The primary query folks ask hairstylist and salon proprietor Yene Damtew (other than what it’s like working with the Obamas, however extra on that later) is how she obtained inquisitive about hair. And the reply is fairly easy: her mom.

“On Sundays, my mom and I’d go to church, however when she was preparing, she would put these rollers in her hair. On the time, I didn’t notice they had been sizzling rollers. She would put them in and hop within the bathe. When she emerged, her hair can be all full, bouncy, and fluffy. For the lifetime of me, I couldn’t determine it out. I used to be like, ‘What’s going on with these plastic issues in your hair?’ That’s once I thought, OK, possibly that is one thing I’m inquisitive about.”

Damtew began following her ardour for hair when she entered the seventh grade. “Certainly one of my very first mentors, Eve, who was about seven years older than me, used to braid my hair,” she explains. “She all the time was actually good, so I used to look at her and observe on my brother.” Underneath Eve’s tutelage, Damtew obtained so good that individuals in her neighborhood started to take discover. Phrase unfold of her expertise, and by the point she was in highschool, Damtew discovered herself in demand round Orange Nation, California. “I began doing everybody in my neighborhood’s hair — I did everybody’s hair from soccer gamers to the children, after which my highschool classmates.”

Courtesy Yene Damtew

At 16, whereas she was nonetheless in highschool, she determined to double up and go to cosmetology faculty as effectively. She juggled attending courses from 7:00 to 11:45 a.m. each day and cosmetology faculty 4 instances per week from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. It is a schedule some adults can’t even deal with. “The settlement [with my parents] was so long as I saved my grades up and nonetheless deliberate on attending faculty, they might pay for me to go to cosmetology faculty.”

The Assembly That Modified All the pieces

These accustomed to a part of Damtew’s story know that she labored facet by facet with the self-proclaimed former HOTUS (Hairstylist of america), Johnny Wright. However not many understand how they met or how she obtained her most prestigious consumer but: Mrs. Michelle Obama.

Their first introduction was “really comical,” she shares. “I met him by way of my brother who labored in Hollywood [at the time]. Johnny occurred to be hitting on him, and I used to be in search of a mentor. I used to be ending up cosmetology faculty, and one of many initiatives I needed to full was interviewing a stylist [whose career] I would both need to mimic or shadow.”

Her brother launched her to Wright, who advised Damtew cease by his salon. “We met, and it was a kind of issues the place Johnny was simply type of like, ‘Are you good?’ I used to be like, ‘Um, yeah?’ Nobody had requested me that earlier than. He stated, ‘Properly, if you happen to’re good, we will tag-team and work collectively,” she remembers.

Isaac Palmisano

Little did Damtew know that her introduction to Wright would lead her to some of the acknowledged girls on this planet, Mrs. Obama. When Wright obtained the decision to relocate to D.C. with the intention to work with the then FLOTUS, he requested Damtew to come back with him.

At first, she labored with first daughters Malia and Sasha earlier than beginning to shade Mrs. Obama’s hair. “It’s been essentially the most humbling expertise,” she shares. “That’s most likely the one approach I can put it. I’d’ve by no means imagined that doing hair would’ve allowed me the chance to journey and to be part of moments in historical past that can by no means come once more.”



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