How Nikki Nelms Went From Styling Bridal Hair in 6th Grade to Doing Solange's Wedding Look

In our extended-working collection, “How I’m Creating It,” we discuss to folks earning a living in the vogue and magnificence industries about how they broke in and identified achievements.

Nikki Nelms is a self-explained “Hair MacGyver” — it is really ideal there in her Instagram bio. And a brief scroll as a result of her feed will expose why: She can completely transform any seemingly mundane, inanimate item into an ingenious, refreshingly distinctive hair accent. And more than that, she can fashion hair itself into the most gorgeous and sudden sculptures you have seen this aspect of the Achieved. To refer to Nelms as a hairstylist looks an virtually comical understatement. A hair artist? Maybe, but it is really more than that. A hair visionary? That previous just one looks ideal. MacGyver operates, as well.

Nelms has styled the hair of just about every former member of Destiny’s Kid and can casually mention having worked with Beyoncé as a parenthetical apart. Vogue not long ago credited her with “shifting the black hair dialogue.” She styled Solange’s hair for her wedding, exactly where she was also a visitor Solange also relied on her to produce the movie appears to be for her intensely hair-centric most current album, “A Seat at the Table.” And she’s also just one of the reasons the overall Fashionista team is clamoring to see what Janelle Monáe will don on the 2017 Oscars purple carpet (Nelms has been driving the jaw-dropping, creative hairstyles the actress and musician has been donning during awards year). And her journey to achievements — which included a blessed breaks with Lil Wayne and Kanye West — is just as fascinating as the models she makes. Nelms generously took some time from her whirlwind awards year program to chat with Fashionista about how it all went down. 

Notify me about your background. Did you often know you needed to be a hairstylist?
I’m from St. Petersburg, Florida. I often had an curiosity in hair — my initial shopper was my Cabbage Patch doll — and I’ve often been in a position to do hair conveniently, but I failed to even believe about the point that it could be a job. When I was rising up, so several folks around me were in a position to do hair conveniently. It was not like I was elevated with a household comprehensive of hairdressers, but I consider that every black woman can do hair. My little cousin can braid so well, I’ve asked her to braid some of my purchasers in advance of. It was just a matter that we were blessed with. I did go to FSU, but I dropped out mainly because I selected to do hair as a substitute of go to class. I dropped out and enrolled in a cosmetology faculty in St. Petersburg. I did hair all as a result of large faculty, I worked in a salon in the 9th quality, employed to do all of my teachers’ hair.

In sixth and seventh quality, my aunt would help e book me to do a comprehensive wedding get together. I failed to believe there was anything at all strange, but now that I appear back again at it, it is really like these adults seriously had me accomplishing their hair for a large instant for their lifetime? [Laughs]

So how did you seriously make a decision this was a little something you needed to turn into a job?
[At cosmetology faculty,] I would be there when they opened and until finally they shut. I was like, You know what? I’m likely to do the job in the center of the night time when the faculty is shut. I never ever factored in snooze. I’d snooze for the hour crack that the faculty was shut. So I got a job in an immediately after-hours call centre for doctors’ offices at night time. I did it for as extended as I could until finally I got fired mainly because I retained likely to snooze on the job. So I just form of had to relieve back again on the hours and get a different job, a telemarketing job. It worked out, I still graduated like way before than absolutely everyone else, like in a 12 months.

I employed to compete in individuals [hair] competitions, so I was seriously joyful to acquire mainly because from time to time the entry charges were all I had in my account.

What was your initial formal expert salon job?
The initial salon I worked at was in the Ft. Lauderdale/Miami space, which is like four hours absent from exactly where I’m from. I fulfilled the owner’s daughter in a class when I was at FSU. I packed up and moved to Ft. Lauderdale and started off working in the salon and that form of took my job to a different stage mainly because in Miami they are accomplishing more generation factors. Immediately after I was revealed in a hair journal, I was like, oh that was effortless, that was absolutely nothing. So then I started off accomplishing audio movies.

