals and weave-induced stress. But the impact of weaves and relaxers is not just on the health of Black hair, but also in their pocket books.
Show me the money
“The Koreans, Chinese and Indians are making so much money selling weave to our people and we’ve been blocked out of the process,” said Simone. “Typically Blacks are mom and pop salon owners or stylist, but not suppliers.”
Actor, comedian Chris Rock used his 2009 documentary Good Hair to expose the lack of regulation and lack of revenue going towards the Black community in the multi-billion dollar weave industry, which primarily markets to Black women.
“It’s hard for Blacks to become suppliers because of technicalities and it’s not a regulated industry — that’s why so many Black women get allergic reactions,” Simone said.
Motivated to educate more Black women about proper care for their natural hair, Simone partnered with sister Yanique as the business manager to eventually open up three salons in Ft. Lauderdale, Delray Beach and Miami employing more than 15 stylists. Simone worked on creating a natural hair care curriculum for her stylists that catered specifically to Black women —something that was missing in cosmetology courses when she was a student. After participating in hair shows, the sisters decided to start their own expo, The South Florida Natural Hair Beauty and Wellness Expo, creating a hub highlighting natural hair stylists and local and national product entrepreneurs.
Now in its 10th year, the annual expo will be held on December 16th at the Ft. Lauderdale Marriott North this year with more than 50 vendors including Black-owned hair product companies such as Taliah Waajid, Jane Carter and local grassroots line KishYa Essentials.
“There are so many product lines that cater to [Blacks] but there’s no real education about hair health,” Simone said. “I got all my beauty industry people who sell hair products and weaves and afrocentric jewelry to show brothers and sisters the options they have out there.”
By Krishana Davis
Miami Times writer