Dionne James: “Nothing beats a failure but a try”

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KCRA) — With the stroke of a pen, Gov. Gavin Newsom gave Californians the legal right to wear their natural hair at work and at school. He signed the bill, known as the Crown Act, into law making California the first state to ban hairstyle discrimination in the workplace and school. We have so much […]

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KCRA) — With the stroke of a pen, Gov. Gavin Newsom gave Californians the legal right to wear their natural hair at work and at school. He signed the bill, known as the Crown Act, into law making California the first state to ban hairstyle discrimination in the workplace and school. We have so much more to do! So, we need to keep protecting our rights to wear our hair in all its glory.

As a part of our series about “Five Things You Need To Understand About Hair Discrimination”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dionne James of Dionne James Soulutions. She is a serial entrepreneur and powerhouse. The owner of Essence of Braiding & Weaving hair Studio in Atlanta for over 25 years as well as a successful multi-property Real Estate Investor. Now she adds beauty connoisseur to her achievements with the creation of Dionne James Soulutions, a vegan & plant-based natural hair care line.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit of your childhood backstory and how you grew up?

I grew up around hairstylists. My Grandmother was a braider and so was my aunt. My Mom was also a hairstylist, she taught me early that if I offered a service, in return I could get paid on my own terms. I grew up in Queens, New York where Hustles were common. My mom had four jobs at a time. Hair is something I’ve always enjoyed so I started braiding hair in our small two-bedroom apartment in Queens at the age of 12, with clients coming all the way from Brooklyn and the Bronx. My age didn’t matter to them, the clients were happy with the results and I was getting paid, so I was happy too.

Can you tell us a story about what inspired you to become a natural hair advocate?

One day, my Mom came home from the salon back in the early nineties with all her long, beautiful, straight hair cut off. She said: “We’re going natural and no more pork!” I was around 15 years old. I was not ready to cut my hair off, but I began wearing protective hairstyles.

I decided to start my Locs 21 years ago because the chemicals from hair products had caused so much damage to my hairline. I made a decision to go all-natural to save my hair. I could not promote healthy hair and not be living it.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

One of the most interesting stories that I have to share is from when I was recently featured on “Marry at first sight”. I flew to Washington D.C. to style the bride’s hair. It was a fast-paced environment and a learning experience. All of our conversations were being listened to the entire time. It’s been quite interesting to see the places that hair has taken me over the years.

As an influencer, you have been blessed with great success in a career path that many have attempted, but eventually gave up on. In fact, perhaps most people who tried to follow a career path like yours did not succeed. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path but know that their dreams might be dashed?

Consistency will win! Nothing beats a failure but a try. If you are professional and love what you do, your career will soar. There will be failures as there were many in my career, but keep moving forward.

Can you share 3 ideas that anyone can use “to feel beautiful”? (Please share a story or example for each.)

1. You can get hydration treatment for your hair to add moisture and make the hair more manageable. You sit under a hooded hydration dryer and sit for about 30 minutes with your favorite moisturizing conditioner.

Growing up Black, our texture of hair requires so much moisture, that it’s always a great idea to treat your hair and lock the moisture in, you can never have too much moisture.

2. You can treat your hair to a protein treatment using rice water. Alternatively, you can ferment the rice by soaking in water and using the strained water. You then leave the rice water out for 24 to 48 hours to ferment.” I personally like to let my water ferment overnight in an air-tight sealed jar to give my hair the maximum amount of available nutrients. Part of feeling beautiful is knowing that your hair is as healthy as it can be, from the inside out.

3. Lastly there’s nothing like a protective hairstyle such as a hair weave, knotless braids, crochet, cornrows, and twists. These are great for protecting your hair on days when you don’t feel up for too much styling but want to still look great. Ultimately, you can create an abundance of styles that will give you that “new” feeling every time.

Can you share with our readers some of your techniques to style natural hair?

