#TLApproved: MEET WU KOLAWOLE
Hi Wu! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hey! My name is Wu and I'm a MIZANI Artist. i work in New Jersey but I do a lot of freelancing so I'm anywhere between New York and the DMV area - pretty much wherever a client wants me to be.
Describe what you do in one sentence.
I empower people. As an educator, I give people tools to better themselves. As a hairstylist, I am their source of inspiration, I can be their psychologist on some days so if I can plant a seed while educating or doing hair, my job is done.
How do you motivate yourself to show up 110% on those days you feel less than?
I try not to have too many days like that but I would be lying if I said that I don't. I have to remind myself that it is all a part of the process and i have to think about the bigger picture. When i find myself basking in my sadness, it makes me uninspired, so I tell myself that this is only a temporary process. All the great people i look up to had to go through a process, maybe not like mine, but similar. So I just try to put everything into perspective and trust that God has a bigger plan for me. I really believe that if you don't go through any struggles, you're not going to reach any kind of glory. Diamonds aren't made just froM sitting there, they have to go through some kinds of pressures - so I try to embrace the struggles.
You are always looking 100%. Tell us about your personal style.
I like an effortless look and I'm a minimalist too although I do love pops of colour in my hair, in my makeup or in my shoes. I have blazers for days paired with a nice heel, nothing uncomfortable though.
What does success mean to you?
Success for me means reaching my goals. It sounds broad but I really think when people stick things through, they are truly successfully. Sometimes you meet people who are doing one thing one day and by the next week they are doing another thing. Consistency is key. A truly successful person perseveres no matter the cost. When I think about perseverance, I think about my career and how far I have come as a hairstylist. If it wasn't for me pushing through those times when I sat in the salon for hours and no clients came in, then I wouldn't be where I am today. So I define success as sticking it out and pushing through no matter what.
If you could start over, what would you change?
I would take more risks. I am still young, so thankfully i can take more risks but I think up until last year, I had been playing it very safe. I didn't like being uncomfortable so I would stay within the parameters of my comfort but then I found that I would have some resentment because I didn't step out on faith. If you don't take risks, you are going to be haunted everyday with that "what if?" and I absolutely hate that feeling. If you don't take risks, you won't know your potential. Even if it doesn't work out the way you wanted it to, at least you have peace of mind to know that you tried. So i'm taking risks, no matter how ridiculous they might seem. i'm trusting my gut, staying close to God and making sure that He is leading me.
All these people who are successful didn't just make it overnight. When I think about my parents and the struggles they endured to come here from Nigeria, it truly pushes me to be the best that I can be.
What is the legacy you want to leave?
When people talk about me, I want them to know that I gave them my all and that I inspired people. If I don't do anything else, if I don't do another head or another show, I want to inspire people in different ways; in the salon, through young people in school. I really want to plant a seed so that the next generation can be better off than I was.
What advice do you have for the next generation of aspiring stylists?
Put yourself out there. It's going to feel uncomfortable but that's the beauty of risk. I'm still working on myself, but if you don't put yourself out there, no one is going to know you. Somebody told me this a long time ago and it stuck with me: "Sometimes you have to prove to God how bad you want something."
If you really want something, you have to actually put yourself out there. That's like you saying you wanna buy shoes but then you're not going to the store to buy them because you think they are just going to appear at your house magically.
Can you be more specific about the ways aspiring stylists can put themselves out there?
In this day and age, social media is all the rave. Let's say your goal is to increase you client base, post your work on social media. If you are new to a salon or social media is not your style, make flyers, network with different professionals like photographers so that if they decide they need someone for a photoshoot, or a wedding, they will look to you because they know that you are hungry. Even before social media blew up the way that it did, I used to always post pictures of my work. Not only does it let people know of your capabilities but you as a person can see your growth. i look back at those pictures I posted in 2009 when i started doing hair professionally and I can see my growth and where I have improved.
What was your dream career as a child?
Hairstyling and teaching. I thought that I would be teaching a majority of the time and in the Summers I would do hair on the side. Being a MIZANI Artist I get to do the two things. As it happens, I am actually in school training to become a teacher.
What is it you want to teach?
Probably Cosmetology and English too. I will still be doing hair but I want to go back to a place where I am educating people about hair too.
Finish this sentence: If in doubt...
That's a good one. If in doubt, trust your gut because sometimes we make decisions based on what people might think. But i believe that an intuition never fails you. If something doesn't feel right, don't go with it.
Tell us about that defining moment when you knew being a stylist was meant to be.
Becoming a MIZANI Artist because I felt like my work had finally paid off and something as big as global brand like MIZANI noticed little ol' me...i was like "okay, I'm making moves!" I haven't even been doing hair professionally for 10 years yet but i have reached many levels of success by my definition, that other people have not reached yet. It's not to brag or to downplay anyone else's journey, but once I became a MIZANI Artist and I was given a platform to share my knowledge, I felt like everything paid off.
How did you become a MIZANI Artist?
First I saw a post on social media and I kinda looked past it because I thought what are the odds that I would be chosen? Then a friend of mine (another stylist) in LA sends the same post to me in a text message. I pondered on it for two days, and decided to take a risk and if it didn't work out, it didn't work out but at least I could say i tried. Faith it till you make it and if it is meant to be, it will be. Fast forward to the audition. Kate (MIZANI Head of Education) was so warm, I remember meeting Evie (Johnson) at the door - there was so much camaraderie which you don't often see in the hairdressing industry. It made me feel like this is home.
What are the three products or tools you never travel without?
I will never travel without my 1-inch flat iron. I use it for a lot of things - to straighten hair, add curls and to texture the hair.
Can't travel without my bobby pins and holding spray, like HRM. it's lightweight, a nice hold and it gets the job done when on set and in the salon.
A little birdy told me you participated in a beauty pageant not too long ago. Did you win?
[LAUGHS] I competed in Miss Nigeria USA but I didn't win, i was runner-up. Close! I am Nigerian, my family came here in 1985. I was born here in the USA but I still consider myself a Nigerian because I am very in touch with my culture. The pageant was an experience and I found out about that on Instagram too. I did the audition, learned a lot about myself and met so many beautiful, inspiring Nigerian women. I think it's important to uplift other people who share the same culture as you. The further away you get from your culture, the easier it is to lose it. I never want to lose that because that's part of who I am.