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Photo ofJanaye Gbalazeh

Growing up in the American Midwest, dominated by mostly White people, can make it difficult for Black women to be self-assured and confident. I noticed that social media, television and magazines promoted ideal body images reflecting the White culture. This makes me feel very upset sometimes. Now, even my own Black brothers and sisters look at society from this perspective. I remember being a 14-year-old girl playing at the park and I hearing ‘compliments’ like: “You’re so pretty for a black girl!” or “I wish I could have braids like yours”.  My interest in the beauty industry started at the age of 14. I used to sit in front of my bathroom mirror and learn different techniques and hairstyles from YouTube. After I watched the videos, I would mimic the steps and try to make the hairstyle look identical. As I consistently did this for a while, I began to love doing my own hair.  During the summer of 2016 was when my hair career really took off. I remember that I was getting ready for a barbecue that our relatives were host- ing. I decided to do my own box braids and planned to go to the event with that hairstyle. Little did I know that I would soon be getting so many compliments and questions on my beautiful hair. That was when I first knew that I wanted to follow my passion for hair and build the self-confidence of Black women. My clientele started to grow as my talent improved day by day. I lived in a community that is mostly White, so it was not easy for people to find someone who knew how to do Black hair well. In the summer of 2018, I decided to start my own hair and eyelash brand. I called it _Foxxi Jay. _ Starting a business at the age of 16 was one of the hardest things that I had ever done. While planning this business, I was a junior in high school and I was also simultaneously trying to prepare for the ACT. I joined a program called ‘SCORE’ that helped me stay organized and create a business plan. After a lot of work, and research, I was finally ready to launch my business on December 1st, 2018.  After creating Foxxi Jay, I jumped to a higher level of being independent. I started to do hair in my home during my free time. I started to get a lot of clients. I was doing many kinds of styles. I started to invest in professional beauty products and my clients loved the results. I had so many clients that I often had to turn some away. This accomplishment made me feel so proud of myself. It also helped me make plans for after high school.  I plan to receive a bachelor’s degree in business management at Saint Cloud State University in Minnesota. After my degree, I will continue to pursue my dream in cosmetology. Next, I want to earn my cosmetology license and own several salons in the United States.  I remain motivated to create my business because I want to help women gain more self-love. My hair services have given Black women more confidence. Their responses always made me feel good about my purpose. I love helping women feel and look good.  I’ve met so many nice young women since I started my business. The experience that I have gained at a young age will benefit me for the years to come. I would never trade my clientele for anything. Building relationships with strangers can teach you a whole lot. You never know one’s story until you create a bond and communicate with them 

© Janaye Gbalazeh. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person’s teacher.