And so from there you made a decision to stick with audio movies?
I stayed in the salon at initial, but ultimately I had to make a decision [concerning the two]. I got my initial personal shopper: Lil Wayne. I fulfilled him in New Orleans in a club, and absolutely everyone I understood loved Lil Wayne it was the 12 months “Tha Carter one” arrived out, so that might have been a few yrs in advance of Katrina. It was at a club termed 360 that was this rotating club, it spins around. I you should not know why, but that night time I just snapped into do the job method and I walked up to him at the bar and was like, “Hey!” It seems crazy, but I felt like I understood him mainly because of his lyrics. He’d rapped about his mom, and I felt like I understood her. I asked him ‘How’s your mom?’ and he was like “…She’s great.” And I asked when he was capturing his next music movie, and he was like, “Tomorrow, basically.” I mentioned to let me know if he wanted his hair performed. I was standing there, telling him my resumé, and I gave him my quantity, but we left it at that. And he termed the next working day for me to appear do his hair! I was on holiday vacation, so I failed to have my kit with me, I had to run around city to check out to come across a little something [to design and style his hair with]. I was in a position to go and do his hair, and we started off working collectively. I was accomplishing his album packaging and audio movies and commercials and no matter what else he had. He honestly is the motive why I was in a position to just pull absent from the salon. Due to the fact of him, I had the revenue to be in a position to vacation. And now I had more factors to include to my resumé.

How did your job completely transform from that position on?
I fulfilled a ton of purchasers [as a result of Lil Wayne]. It was seriously tough for me I’m a feminine hairstylist, I was not a groomer. But he had hair, so he did it. But then it was tough promoting myself to ladies when he was the most important matter on my resumé. I got more purchasers and still worked on other audio movies and rounded out my resume. I did all of the feminine hair on Kanye West’s “Gold Digger” movie. And then I started off working with Solange.

Your do the job has turn into so connected with Solange in the previous few yrs. Can you inform me about your romance and how that arrived to be?
We fulfilled as a result of mutual good friends. We were hanging out and were likely to go out, but then she caught pink eye, but at that time we failed to seriously know each and every other. My mate recommended I resolve her hair to check out to camouflage it. She was like, “No, I’m good.” We’d never ever worked collectively and I understand hair is a significant offer, you you should not just have confidence in any one with it. Lastly she was like, alright, and I gave her a haircut so it form of protected her eye, we phone it “Shareefa bangs,” it is really a rapper from back again in the working day, and she wore her hair slanted in excess of her eye. From then it was like we bonded, and then she retained contacting.

At what position did you seriously sense like you would formally created it as a hairstylist?
I still you should not sense like I’ve created it. It can be crazy. I was featured in Vogue, and my good friends were like, “We need to have to have a get together.” I indicate, it is really an incredible accomplishment, but I’m like, “Do you all believe which is a little cocky?” I you should not know when I will sense like I’ve created it, I guess it’s going to be when I can like retire and not even believe about having to pay my rent. I believe I’m lacking that matter in me that helps make me enthusiastic about what I ought to be enthusiastic about. I believe which is a reward and a curse, form of. I see a ton of folks out there and to me they are frustrating mainly because of the way they react and act. Absolutely everyone is an equivalent, I see every possibility as equivalent, I see every shopper the similar I seriously appreciate my purchasers that are faculty academics, I appreciate accomplishing their hair just as significantly as I appreciate accomplishing movies for Beyoncé, (I did her “Yoncé” video).

The stuff that I’m accomplishing now is absolutely nothing as opposed to what was needed of me in large faculty. My purchasers back again then, you could not make a oversight. They needed the most for their $20. It was crazy education, so in comparison this is like a stroll in the park. At times it helps make me chuckle at how folks react when I do a little something and I believe it is really so essential. At times I even force myself to get a longer time with a shopper, just so they sense like I’m supplying them awareness, but it seriously isn’t really important. I seriously you should not have that large of a kit. My kit, I can seriously deliver every thing I need to have in like an oversize purse. But I you should not do it mainly because just one time I did and the photographer imagined that I failed to know anything at all and that I was not well prepared. So I ran to the closest magnificence provide retail store and bought a bunch of stuff just to tranquil him down. I you should not have a ton of bells and whistles with me. I sense like what you are born with is what will get you exactly where you need to have to be. 

What about all of the extras you are likely to use in your sculptural appears to be, and particularly on Janelle Monáe these days?
I just ran up and down the aisles at Michaels for a moment. I felt like I wanted to include a little something. 

How did you make a decision to do individuals googly eyes? Our whole editorial team freaked out in excess of how great that was.
It was seriously intuitive. Janelle’s whole aesthetic is black and white, and so I just grabbed factors that are black and white. I saw the googly eyes, and I was like this will be seriously cute and enjoyment. I did distinct dimensions and I took a glue gun to hair pins. You can use anything at all and do anything at all once you seriously quit caring about if an individual isn’t really likely to like it. That’s the reward of having worked with a shopper for numerous purple carpet appearances the have confidence in stage rises. It can be often a little tricky at initial, but if they start out accepting your opinion and then get seriously great critiques mainly because they took your opinion, they’ll have confidence in you likely ahead.

