Hair By Susy: The Celebrity Hair Stylist Behind Zoë Kravitz and Beyoncé’s Braids
When Beyoncé released Lemonade everyone noticed her blonde side cornrows. The creator of this iconic look? Susan Oludele the entrepreneur behind Brooklyn salon Hair By Susy. Oludele creates a variety of hairstyles for both celebrity clients and stylish NYC women, and there’s no ‘do that’s too complex for the self-taught hair stylist who’s famous for her braid, freeform curl, and dreads. Case in point, Beyoncé’s hair style took a day and a half, and many of her more elaborate creations clock in at around eight hours. I met up with Oludele to discuss what it’s like to do Beyoncé’s braids, find out how to best maintain braided hair and her new beauty book Lady – A Celebration of Women.
When and why did you start braiding hair?
Susan Oludele: I started doing hair when I was about nine years old. I used to braid my dolls’ hair because my mom inspired me — she used to braid my hair in cornrows, braids and twists. She was just so creative. One day she decided not to do my hair anymore and was like, “I’m tired, you figure it out now.” I was like, okay, what am I going to do? At first, my hair didn’t really look good so I started playing with it and started doing creative styles.
My classmates started asking who did my hair and I told them that I did it. They asked me to do their hair and eventually I was doing hair for people in my school, my neighborhood, and my family members. When I graduated I became a home health aide and realized that I just loved helping people. At some point, I got laid off and then I just embraced hair fulltime.
You have many famous clients, can you tell me about how you started working with them?
The first celebrity client that I ever worked with was Solange Knowles about seven years. She hit me up to do her hair and I went to her house and did some long box braids to the floor. From there I kept working with her and then branched off to work with Beyoncé a few times. I did her famous side cornrows. Then I started working with Zoë Kravitz to create her first box braids for the movie Dope. After that, we started doing wavy human braids together and different creative styles.
It’s cool being in the presence of these people you see on television. It inspires you and you know that you can do amazing things if you put your mind to it. When you love what you do and you really want whatever you’re doing to be successful, then no matter what, you will be successful.
Braids seem to be more popular now than ever, why do you think that is?
Braids are very, very popular and a lot of people wear braids — kids, young adults, older people, even people who previously were never open to braids. You can really customize braids by making them simple or complex. We can create a style that’s exactly right for you. Let’s say if your face is slim, you would look better with thinner braids that can lay flat on your face. I like to make things that are curated to a person’s style.
There’s been discussion on whether braids can be worn by everyone or if it’s cultural appropriation when people who aren’t black have braids. What are your thoughts on the subject?
I think braids are appropriate for everyone. I don’t want us to forget that braids exist to protect our hair. They’re great for people going on vacation when you don’t want to deal with brushing or detangling your hair. It’s all about your perspective on it. If you understand the culture and history of braids, know where it comes from and give homage to its ancestors then you can wear braids.
What are some of the most complex braid styles you’ve done?
Microbraids and more creative styles we create, like headpieces, usually take a long time. Also, anything involving dreads, human hair or full locks. It takes a certain level of energy and skill to be able to do these styles. Also, a lot of teamwork. Hair can really vary, some hairstyles will take one hour, some two, some six, some eight, some 12 hours.
What should people keep it in mind before they get braids?
One of the things that people need to keep in mind is pricing because excellent service and work can be pricey. I also think that people need to keep in mind maintenance as well. When you do get braids, yes it’s to protect your hair, but you also have to maintain it with oils or a satin bonnet when you’re sleeping. If you’re swimming, you have to clean your scalp. The third thing is the actual install. Finding out what works for you and what extensions work for you as well. Some people are allergic to extensions for example.
What are your tips for taking care of taking care of your hair when you have braids?
I like to use two products, once an essential oil called Earth Vibes which is really good and you should use that on your scalp daily. Then another product, I do like to use this call Hurr Curr, their OG Butter is good for anyone who has a dry scalp.
You recently published a book Lady – A Celebration of Women. What’s it about?
Every time I used to open a hair magazine or book, it always had these outdated hairstyles and not enough inspiration. I wanted people to get inspiration and knowledge from all of these dope influencers out there. In my book, I partnered with four beauty influencers sharing information on makeup, natural hair, lifestyle, comedy, and YouTube.
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