Balayage 101


I am obsessed with hair color. I stare at everyone’s hair color at the airport, on the subway, even when I get my morning coffee.  It began when I first started beauty school as practice for my consultations. I would search for the worst hair color I could find, and in my head I would silently practice what I would say to the client if he or she needed to fix it, and then I would try to formulate a solution as fast as I could. (Little did I know how much this weird habit of mine would help me as I progressed in my career. Most clients REALLY appreciate a firm and decisive hair colorist. It gives them assurance that you know what you’re doing.)

Within the first minute of a client sitting in my chair, while they give me their backstory, I assess the situation, formulate a plan, and try to determine if what the client wishes for is a reasonable possibility, and how many sessions it will take to get to their desired goal. With clients that highlight their hair in particular, the first thing I look for is whether their hair was done by foil or balayage. I can quickly determined if foils were used by spotting a strong uniformity in color pattern and unfortunately at times by a harsh demarcation line at the root. Let’s just say, sometimes, it ain’t pretty.

Balayage is the most popular hair coloring request in many salons today (the hashtag alone yields over 16 million posts on Instagram), but the technique has been around forever. The term comes from the French word meaning “to sweep”, and was developed in the 1970s by the French as a freehand technique where the color is applied by hand rather than foils. In basic balayage, the hair is painted using one of three (or a combination) of three paint designs. These designs are singles, slants, and V’s.  As we explore more intermediate and advanced balayage techniques, I’ll review even more patterns and approaches that can done with your paintbrush.  The sky is truly the limit.

Because I went to work for a French salon directly after beauty school (Frederic Fekkai), the last time I picked up a foil was almost 20 years ago. I had to completely unlearn everything that I was taught in school, and was forced to approach hair from a completely different perspective. It was no longer about applying color in a pattern, but now about seeing every head of hair as an individual canvas that could be painted according to need. The entire picture had to be visualized and customized. It took me years before I was confident enough to say that I had mastered this approach. Everyone who knows me can vouch that I am NOT a natural Francophile. (That’s a whole different blog post;)). However, when it comes to hair, I have to admit, the French know what they’re doing. Interestingly enough, my former boss and forever mentor, Serge Normant, is also French, but his approach to hair is the polar opposite of Frederic. Even with the newfound freedom to explore hair that I had at Fekkai, there was still a textbook “Fekkai” approach to hair.  And for the better part of 4 years while I assisted color legends such as Constance Hartnett, my skills were honed and tested and refined with weekly classes that were a requirement for any assistant who dreamed of one day getting their own chair.  It was a combination of boot camp and a masters degree in all things hair color.  Now, many years later, I recognize what an amazing privilege it was to get such intense hands on training, as there are truly not many scenarios that end up in my chair that I don’t feel like I can solve.  (To be clear, I still will always decline to do a client if they are set on something that I don’t think their hair can handle, and as a general rule I’m not a fan of bleach and tones. More on that later though..)

In NYC in the early 2000s, it was easy to spot a Fekkai client. Chic, sun-kissed color, but “done”. Over time, my work has become decidedly undone. No two clients are ever the same. I truly believe I got to that comfortable place because of the freedom that balayage has given my coloring style. Balayage is also a very economical way to color your hair as you never have a solid demarcation line or regrowth, so if you can’t afford to get it done for another month it won’t look atrocious. However, if your balayage isn’t done correctly you can end up with excessive overlapping that can cause damage. The process varies depending on the length of the hair and the desired result.

If I had to say one thing (or two) that does frustrate me when seeing how balayage is represented on social media, it is that there is sometimes a repetitiveness that is present in many of the posts.  Everyone looks the same, which is mind-blowing considering the amount of freedom and customization that balayage allows.  I was also taught that the first rule of thumb is, because balayage is supposed to mimic nature’s most natural highlight, there should be a soft beginning.  The beginning of the highlight should be so delicate as to be undetected.  A whisper most definitely more than a shout, yet, in so many images tagged with the hashtag #balayage, bold stripes and strong starts exist.  I find that all my balayage clients are going for different looks and need to maintain it at different rates. From ombré to the most natural sun kissed highlights, to highlights that mimic an all over color, it can all be achieved with just a paintbrush, and the more years the client sits in my chair, the more tailored and individualized and nuanced her color gets.  Without fail, the photos that are most requested by new clients are those of clients that I have been doing for at least 3 years, and I always have to explain that their color looks that way because of commitment and an agreed upon long term game plan between them and myself.  Don’t be mistaken though, this still allows us a ton of room for changes down the line, but there is always a baseline that exists in their hair, my canvas, that allows for seamless transitions.