Are there any other hairstylists you appear to for inspiration?
I you should not seriously appear to any one else. I learned this from Lil Wayne a extended time back, and it employed to confuse me, but when he was on tour or whenever you are around him, he only listens to his individual audio. I would be like, “Why? There is so significantly great stuff on the radio.” And he is like “No, I you should not seriously want to be influenced by that, mainly because from time to time you can be influenced negatively mainly because you can review yourself to it and you can miss out on out on you by making an attempt to mimic what you see.” So I you should not seriously appear around for inspiration, or if I do it is really generally like previous films or strange factors, like previous TV shows. I’m so fascinated in more mature factors. 

How I work is I generally determine it out on-website a ton of the design and style will come from the vibe of the instant, the appear of the wardrobe, the mood of the shopper. At times a chill topknot just saves the working day.

What are some of your favorite appears to be you have at any time developed?
The googly eyes were enjoyment, I would never ever seriously performed anything at all like that. I appreciate Solange’s ponytail from the Achieved Gala few of yrs back and the super-tall topknot that we did on Zoë [Kravitz] one working day. That was seriously great mainly because it was so clean up and straightforward, and the height of the topknot was the accent. I also loved the significant expose of Zoë’s blonde hair on the address of Elle. I had a ball accomplishing that. And I still appreciate the Kanye West movie, I seriously do. It was just the way that whole matter worked out for me. At times the tale driving the hair is what helps make me like the hair more. For that movie, I was only meant to be an assistant, and the essential hairstylist stop mainly because the workload was crazy we were accomplishing all of the ladies in the movie. We invested like the whole working day shifting factors and getting Kanye‘s approval. It retained likely around and around, and then the essential stylist stop. So I started off accomplishing all of the do the job and no one even understood that the hairstylist stop. This was seriously early on and I felt so great to see every appear on just one of the ladies and know it was a little something I would performed. Jamie Foxx was there, it was crazy. Right here I am and Kanye‘s coming up to me like, “I seriously appreciate this hair.” He asked me exactly where the other stylist was and I was like, “Kanye, he stop a few times back, I’ve been accomplishing all the hair.” And he booked me on every thing pertaining to Gold Digger immediately after that: the VMAs, a Pepsi Smash functionality with Jay Z. He retained contacting me, so I imagined that was a seriously significant offer.

What does it sense like now to see your do the job all in excess of the purple carpets and in magazines like Elle and Vogue?
I really am joyful that everybody appreciates what I see as art and how I provide it. I keep in mind looking back again and wishing I was a component of it. I keep in mind remaining in Florida acquiring magazines and making an attempt to determine out how to be in them it’s hilarious now, but I would appear at the front of magazines and I would just call magazines and question, “How can I shoot with you?” They’d say, “We do the job with an company!” and hang up [laughs]. 

And what about remaining a component of a little something like Solange’s movies, particularly when so significantly of her most recent album was centered on hair?
Remaining asked to be a component of a little something that you know indicates a ton to a shopper is like the best award to me. It can be like you won previously in advance of you even accomplish. It can be how they view you, which says a ton about status and credibility and how strongly they consider in your ability set. 

You also styled Janelle’s hair when she fulfilled with Barack and Michelle Obama. What did that sense like to see that?
I was basically there, but on the other aspect of the doorway. It felt like a parent that often needed to go to a crazy spot or a seriously pricey spot and they could not make it, but then their youngster created it. An extension of me created it — wow, my do the job got that near to just one of the most incredible folks of our time, the President of the United States. He hugged her. That felt seriously, seriously great. He failed to see me, but he saw my hair.

What tips would you have for younger hairstylists aspiring to a job like yours?
I get a ton of thoughts about how to crack in, but the only consistent in my opinion and the tips that I gave myself early on that still operates is to stick to your design and style. Regardless of what helps make you distinct is honestly your ticket in. Model improvements. Your turn will appear. That’s why it is really so vital to not concentration on what absolutely everyone else is accomplishing, mainly because if you’re focused on other factors that are previously taking place, you are not serving to purchasers turn into trendsetters mainly because you are adhering to a trend that previously exists. No person desires a edition of any person else, and particularly not influencers. Influencers want to be the initial to don a little something or to check out a little something. If you are supplying them what an individual else could give them, why would not they want to employ the service of the other person?

Homepage image: @nikkinelms/Instagram

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