When it comes to hair care sometimes we forget as women what constant styling, heat, and weaves can do to our naturally beautiful hair. The hair industry for black women has taken off into a lane of its own and while we love our sew ins, braids, and lace wigs, it’s important to take care of the hair that actually grows out of our heads and Joanne Riley is a savior for maintaining a full head of healthy hair.
Based in Grand Rapids, MI, Joanne prides herself on providing quality hair care to the community. Choosing a creative career came second nature to Joanne as she is also an interior designer with a unique eye for furniture that lead her to start her business, Personalized Blueprints.
With Mother’s Day approaching, this mother of 2 is offering a great Mother’s Day special at the salon she works and is using her story in hopes of inspiring other mothers, women, and entrepreneurs. Read Joanne’s journey in her own words and be sure to get her contact information below!
Dev Gillespie: How did you get into the hair care business? Share your background on why you became so passionate about this industry.
Joanne Riley: Styling is what I do! It started at the age of 17, and not by luck. It happened genetically, because I was under my mother’s wing, the well- known hair stylist,Irene Taylor. This venture began approximately 34 years ago. As I reflect on the years prior to becoming a stylist, I remember the challenges of school work, and I also remember that my parents always provided me with opportunities that allowed me to learn outside of a classroom. Piano lessons, accelerated art class and things of that nature, helped me realize that my gift from God was to be creative , using my hands and that’s when I realized being creative came easily to get me. I then tapped into decorating, and exploring the world of drawing. I give credit and praise to my parents, James and Irene Taylor, because without the exposure and encouragement from them I may not have traveled this road to success.
My road to success began and was nurtured at an early age. Instead of wanting the actual dolls, as a little girl, I wanted doll houses, so that I could do makeovers. I would rearrange the tiny furniture and even add my own accessories, such as pillows, plants, and pictures. Mannequins weren’t even popular when my stylist mom brought one home one day so that I could practice new hair styles.
When I became a single parent at 17, my mom’s direct quote was, ”You gotta do something now girl, what you gon do?” That’s when I decided to put my practicing on the mannequin to the test. I worked under my mother’s apprenticeship from 1982 until 1984. Self-employment comes with so many challenges, and I always knew that having a second job was smart for financial security, and not because I wasn’t making money, but my parents had also taught me about preparing myself for financial security. The doll house decorating came in handy when I actually started a second job, in the furniture industry. I was a furniture maker for Baker’s Furniture for over a decade! That experience drove me to collecting fine furniture, which then led me to interior decorating.
I consider myself to be very fortune to have had the rich experiences that have and continue to be my joys in life. The stylist industry allows me to see trends come and go and what sparks my interest at this point is the natural hair. Some people refer to it as a blow out, others refer to it as silk press. The old fashioned word is press and curl, whatever it’s referred to, it is what’s popular right now. I go to hair shows at least twice a year in Atlanta or Chicago. I remember when weaves really started coming out and I’m going to almost compare it to when crack came out in the 80s and people were doing it and didn’t know the long term effects. People didn’t realize the addiction of the drug because it was thought of as something recreational, unfortunately the same has happened with weave. What I immediately realized, because I had been in this industry for so long is that weave was not going to be a good thing for African American hair. African Americans are now realizing the effects that weave has on the hair. In some cases the hair, becomes damaged, edges are damaged or your nape is damaged. Having knowledge about your hair and the care of it is POWERFUL. Some people say they don’t have any problems and the braids grow their hair (braids will grow your hair), but it can also thin out your hair. Our hair has to have elasticity in it so that it doesn’t break.
I’m not here to critique, criticize, or condemn those that wear weave, but I did realize early on that I wasn’t impressed enough to venture into that multi- billion dollar business, based on the fact that we can get our hair to look like other races. What I love about myself is that: I said to God, “I know you’re going to rebuild and replenish my life in spite of the new buzz with weaved hair. The weave industry slowed down the natural hair industry without a doubt, but I held on to my belief that it was going to come full circle. I had to maintain my beliefs that products are important, customer service is very important, and most importantly the consistency of the quality of the service that you get is what is going to maintain having healthy hair. I’m known for hair care, I’m known for being able to grow hair. People have labeled me as having the “Growing Hands”. I’m thankful that people recognize that I use my, “Growing Hands” to turn their hair from damaged to healthy hair again.
Dev Gillespie: What are your views and opinions on natural hair vs permed hair with African American women?
Joanne Riley: I still promote relaxers because when you talk about the way African Americans hair grows out of the hair follicle our hair grows out in an “S” formation, therefore needing a relaxer to help tame the hair. Hair can be fine, medium, or coarse. A lot of us have coarse hair and a lot of times when it’s at its natural state, and you’re pulling it and pulling it, it breaks, that’s why you need to use the natural products.
You have to moisturize natural hair. Natural hair is more work than relaxed hair. If you can’t get your hair professionally relaxed then my advice is don’t do it because, you can over process your hair. At the end of the day you definitely want to be able to love yourself, and a big part of yourself is your hair. When it comes to our hair, our hair is our glory. Once you take that wig off you still want your hair to have the ability to be healthy.
Dev Gillespie: What products do you use for your clients?
Joanne Riley: Everything I use is for professional use only. I use Dudley’s, I use Silk 2 and they’re both black owned. Silk 2 is based out of Atlanta and Dudley’s is based out of South Carolina. For natural hair I use ETAE, which is based out of Philadelphia, but it’s hard to get. I prefer and believe in these products. I spend just as much money on my products as I do other things that I love. A lot of stylist now charge over the top prices, BUT, they are buying products over the counter which are the same products that my customers can get and use. The products I use are professionally awesome, and you get what you pay for.
Dev Gillespie: What is your mission statement for your interior design business and how is it going for you?
Joanne Riley: Personalized Blueprints. No project is too big, no project is too small. I’m currently renovating a house from top to bottom! This has been a passion and a business of mine for 25 years
Dev Gillespie: What does your Mother’s Day Special include for your clients?
Joanne Riley: A $65 ticket will get you your hair shampooed, your make up done, and appetizers and mimosas ( if you choose to indulge).
The Mother’s Day Hair Special is being held at Jobe’s.
213 Franklin SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49503.
You can contact Joanne for hair care or for interior design needs at:
Cell: (616) 773-9702