As I gear up to start teaching color classes and workshops again, I would love to get your feedback on what kind of things you would like me to focus on.  Because others took care and time teaching me, creating color and painting workshops is something I take very seriously.  When I do it, I hope to do it right, so  I encourage you to leave comments on our Instagram page, and as I prep lesson plans, I’ll try my best to keep all your thoughts and requests in mind.  Let’s paint!





photo 3-3




By now all of us have heard that the secret to success lies in your daily routine. Over the years I have figured out that my day is fully dictated by my morning. 

As the mother of a 3 year old, a big portion of my day is dedicated to child care, feeding, chasing, cleaning, tickling so making sure that I take the time each morning to set myself up for success is key. N calls me OCD, but I call it organized and deliberate and have tweaked my mornings over the years to work best for me. 

6:00 Wake Up

I usually have to slowly extract myself from the bed as it’s not unusual that during the night that every living thing in my house has ended up in my bed, and somehow, simultaneously, draped across, over or adjacent to my body. I take a moment to say a quick prayer of gratitude for another day and then head to the bathroom where I do all the things one does upon waking. I rarely shower first thing in the morning. On the days I work out I’ll take a shower afterwards, on the days I don’t I do a quick cleanse of the essential areas, dry brush, moisturize and move on. I say it’s because I am conserving water, but really it’s because I’m lazy and the effort involved in showering seems excessive some days. I then head to the kitchen to turn my tea kettle on, take some fruit out the fridge (arrrrgghhh cold fruit the worst) and light a candle and some incense to start the day. 

6:20 -7:00 Yoga + Meditation

Once my water is hot I squeeze in half a lemon, take a shot of aloe vera juice and then head downstairs to my yoga room where I take a hit from my Sunday Goods cannabis pen and do my yoga practice. Since my back sprain I’ve beed doing a lot of work focused on glutes and hip stability. Taking time to move my body, be quiet and set an intention each morning is the key to my sanity and gives me a bigger jolt than any cup of coffee ever could. 

7:00 -7:30 Snuggles + Breakfast

40 mins is the perfect amount of time for the effects of my Sunday Goods to fade so once H wakes up, he and I spend some time snuggling while he transitions from being asleep to being awake. He usually is full of questions from the day before and we end in a fit of giggles. It’s important to me that he wakes up in a calm and peaceful way. I want him to enjoy mornings and have the opportunity to start his day in a way that feels good for him. He’s consistently hungry so we head straight to the kitchen for fruit, tea, water and vitamins. He’s pretty clear on what he wants to eat outside of fruit and 99% of the time its eggs. For me it’s a green smoothie with Moon Juice Brain Dust and Omega 3 oils. We sit at the table at chat a bit then it’s off to get ready for school.

7:30-8:00 Toddler Wrangling

For those of you with young children you are familiar with this stage of the morning. It can take 30 minutes or it can take an hour depending on the day. For me it’s always easiest to be 90% dressed by the time Harris wakes up. If not I find it takes twice as long to get out the house. 

I have noticed that Harris reacts to my energy and if I am rushing and anxious, he immediately resists that feeling and is more challenging to get out the house. If I’m calm and moving at a normal pace, he falls in sync and off we go.  

8:30 Drop Off

Twice a week I drop Harris off at school. I typically spend about 20 minutes in the classroom and sometimes read to his class. Afterwards I will go to yoga or a coffee shop and spend a few hours working on my computer. On the days that I don’t have drop off duty, I walk the dog and then head to my desk and start my day there.

On the days this routine doesn’t happen (travel, hitting the snooze button) there is a marked difference in how I feel and how the rest of my day unfolds. If I miss easing into the morning I feel like I’m running out of stride and could potentially clip the next hurdle and fall on my ass.

What does your morning routine look like? Any tips/ideas you want to share that are key to you having a successful day?


Safe Spaces


Early Sunday morning, after my last house call was finished, and my final client of the 2019 Awards season complete, I sat in a moment of gratitude for all the wonderful opportunities that I was fortunate to be a part of during the past few months. Truth be told, I was also recovering from a lively reunion on Friday with some of my girlfriends from Spelman College, some of whom I hadn’t seen in well over a decade. It’s well known by my friends that my party and socializing days are mostly long behind me, and it takes a LOT for me to leave Venice (and actually wear high heels) and head to an industry event.

