Felicia Leatherwood, Hollywood's Hottest Natural Hairstylist
Self-proclaimed hair whisperer, Felicia Leatherwood is entrusted with some of Hollywood’s most famous hair. She’s only recently gained notoriety but this overnight sensation has been over 26 years in the making. Her fascination with hair began at age 9. Leatherwood grew up in L.A. surrounded by girls whose hair textures differed from hers. With her mother at a loss for how to manage her hair, she set out to teach herself. She eventually got the hang of things, becoming the neighborhood stylist.
A tried and true “hair nerd” as she calls herself, Leatherwood has spent much time honing in on her craft. These talents led her to BET and in turn, a built-in clientele. This proved helpful when she ultimately decided to go to cosmetology school and begin work at Millennium, a celebrity salon based in L.A.
A creative mind
Singer-songwriter Jill Scott was one of her first clients; someone who in her opinion allowed women to see themselves as both natural and beautiful. These images weren’t the norm before the societal re-emergence of natural hair. Over the course of her long career, Leatherwood has worked with Scott and many others to make sure Black women get the hair care, confidence, and representation they deserve. Among her most famous creations is the mohawk inspired updo she created for actress Teyonah Parris’ appearance at the 19th annual SAG Awards. She often thanks her clients for giving her the freedom to be inventive. Styling everything from Viola Davis’ TWA to filmmaker Ava Duvernay’s flowing locs, her work has made natural hair a topic of major conversation.
Though her skills are reserved for Hollywood’s elite, Leatherwood’s impact is far-reaching. Take her work with Issa Rae for example. HBO’s Insecure has gained a massive and loyal following. Protagonist Issa Dee is relatably awkward and flawed but unlike her choices, her hair never disappoints. Hair may seem trivial or superficial but the presence of natural hair on a major network communicates an important point to everyone tuning in. Textured hair is worthy of acceptance, it’s normal. The significance of Issa’s hair is amplified because of its coily texture - type 4 hair has a history of being rejected and seen as less than. Leatherwood’s work destroys this idea one episode at a time. Clients like Skai Jackson and Yara Shahidi extend this influence to younger audiences who very much need to see themselves represented on tv.
From Representation to Results
She may seem far removed from the little people but Leatherwood considers herself an active participant in the community she influences. She understands how difficult it can be to style natural hair because she’s been there. Everyone has to start somewhere but the goal is healthy hair. The advice she offers to naturals is to get familiar with their hair texture. Once you understand texture, it’s easier to identify which products and tools will work for you. She only uses the best on her clients and recommends the same for at home hair care, offering brands such as Oyin Handmade and Form Beauty (both Black-owned). Leatherwood has created her own tool for detangling (from tip to root please!) and makes her hairstyles “no fuss" so they can be easily recreated, explaining that beautiful hair shouldn’t be impossible to achieve.
The Bigger Picture
It will take more than one stylist to change the perception of natural hair. Still, Felicia Leatherwood is restoring confidence to droves of women. She gives them the freedom of nonconformity, making her a welcome addition to an industry that still has many strides to make.