The Press spoke with Susy Oludele: Nigerian entrepreneur, celebrity hairstylist, owner of Hair
By Susy, and an East New York advocate about her career and anticipated coffee table book, LADY. The book is full of stunning imagery that celebrates women and black hair. A few clients who have experienced that magic Susy brings to the industry include Beyonce, Solange Knowles, Zoë Kravitz and Justine Skye.
The Press: Do you ever name your wigs?
Susy Oludele: Sometimes. This one is Firefox. That one is Tropical Paradise. This one I made for Instagram. Instagram invited me to speak on a panel with other dope influencers: Dapper Dan, Well Read Black Girl and some others. We spoke about social media and its effect on our respective industries.
TP: Do you feel like social media gave you the platform for your career to excel?
SO: Absolutely, growing up in a Nigerian household, we couldn’t really go anywhere except church,”haha”. There was a lot of time to do nothing. So the internet was an escape for me. It was a great place and a bad place. It’s important to know yourself before you’re engulfed with the constant comparison and competition. I’m a Tumblr kid, I used to always post my photos and something would go viral. Some people would think I was so weird and crazy and others thought what I was posting was so dope. So I just said whatever and kept posting. YouTube was the next social platform that really inspired me. My mom used to do my hair growing up and one day she said that she wouldn’t do it anymore and that I needed to figure it out on my own. That’s when I started braiding on myself, friends and neighbors. I would see certain styles on the internet but I always wanted to take it up a notch.
TP: Have you always been a pillar of your community?
SO: Yeah, I was working and braiding hair in my house all day and realized I didn’t have a social life. So I started inviting all of my friends over. People would come over and rap battle and I had a room that I rented out to visual artists. I would have friends come and help me braid. So, I created my own little community. That was God’s purpose.
TP: How did your partnership with Uber bring artists, business and inspiration to East New York?
SO: Even while I was filming with Uber, people in the neighborhood saw what was going on and were surprised to see Uber in their streets. They felt inspired. They felt like there was hope. At the end of the day, we ask ourselves, “Why are we doing what we do?” Whatever you’re doing, I feel like it’s important to inspire the next person. I have a client who is an NBA sportscaster. When I finished her hair and she walked outside, people were in awe and so shocked to see someone from television in our so-called “forgotten” neighborhood.
TP: Is there a moment when you knew that you were changing the game?
SO: I think when I did Beyoncé’s hair. Or maybe when I got the call to do Beyoncé’s hair. I remember seeing Solange on television and she was in Brooklyn! I thought to myself, “She’s so dope and she’s in Brooklyn. Why doesn’t she come to my shop!?!” Three months later her team hit me up and I thought it was spam. When I realized it was a real opportunity I was so happy. Manifestation mixed with hard work. After I did Beyoncé’s hair for Lemonade, I thought, “Wow, this is it.” But I realized it was only the beginning. There’s still so much stuff I need to do.
TP: Why did you decide to create your book, LADY?
SO: I always flipped through magazines and hair books and felt like something was missing.
The photos weren’t very intimate and never spoke to me on a fashion and hair level. So, I decided to create a book that celebrated women through stories, quotes, hair and fashion. I wanted to show the future of the beauty industry. The book pays homage to people who have put so much hard work into this industry. It’s mostly a visual book with some text.
TP: What’s next for Hair by Susy?
SO: My main plan right now is to build hair-braiding schools. I want to go back to Nigeria. Everything that we’re doing here, I want to carry back to Africa. I want to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor. Some people don’t have opportunity or access. I’m not sure where or when the first Hair By Susy School will open, but it will happen when it’s meant to happen.