But Friday was special, as it was a birthday celebration for my friends Phylicia, who was just recently promoted to Co-head of urban music at Columbia records, and Joni- a respected doctor, wife and mother who was one of my very first friends in college. I convinced a friend to roll with me to West Hollywood, and lets just say it was a celebration for the ages. You see, my Spelman friends are fierce. They are confident, accomplished bosses who don’t suffer fools, and being around them always makes me feel enveloped in a shit ton of black girl magic. Being around them is one of my safe spaces. Whether in our opinions or our style, we can all be unabashedly ourselves. And though my laziness always wins in the end, every time I leave them, I ask myself repeatedly why I let so much time pass without being in their company. 

Which takes me back to Sunday morning. As I sat in bed with the Sunday NYTimes Style section, feeling content and uplifted (and still slightly hungover), I read a headline that made me sit straight up. It read, “Upper East Side Salon Under Investigation for Racial Discrimination”. The ensuing article was filled with allegations that frankly made my stomach turn. I won’t repeat the entire article here, but I’ll summarize. In short, former workers at a luxury Upper East aside hair salon, not unlike one where I worked 18 years ago, were told that “their hairstyles did not reflect the upscale image of the neighborhood”, and were forced to deal with a dress code that was put in place “that discouraged hairstyles associated with black culture.” Yeah, definitely no safe spaces here. 

This asinine way of thinking, and the fallout that occurred after an investigation, has resulted in a change in law in New York City, where discrimination based on hair would now be illegal. This law, which will be enforced by New York City’s human rights commission, “applies to anyone targeted at work, school or a public place, and is aimed in particular at remedying unfair treatment of black people.” 

Honestly, though I was disgusted by the article and the allegations (the text messages and emails recorded of the alleged offense was embarrassing to read), I wasn’t shocked, or surprised. I also couldn’t help but think, what kind of 19th century backwards world are these people living in?? Besides just being ignorant, these views that black hairstyles and natural black texture were “ugly” and “unprofessional” is not only archaic, but it’s dangerous. Beyond the irony that when traditional black hairstyles that have been mocked and deemed “ghetto” are co-opted by the Kardashians and renamed, suddenly becoming trendy and cool (since when did cornrows become “box braids”??), black women have also long suffered serious health complications such as increased risk for cancer and uterine fibroids because of the chemicals we are exposed to when relying on chemical relaxers to straighten our hair, so that we can be viewed in a more “professional” light. For a very long time, a safe space did not exist for us when it came to the workplace, or public perception of our natural hairstyles. 

Another point that is being missed by those stuck in the dark ages (and clearly only comfortable in that dark place with others that only look like them), is that it is a beautiful blessing to be a black woman. Though our hair requires extra gentle care, the things we can do is amazing. And the choice is, and will always be, ours. Whether we want to rock dreadlocks, twists, our natural texture, weaves, extensions, whatever, it’s a blessing to finally have the option to do whatever feels right for us. 

One glance at some of the hairstyles on some of Sunday’s Oscar winners and attendees showcased that black is not only beautiful, but it’s glorious. And I for one am grateful to have so many examples of black hairstyles to gain inspiration from, and for future generations of little black girls to see that there isn’t just one standard of beauty that they need to strive for. When Viola Davis chose to start experimenting with different natural hairstyles a few years ago, she looked more beautiful than ever. Since then, actresses such as Lupita Nyong’o, Zoe Kravitz, Danai Gurira, and Samira Wiley, and directors Ava Duvernay and Dee Rees, and model Naomi Campbell, and executive Bozoma St John, have all proudly rocked their locs and braids and weaves and beautiful natural texture on the grandest stage of all, the Academy Awards red carpet. I mean, seriously, was there a hotter, more chic couple in attendance than Lisa Bonet and Jason Mamoa?? I guess they’re not good enough for the upper east side? Give me a break. That’s actually laughable.  (Lets take a pause and take in all the glory of the natural hairstyles and textures rocked on this years red carpet shall we? Be patient, its going to take awhile;))

Beyond being disappointed by the goings on at that upper East Side salon, I feel really grateful that once I left the first company I started my career with, I found myself working for, and surrounded by mentors who always encouraged me to be myself, and in fact insisted on it. I will never forget one day when I was doubting my place in this industry, my greatest mentor Serge Normant empowered me and gave me the ultimate safe place by saying- what makes me different, is what is going to set me apart from the pack. Though I experiment with weaves and braids and extensions, among other hairstyles, I also started going natural with my own texture about 7 years ago. I was pleasantly surprised after decades of chemically straightening my hair that my natural texture was comprised of some pretty beautiful curls.