1. Two-strand Twists This can be done on wet hair after your shampoo & conditioner or you can blow-dry your hair and then twist with our Hydra Creme twist Butter. Twisting on wet hair will give the appearance of shorter hair due to shrinkage, while twisting your dry hair will make your hair look longer and give it that stretched look. I like to use Kinky Curly Cocktail Mousse to seal my twists to achieve a beautiful long-lasting style.

2. I also like the Wash-N-Go look. Using your favorite mousse to define your curls. I think it’s important to let your hair air dry most times, as to maintain your natural curl pattern-texture, so you can make use of the look right out of the shower and seal it to have it last, sometimes up to three days.

Can you share some of your techniques about how to best maintain natural hair?

To maintain your natural hair, you should always try and keep exposed hair in a protective style. This can be achieved with braids or twists. Natural hair requires you to keep your scalp moisturized with a light oil and covered with a silk scarf or bonnet while asleep or being highly active in the sun or gym. When wearing braids out as a style, you can put mousse on the braids to lay down any frays, laying your edges in a motion sweeping toward your hair, instead of outward and then placing a scarf for a few minutes to reinforce it, before removing it and heading out. The Bomb! Braiding Jelly is perfect for laying your edges and keeping your braids looking new each day.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can help articulate to our readers your “Five Things You Need To Understand About Hair Discrimination”. If you can please share a story or example, for each.

  1. Well for one, Black hair has a long history of being politicized and stigmatized in the workplace. So, this is nothing new!
  2. Some grooming policies may specifically prohibit certain styles, more common are general guidelines that call for “professional” or not “extreme” looks that can disproportionately lead to bias against black employees or students. This is NOT your fault! Your natural hair is a right.
  3. Stories alleging hair-based discrimination have gone viral on social media, including Andrew Johnson, a New Jersey student-wrestler who was forced to have his locks cut; Kerion Washington, a Texas teen whose mother said he was not hired at Six Flags because of his hairstyle; and Brittany Noble Jones, a former news anchor in Mississippi who alleged that her decision to wear a natural hairstyle was a factor in her dismissal. In a Medium post, Noble Jones claimed her news director said her natural hair was “unprofessional and the equivalent to him throwing on a baseball cap to go to the grocery store.” Your hair is Not a baseball cap! It’s your Crown! Wear it as such, and do not let anyone make you feel less than for doing so.
  4. I have had clients come into my salon asking me to remove their braids sooner than they wanted to have them removed in order to feel comfortable knowing that they would get the job they were interviewing for. They felt like the interviewer would look at their hairstyle as unprofessional. You need to know that natural hair is not “unprofessional”, it is a bias formed from misinformation and stereotype. If you feel that you will not get a job because of your hair, it probably is not a company worth working for.
  5. SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KCRA) — With the stroke of a pen, Gov. Gavin Newsom gave Californians the legal right to wear their natural hair at work and at school. He signed the bill, known as the Crown Act, into law making California the first state to ban hairstyle discrimination in the workplace and school. We have so much more to do! So, we need to keep protecting our rights to wear our hair in all its glory.

What does it mean for workers and students?

  1. This means that we are free to wear our natural hairstyles, including dreadlocks, twists, afros, and braids, to the office or in the classroom. Those hairstyles are now considered to be protected under the law. We need the backing of this law in all 50 states for our students to feel safe in this world with respect to their hair.
  2. Employers will not face any fines or penalties for breaking the new law. Instead, employees can file a complaint with their human resources department or even take their case to court. Hopefully, more of this!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Nothing beats a failure but a try” That quote is what gives me the strength to try over and over again. I have had both failures and victories; however, this reminder allows me to say to myself: What if this idea takes your business to another level? If I don’t try, I will never know.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you’d like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this. 🙂

I would love to have breakfast with Oprah Winfrey. I just love her energy and her success is very inspiring on many levels. I would ask her about her humble beginnings. I would love to know how she dealt with her kinky, thick hair in Corporate America? How her hairstyles and the color of her skin affected her starting out in her career? I’d really just love to sit and talk business and about how despite it all, they can never hold us back!

How can our readers follow you online? or @dionnejames on Instagram

Thank you so much for this. This was very inspirational, and we wish you only continued success!

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