My fondest — and also most headache-inducing — childhood memories are the ones of my mothers fingers methodically twisting as they braided and transformed my hair. The sound of her soap operas “General Hospital” and “One Life to Live” were the background to the hours upon hours — sometimes up to 12 – spent seated on the floor as my hair transformed into a shower of jumbo box braids that hit the middle of my back. Between the ages of 10 and 18, you could rarely find me without braids in my hair. It was my comfort, my constant and my crown.
And throughout those years, my mother never complained. Every month, she sat me down, whipped out a bottle of pink oil and Blue Magic coconut oil and packs of 1B braiding hair that we kept in bulk at the point from the local beauty supple store. While that ritual doesn’t happen as often anymore, I still cherish those moments that bonded us. It was not only a mother nurturing her daughters hair and showing her just how much she loved her, but it was also passing down of skills her mother had taught to her.
My box braids became a signature I wore proudly throughout my teenage years. It was a sign of my culture, heritage, my expression and a mothers love. When people asked me “Who did your hair,” it was my mother. Always.
— Laura Nwogu, quality of life reporter at the Savannah Morning News
Follow me on Twitter at @lauranwogu_ or email me at [email protected]
Pulse of The 912
Christian Carter is the owner of Clear Hair Studio in Savannah. She specializes in natural hairstyles, extensions, color and crochet styles.
Christian Carter is the HHIC (Head Hairstylist in Charge) at Clear Hair Studio, a hair salon she founded to embrace not only healthy hair but a healthy environment. A Black woman’s hair journey is a long and beautiful process, and through the ups and downs, Carter is hoping to help women embrace it all.
LN: Where did your love of hair come from?
CC: “It came when I was about 15. I was in ninth grade, and I started learning how to braid hair, and it was just exciting to see the way my peers felt after it was done. You know, it’s like you come in one way and then you leave out a totally different person. So, I think that’s when I fell in love with it because I love the excitement about it — the excitement of how they feel afterwards.”
LN: And when did that love shift to creating your own business?
CC: “Once I got in the 11th grade, I decided, OK I have to figure out what it is that I really want to do. Because I was in love with doing hair, I knew that I wanted to play a major part in everyone’s lives, which is to help build confidence from the inside out. Not just not just from hair, but just be able to talk to people and set my own atmosphere. So I said, ‘You know what? I want to work on my own salon one day and creating a space for women.’”
LN: I love that. Clear Hair Studio is very much about healthy hair, but it’s also, like you were saying, building this healthy environment, this healthy atmosphere and encouraging clients. Making sure they feel comfortable. As a Black woman who has gone through so many things with her hair, I just love that’s what you guys have worked to establish.
CC: “Thank you. That’s so important. That’s what we need — those type of safe spaces. Hair is definitely important, but you won’t feel beautiful until we’ve gotten to the root which is internally. Just trying to build women up and creating a space where we can laugh, we can talk, we can dream — that is what makes us beautiful. It’s way deeper than just our hair.”
LN: Yeah. And how do you go about building those personal relationships with the clients that sit down in your chair?
CC: “For one, I’m a social butterfly, so I like to talk. And of course, I love movies, reality shows, so just creating a conversation. Once you create that conversation it goes from them talking about what we’re watching on TV to how it impacts our lives and what is it that we can do to better ourselves. Then it gets a little more personal like what’s going on in their personal life, where they’re trying to be within the next year or two years or three years. And once you get that, they realize this is a place where I can come and say it and it’s safe. There is no judgment, but more so tips and ideas and encouragement from, not just me, but even the other stylists and other clients sitting in the salon. It’s like, ‘OK this is where I want to be. I’m comfortable being here, telling these Black women what I want to do with my life and with my hair.’”
LN: You recently celebrated four years of Clear Hair Studio. Congratulations on that!
CC: “Thank you!”
LN: What have those four years been like? What have you learned throughout the journey?
CC: “I’ve learned a lot of lessons (laughs). One thing I can say is that, I’ve been told that you can tell within the first two years if your business will fail or succeed; it’s very true. But it fails if you don’t set the tone, if you don’t set the atmosphere, if you don’t know what your purpose is. And it’s only because of God that I knew what my purpose was. That made running a business a lot easier because I knew what my purpose was. I knew that as long as I stuck to what God told me to do, I wouldn’t fail. And the down parts of it is just, — which I don’t think that they teach us in cosmetology school and I would like for me or any other stylists to go back to those schools to teach the hairstylists there — we have to be very strategic in our money management, because you can receive all this cash or these debit transactions, but it’s not taught what to do with it [in cosmetology school]
“Of course you’re gonna make sure that your bills are paid, but you want to set a goal, you want to have savings, and on top of that, you want to learn how to pay your taxes quarterly. That is something that I’m still learning how to do because you want to be successful business owners and you want to make sure that you are crossing all your T’s and dotting all your I’s. So that has been, I won’t say a challenge, but it is something that I’m still learning even after four years.”