On days when I feel like doing nothing with my hair, I like to leave a heavy treatment in and slick my hair back ala Sade, and go about my business happily. Because you know what? Whether I come to work rocking a head scarf, braids, twists, a hat (for when my hair is really a hot mess) or long extensions, the one thing I can guarantee is that my clients don’t give a crap.  It’s my choice, and they are only concerned with getting beautiful hair color and great customer service. It is my work ethic and my actions that determine my professionalism, not my hair.   And in my eyes, what makes them a thousand times chicer than anyone stuck on the upper east side, is the fact that they allow me a safe space to express myself, be me, and just paint.




Not sure about where everyone else is, but here in the ATL we are in the midst of winter. That time of year after the holidays where you’re ready for Spring but it’s still 2 months away so you start planning getaways to sunny locations in order to distract yourself.

While it can be hard time of year to deal with depending on how much bad weather you have, I find that it’s my favorite time of year to indulge in some essential skin prep for Spring. 

Winter is the time of year when we lament how dry and lifeless our skin is, and that is usually true, but it’s also a great time of year to prepare our skin for Spring. The perfect time to introduce some simple non-invasive treatments such as chemical peels, microdermabrasion and/or my favorite thing for the past 3 Winters – microneedling. 

Let me preface this post by saying that I am a skin person. As someone who suffered from cystic acne in my 30’s, and now melasma in my 40’s I will try pretty much any non-invasive natural treatment that helps stimulate collagen and reduces hyperpigmentation. I once put cactus juice on my face because a woman on 23rd street told me it was helpful for acne while watching me put a giant cactus I found on the street into a cab. This one clearly wasn’t and I spent the next 3 days ensconsed in my apartment sending pictures of my face to my dermatologist cousin who assured me the blistered red spots would fade…

That disaster aside, over the years I have tried a variety of things from peels to dermaplaning all with different results, and have settled on a few treatments that make the cut each Winter. It’s a time for introspection, to slow down and focus on nourishing ourselves and planting seeds, to create strength for Spring’s cycle of growth. This makes it the perfect time of year to really focus on self care.

These pictures were taken (from L to R) in March, April & June of 2018. Last one was taken this morning, almost a year after the service. Individual results vary, but these are mine.

WTF is Microneedling?

Microneedling is a non-invasive treatment performed 3-4 times in concession for optimal results. A pen like device inserts tiny needles into the skin stimulating the wound healing cycle. It is used to treat and improve conditions like acne scarring, fine lines and wrinkles, loose skin, skin texture, pore size, brown spots, stretch marks, and pigment issues such as melasma.

Recommended to me years ago by my dear friend, Hennie she was the first to try it out and really liked it so I decided to give it a go. She’s has beautiful skin and a meticulous and consistent skin care routine so it was a no brainer. 

This is now year 3 of adding it to my Winter routine, but the first time I have done 3 consecutive treatments. Previously I just did one at a time, but this time Amy and I decided to dig in and really commit. 

How should I prepare for the service?

Take arnica internally for about a week before to reduce redness and inflammation. In addition stop taking any fish or flax seed oils 10 days prior to service. Tricia Burns, a licensed Medical Esthetician, and the first one to perform the treatment on me, says doing this will give you the best results.

What should I expect from the procedure?

You spend the first 20 minutes of the service with a numbing cream on because, ummmm, hello, it’s needles. Fortunately for me my esthetician Amy Bransford, is one of my best friends so we typically spend that time catching up and hanging out in her latest business venture SparrowHawk Studio, a female centric tattoo parlor within walking distance from my house. Double win.

Once my skin is numb, she passes the pen like device over my skin. The only time it gets uncomfortable is closer to my temple, but other than that it’s painless. The pen part only takes about 15-20 minutes.

When the service is done she sends me on my way with a wound healing cream and a moisturizer from the device manufacturer, but I toss those and use Marie Veronique Barrier Repair Serum with great results.

What happens afterwards?

Obviously everyone is different, but I am usually red so book my appointments for later in the day and then head home afterwards. When I say red I mean like an intense sunburn. It’s gets a little more red on day 2 along with a feeling of dryness and tightening on day 3. After about 3-5 days I notice little to no redness. 

