It was 6:30 p.m. on a Thursday evening, and people were still walking through the doors of Salon DE’ Laurent on Sharon Amity Road.
The shop’s owner, 34-year-old Natasha (Sha) Laurent-Johnson, understands that hospitality is a key component to success, so she smiles and greets each customer who enters.
Before opening the shop three years ago, Laurent-Johnson worked for 12 years as a licensed beautician at Hera by Him, another Charlotte salon.
“I stayed under the same ownership until I knew it was time to move on,” she said. “My mentor (there) was happy for me when I left, and plus, it was time. I became a mother, and as I became a mother, I knew it was time to be a leader.”
In addition to her shop, Laurent-Johnson also has made her mark as a celebrity stylist, working with high-profile clients such as Shay Johnson (VH1’s “Love and Hip-Hop Atlanta”), Erica Bryant (WSOC-TV newscaster), Ione Rucker (WE TV’s “Love Thy Syster”), and comedian Kat Williams.
She said she can scarcely remember a time when styling hair wasn’t an important part of her life, even as a college student at North Carolina A&T University.
“…It was always this burning and itch inside of me…” she said. “I did it in high school, and I even had to do hair growing up in middle school… Once I got to A&T and I wasn’t going to class anymore because I was so into hair, I knew it was time for me to make a move. I dropped out of college to attend cosmetology school, and it’s been on ever since.”
Q. How do you balance motherhood, entrepreneurship, and marriage?
It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, and I’m still learning it – work-life balance. I’ve been married for three years, and I’ve had the salon for three years. I married in August, I got pregnant in September, and I opened the salon in October. It was a busy and hectic year. Now that the baby is 2 years old, I’m just now kinda figuring it out. (She also has three older children.)
Q. How do you want to be remembered?
I just want to be known as a woman of God, and that I used my talent to minister to people. Doing hair is ministry. We uplift and we build. We’re preachers, teachers and gynecologists — you name it. We listen to all types of stories, and I just want to make sure that every person that sits in my chair I’ve impacted them the same way I’ve impacted my children, family and friends. Women have been bruised and broken, and this is like a safe haven and a healing place. I just want to make sure that they know that I use it for that purpose and not just to glorify myself. They leave out full.
Q. Do you focus most on styles or healthy hair?
I do it all. I try not to box myself in as a stylist. I have a wide range of clientele, from young to old. I just want to service them all. I’m not just a weave specialist or cut specialist. I’m a hairstylist, and I’m just good at what I do.
Q. What winter tips do you have for natural and relaxed hair?
For winter, you know that the air is getting dry, and you really want to make sure that you drink plenty of water. You want to make sure your scalp is replenished and moisturized. Whatever you put in is going to come out. If you hydrate your body with water, that’s what’s going to come out. Make sure you deep-condition your hair as the temperature starts to drop. The air is going to make your hair drier and brittle. Keep your hot oil moisturizers, deep conditioners, and light grease on your scalp at all times.
Q What easy style would you recommend for women with natural hair who want to simply get up and go?
I would say at night, two-strand twist your hair. You can do about four or six twists, and then twist those around into a bantu-knot. Put your bonnet on and wake up, take it loose, shake your hair and go.
With relaxed hair, keep it wrapped. With long hair, wrap it around in a circle. If it’s short, make sure the back and sides are laid down, always. It doesn’t matter what the top looks like. If the back is laid, you can take your wide-tooth comb or fingers and just rake it or spike your hair, and you’re good to go.
Q. How did you get into the business of styling celebrities?
Well, first you gotta have a good public relations person. J Hill (of Branduscript P.R. of Charlotte) has connected me to a lot of (celebrities) that I do. I realized that I enjoyed the celebrity and lights, and I connected with him. He just took it from there. You gotta have the right people that’s willing to go where you want them to go. You have to share the same vision.
Q. Who has been your favorite celebrity client?
I’d have to say Kat Williams. He was kind to me, and he was funny.
Q. Do you have non-profit organization?
My goal is to do a non-profit for little girls, teaching them about hygiene and keeping themselves up, as well as self-worth. My father raised me, and he was so strict and stern that I had to teach myself how to love me… Therefore, if I can pour into the community or little girls…to teach them before they get into an abusive relationship and start making crazy decisions because they don’t love themselves.
Q. What are the pluses to being an entrepreneur?
I get to make my own hours, and I’m in control of me. Guess what; if I don’t work, I don’t get a paycheck on Friday. So, if I don’t work, then I don’t eat. I like that. I’m a live-on-the-edge type of person. Being self-employed allows me to live on the edge in the aspect that Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I might not meet my quota, but on Saturday, I always do.
Q. Early next year, you will come out with some instructional DVDs. Tell us about those.
I’m just taking it back to the basics and teaching stylists how to cut and whatever it is that they want to learn. It’ll be unique teaching in baby steps. A lot of DVDs that I watch, they rush and cut, and they don’t talk. I’m not easy to (teach), and I have ADD. It’s hard for me to focus and pay attention. I want to teach steps that teachers will be able to get and hair students can get. The technique won’t be advanced, but the style will be professional and cutting edge.
Q. What will you do in the next five years?
I want to grow, and I want another salon. I’d like to travel as well as create a product line. I want to make my kids proud by any means necessary. I don’t know how long I’m going to be doing hair, but I can see myself on a platform. I don’t know if it’s preaching or teaching. I can see myself with a mass of people around me, and building them up. That’s really how I want to end my career.
Q. What do you look to gain from this interview?
I want the world to know who Sha is. We live in a word that’s cruel and filled with haters. Everyone has an opinion about you. But I want people to hear what I have to say. When Qcitymetro readers see this article, I want them to know this is the real Sha. She’s passionate and genuine. and she has a love for people. I want people to know that they should live on purpose.