At just 14, Kiyah Wright knew her destiny rested in her own hands, literally.
With a knack for a hot comb and celebrating the beauty of women, it wasn’t long before Wright was ditching high school in exchange for beauty school to give gals the Wright look. Now, with nearly two decades of groundbreaking achievements under her belt ranging from a star studded clientele list to credits in Vogue and Vanity Fair, and testing the waters of reality TV on OWN’s Love In The City, Kiyah is setting out to achieve her life long dream. “I want to be the voice and the brand of textured hair,” she tells Vixen.
Here, the two-time, Emmy Award-winning, celebrity hairstylist explains why she’s more than just a hairstylist, the key to making it in the hair biz, and her thoughts on the textured hair care community. –Ashley Monae
VIBE Vixen: A woman’s hair is her crowning glory. How does it feel that you are able to boost a woman’s confidence as a hairstylist?
Kiyah Wright: It’s such a great feeling. Truly, I am so much more than just a hairstylist. I really transform my clients lives from the inside out – hair being my expertise. They receive the Wright look, AKA the right look for you: something that frames your face, color that compliments your skin tone, and that extra hair accessory [meaning extensions] if you need it. The Wright look is the look that makes you feel most confident. I’m big on makeovers.
How did you go from hairstylist to celebrity hairstylist?
For me, it all started with Diddy. We met socially being at some of the same parties and knowing the same people. He got wind that I did hair and asked me to work with some of his talent. From there I worked with Mary J. Blige, Faith Evans and Total, and even began going on tour with them. It was definitely a life changing moment and something I will never forget.
What’s your thoughts on the stigma behind the title of “celebrity hairstylist?”
It’s lame (laughs). Want to know why? One person will do just one celebrity client and call themselves a celebrity hairstylist. It’s so common now. Hell, I need to change my title. These days I refer to myself as a image maker – hair just happens to be my expertise.
You’ve worked with so many leading ladies. Tell me about the recent hair makeover you did for Tyra Banks.
Tyra’s makeover was huge. She went from her signature look of long extensions to a cropped pixie cut with multidimensional hues of blonde and brown – something more chic, more current. At first, Tyra was skeptical and didn’t think the cut would translate to her new show The Fab Life. She felt that the audiences may not understand the transformation of who she was to who she is now, but when we did it and everyone loved it she was like, “Wow!” Celebrities get used to one look because they know it works for them and people like it, but this was an uplifting change. Even Tyra would look back at old photos and say, “Ew, I was so old school. I don’t like that girl anymore.” No amount of money could ever compare to that feeling of mission accomplished.
Have those missions ever gone awry?
Definitely. Oh man, let’s see. Working on America’s Next Top Model with Tyra Banks really pushed my creativity. It was the most challenging job I’ve ever had because I didn’t understand fashion hair. Working with Tyra period I would just say because she is ever-evolving and never afraid of change. I would do her hair on television and watch it back and be like, “Oh god, this doesn’t work for TV.” It just didn’t translate, you know. But I kept at it and never gave up.
What has been one of the most memorable moments of your career thus far?
Winning an Emmy for the first time. In 2006, I was nominated for the Best Daytime Hair for The Tyra Banks Show and won. I was speechless. It was my first experience doing hair for television and it really just reinforced the notion that anything is possible.
What do you think it takes to become successful celebrity hairstylist?
It takes passion. It takes confidence. It takes perseverance. You really have to know your craft, like really know it and study it. Some people just re-do what other people are doing and don’t take the time to educate themselves or take classes. Although I’m a 40-year-old veteran in the game, I’m always learning, reinventing my looks, and even picking up other tips and tricks from other stylists I work with. You have to have the willingness to adapt and learn, too. It’s like forget competition. I’m in competition with myself. I want to do better and bigger things and be the best. You can’t be afraid of other stylists and losing out on work to others because if you’re good, you’re always on time and you know your place, then you’re set.
How about standing out in a saturated market like the hair industry?
It’s all about finding your niche and what you’re best at. Ask yourself what kind of hairstylist are you? What’s your niche? What’s your strong point? What are you good at in the hair game? That’s the number one key: finding your niche. That will help you 100%. Find what you’re good at and run, run real fast with it.
Although you have a handful of celebrity clientele you still cater to salon-based clients. Why?
I’m a real hairstylist. Some people are just celebrity hairstylists and that’s it. If you’re not into hair care then you don’t fully embody what it means to be true hairstylist. Most of the time, celebrities are already prepped and ready so stylists aren’t really doing much work. Sometimes you’ll probably just have to do a shampoo and a blowout. There’s no conditioning treatments or any of those beauty regimens that you would do in the salon. Another thing too, it’s important to diversify. Being in the salon is important because it keeps you current and fresh. It keeps me on my toes and in the know of what’s hot. It’s about the balancing act and definitely all about the everyday woman for me. I love the everyday woman. Sometimes I say I don’t want to be in the salon, but when I’m there I feel so at ease and peace just to be kicking it and doing what I love around regular people who really appreciate me. When I come in I bring food and champagne and everyone loves it (laughs). Those ladies want to feel like celebrities too, you know? So for me it’s great to make the everyday woman feel just as important.
Aside from being a well respected hairstylist in the game what’s next for you?
My ultimate goal is to become the Paul Mitchell of textured hair care. That has always been my goal and hasn’t changed. I want to be the voice and the brand of textured hair. Our community doesn’t have one, why is that? Why don’t we have a Paul Mitchell or John Frieda? It’s totally insane to me. I’m not saying that there hasn’t been other leaders out there that have done it, but we don’t have a leader and household name brand that we all can trust and respect just yet.
What do you think it takes to become successful celebrity hairstylist?
It takes passion. It takes confidence. It takes perseverance. You really have to know your craft, like really know it and study it. Some people just re-do what other people are doing and don’t take the time to educate themselves or take classes. Although I’m a 40-year-old veteran in the game, I’m always learning, reinventing my looks, and even picking up other tips and tricks from other stylists I work with. You have to have the willingness to adapt and learn, too. It’s like forget competition. I’m in competition with myself. I want to do better and bigger things and be the best. You can’t be afraid of other stylists and losing out on work to others because if you’re good, you’re always on time and you know your place then you’re set.
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Photo Credit: Muze Agency