How much does it cost?

Pricing varies, but a session with Amy is $300. I have also done sessions in the past with another kick ass esthetician Tricia Burns here in Atlanta, and her price is $350.

Is it worth it? 

For me, absolutely. This is a picture of me taken this morning with maybe 2 facials since my last session in April 2018 and using Marie Veronique Retinol and Lightening Serum with the addition of Vintners Daughter Serum during the winter. You can see the hyperpigmentation is gone or reduced, and the clarity and smoothness of the skin is improved.

If you are looking to address any serious issues or just want overall skin improvement, this is a great service to think about doing each Winter. To book an appointment with Amy click here.


FLORA & FAUNA…. (or, how nature healed my broken heart)


It’s no secret to all that I have an (un)healthy obsession with plants and flowers. Without fail, I can be found every few days on my porch in Venice, watering and tending to my plants and herbs, and rearranging the flowers in my home. It is the single most important habit that I have cultivated that helps me unwind, and brings me the greatest joy.

When I first started my “patio project” 2 years ago, it was actually out of a need for privacy. My apartment is located in a busy area with a lot of pedestrian traffic, and while it is mostly neighbors out for a run or walking their dogs, I still felt the need to create a bit of barrier so that I could sit freely on my patio without strangers watching me eat or listening to my phone calls. I often walked by a local business called Venice Plants on my morning coffee run to FlowerBoy on Lincoln Blvd (also my go to spot for flowers for my home), and one day I spotted some beautiful bougainvillea trellises that I knew would be a perfect border between my porch and the public. Upon further exploration, I also found a jasmine trellis, and decided to do a combination instead. It was the perfect solution. On Mondays and Tuesdays when I focused on Highbrow Hippie and often conducted multiple phone calls with Myka, I found myself happily working away at my vintage Trina Turk picnic table, surrounded by the various blooming vines. It was bliss.

Then, as everyone now knows, one day we were blindsided and things completely fell apart with our investor, and the weekly calls I conducted from my happy place building my dreams, turned into stressed out sessions with lawyers, filled with tears. Some days I just sat outside in silence, trying to wrap my head around what happened, only soothed by the scent of my jasmine and the sound of the wind chimes that hung from the trellis. Surrounded by beauty, I was at my absolute lowest point. To think about those days now, makes my eyes instantly fill with tears.

Throughout that time, I started to really amp up my focus on arranging flowers for my home. It was almost like my body and soul knew that I HAD to focus on creating something beautiful in order to aid my healing process. My socializing tapered off, and I spent money instead on flowers and plants of all kinds. I happily became a crazy plant and flower lady. Some weeks I explored working with just one color palette. Other weeks I combined different scent profiles. I played, and I explored, and I created a routine that gave me a bright moment of joy to look forward to every week. It was a way to pass the time while Myka and I tried to pick the pieces up and move on with our dreams for the business, and it slowly but surely started to heal my broken and traumatized heart.

When spring of last year came, I decided to up the ante a bit and dedicate a few months to focus on adding an herb garden and reading nook to my now already beloved patio. I thought of items that I loved to consume and use a lot in cooking and my daily life, and before long, again with help from the team at Venice Plants, I had a beautiful herb garden consisting of mint, basil, white sage, Thai basil, mini peppers, rosemary and edible flowers. I used these items not only to nourish my body, but as part of my meditation and New and Full Moon rituals. My little patio garden became far and away my favorite place to chill when I returned home from a day at the salon. Whether tucked in the corner with a book, arranging weekly flowers, or seated with friends enjoying a cocktail (or 3;)), it was a place I always looked forward to.

One day recently while sitting outside I suddenly looked up and around and took it all in. I sat in amazement at the special haven I built with my own two hands. I made it through hell, and I did it by creating a little slice of heaven. My oasis of flora and fauna. And then I got very still, and I checked in with my heart. It was happy.


Two days ago I was informed of a petition that was circulating to help keep Venice Plants open. The word on the street is that Trader Joe’s is rumored to be demolishing the Fox building on Lincoln Blvd where Venice Plants resides. This news made my heart sink, and I hope it isn’t true. Venice Plants is an institution. Anyone that has shopped there and has worked with Dustin and his wife and sons know what a huge part of the Venice community they are. They have been here over 30 years and it would be devastating to think of Venice without them here. Please sign the petition below to help save Venice Plants and get the word out. It’s the least we can do to help this local business that has brought so much, to so many.

Many thanks