SUSPEND MAGAZINE Q+A WITH JAHMAI LUMPKIN LOS ANGELES CALIFORNIA
Photography by Kayla Reefer - Interview by Diane Abapo
DIANE ABAPO: Hi Jahmai! Take us back to when it all got started for you. How did your fascination for styling hair come about? Do you have any influences growing up who really played an integral role in your profession today?
JAHMAI LUMPKIN: I grew up in a family of hair stylists, so hair care was a huge priority in my family. My mother bought me a braid book as a child and I remember practicing on my dolls and myself. In high school my mother wouldn’t allow me to get an after school job like all my friends and insisted I find something I was good at and work on that. One day a classmate asked me if I could braid his hair and when we got back to school other classmates started asking me how much I charged. Next thing I knew I had a line of people in my mom’s living room waiting to get braided. She was pissed, but hey, I did exactly what she asked me to do: I found something I was good at and was making money.
DIANE: How did you get started doing braids?
JAHMAI: After high school I decided I wanted to break away from doing hair like everyone in my family and be the first to go to college. I succeeded! After doing research on the University of Southern California (USC) as a joke (because the thought of going there sounded so far fetched) I developed a liking for the school. I spent two and a half years at Santa Monica College and challenged myself to apply to USC. USC was the only school I applied to and I got in as a Business Major with a concentration in Entrepreneurship. I continued to do hair to get me through college. The year I received my degree was challenging, the country was in the middle of a recession and more people were losing jobs then getting employed. I decided to take a year off from looking for a job to go back to school to get my cosmetology licenses to have something to fall back on.
DIANE: How long have you been a resident of Fairfax and what’s your take on the always evolving environment there with new shops popping up, younger kids coming by, etc?
JAHMAI: After receiving my cosmetology license I took on a lot of odd jobs in corporate america and in different salons assisting and renting a chair. I hated them all! My client at the time suggested I try Goo Salon on Fairfax. I met with the Owner, Molly Scargall, and fell in love with her and the salon. On top of me falling in love with the salon, it also was on Fairfax, which is home to me. I was born and raised on Fairfax and it’s the one place I don’t feel weird or out of place at because I am surrounded by like-minded creative entrepreneurial souls that have a strong sense of community and family. Starting a career as a hair stylist has definitely had it’s challenges. What motivates me is having the best of both worlds: I get to be creative and do something I like as well as run my own business, be my own boss and take on projects I’m passionate about. No more odd jobs!
DIANE: Who has been your favorite individual to style hair for and why? What about that experience really stuck with you?
JAHMAI: There are a few individuals that I style for that helped shape the growth of my career tremendously. When I first started working at Goo Salon, Jay Ughh (a member of the rap group Chill Black Guys) told everyone on Fairfax that I braid hair. I got phone calls left and right from people trying to get their hair braided. Next was Asia Dee, I braided her hair not knowing she would be doing photoshoots in them. Her pictures went viral and I still get emails about her braids. Another favorite experience I’ve had is working with Girl Boss, Melody Ehsani, who is an amazing person all around. I learn so much in every conversation I have with her and love that she stands for empowering women. We collaborated on a Braid Bar at the Melody Ehsani Shop over the summer which was such a huge success that we did it twice! Having experiences like these helps push me forward and reminds me not to give up.
DIANE: What has been the most fulfilling moment or feedback you have received?
JAHMAI: Nothing is more fulfilling than a satisfied customer. I’m very fortunate to have clientele that support me, believe in me and appreciate me just as much as I appreciate them.
DIANE: What’s in store for 2015?
JAHMAI: 2014 was a very exciting year which makes me even more excited about 2015. I do have projects coming out in 2015 that I can’t discuss but so excited for you to see.
All Photography by © Kayla Reefer / Exclusively for SUSPENDMAG.COM