LN: I like what you mentioned about cosmetology school and them not teaching some stuff, especially when it comes to natural hair. You specialize in natural hairstyles, and there’s been plenty of conversations over the years about hairstylists not knowing how to take care of Black women’s hair and natural hair. What are the skills and techniques you’ve made sure to learn throughout the journey so you can service Black women to the full extent?
CC: “What I’ve learned is that, when you are natural it’s hard to have the best of both. We want to have straight hair, but yet we do want to wear more textured styles. You have to learn that it includes a lot of moisture, a lot of hydration treatments, so that it’ll save your curl pattern. And on top of that, you want to be honest with the clients and let them know OK, if you want to wear more textured styles, you can’t wear silk presses every two weeks because it’s almost hard to maintain a curl pattern when you’re constantly blow drying and straightening your hair with a ceramic iron.
“You want to be honest with people because that is a way you can help condition their hair so that you’ll know what they want. If they want to accomplish certain styles, you need to know ‘OK, if you want this style, you can no longer get as many blowouts as you used to.’ You need a lot more moisture and a lot more appointments, because if you’re not going to be good with maintaining your hair at home, that is why you need to get on the books so that we can keep the hair that you have healthy.”
LN: You also do extensions, color and crochet styles, and I’m always so amazed by hairstylists because I depend on y’all so much, and I just don’t understand how y’all know how to do everything. I remember when it seemed like everyone was suddenly wanting knotless braids or butterfly locs with the curly leave out. How do you stay on pace with all the latest popular hair trends?
CC: Mostly social media and the clients that are on social media. They send us pictures and that keeps us on our toes, because once we kind of clock out of work, we may watch videos and attend some virtual classes and things like that, but we kind of clock out mentally just to have our personal time. So, social media has been a big help and the clients. We see what’s up and coming.
LN: And during this time of learning how to take care of other people’s hair, has your hair journey changed throughout as well? How you’ve managed your hair?
CC: “Oh my gosh. Drastically. I’ve always changed my hair (laughs). I’ve gone from braids, to weaves. Right now I’m wearing a mohawk; I never look the same. Every year is a different style.”
LN: I love that. How’s the support been like in Savannah?
CC: “It’s always been great because everybody is always looking for what they want, and once they find it, they stick with you. So, there’s a lot of loyalty once you’ve built a clientele. And once you build it, they want to refer more people to you until you get to a point where you’re like, ‘I don’t have any more openings.’ The loyalty here has been amazing. I can’t see myself anywhere else.”
LN: Why do you love the 912?
CC: “I love Savannah because I feel like we’re the underdog sometimes. In our Black community, I think that we don’t think there’s much here for us to accomplish. We feel like we have to go to bigger cities, but there is a lot of money to be made here in Savannah. I love Savannah because it’s more family focused, there’s a lot of tourism here, and there’s love — you just have to find the right circle.
“I have a lot of family here, I grew up here and it’s safe for me. It has helped to grow my business, and so, once I figured out how to grow a business, I knew that many other businesses can thrive. You can do it. Even though it seems small, it seems country, it is a place where you can really thrive. There’s a lot of secret things that we haven’t tapped into yet, but once we stick together and get into it, you can have a lot of success here.”
Art of The 912
The 912 newsletter will highlight a local Black artist every two months as the header image for the weekly issue. This month’s artist is Amiri Geuka Farris.
Amiri Farris created a painting for The 912 newsletter using vibrant and abstract shapes, designs, face silhouettes and symbols that illustrate Savannah. Farris said he wanted to capture the feeling of community.
Follow Farris at his website and on Instagram:
Stories of the 912
1: ‘I got all my sisters with me’: DNA testing brings Savannah women together
Just as during the post slavery era, the joy of connecting with known and unknown family members is unparalleled. Three local Black women have joined the sorority of sisters who have connected with biological sisters through AncestryDNA.
2: Savannah State formally welcomes 14th president during investiture ceremony
Students, alumni and members of the community gathered at Tiger Arena in Savannah to welcome Kimberly Ballard-Washington as the 14th president of Savannah State University. She is the second female to hold the role permanently.
3: Former MLB, NFL player Brian Jordan challenges young students in Savannah to read
As an athlete, Brian Jordan was that rare breed whose talents enabled him to play both in Major League Baseball and in the National Football League.
In Savannah to speak to the Savannah Quarterback Club on Monday night, Jordan also made time to talk to Memorial Day School and Southwest Middle School students about the importance of reading and how being a reader can impact your life.
4: ‘The need is great’: Savannah’s Section 8 waitlist is years-long, federal relief can help
More than 7,000 people in Savannah are on the waiting list for a Housing Choice Voucher, a federal program that subsidizes rent for low-income households (the program formerly known as Section 8).
5: Ahmaud Arbery was shot twice and mortally injured, medical examiner tells jury at Georgia trial
The medical examiner who performed the autopsy on Ahmaud Arbery told jurors Tuesday that he was shot twice and could have been grabbing the shotgun or pushing it away when he was killed in February 2020.
This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: The 912: India Arie and Solange are on the soundtrack for Black hair care days