Jawara Wauchope on the Sophistication of Black Hair and Self-Care

Jawara

Jawara/Byrdie

As a Black man who has lived in Jamaica, Brooklyn, and London, Jawara Wauchope's vast cultural experiences shape the museum-worthy hair looks he creates. If you scan through his mesmerizing catalog of sculptural 'dos and textured styles, you'll immediately gather that Wauchope's work is a beautiful celebration of the diversity of hair. The Fekkai stylist partner's decades of experience and star-studded client roster speak for itself, but his artistry continues to reach new heights. 

This year alone, Wauchope has guided the hair looks for the statement-making Pyer Moss couture show and styled Beyonce's signature blonde tresses on several occasions. And this week, he is channeling his hair genius into New York Fashion Week, leading the hair department for designers like Christian Siriano. Ahead, Wauchope chats about centering the beauty of Black hair in his work, the products he always keeps in his kit during fashion week, and how he practices self-care.

When did your interest in hair and beauty begin?

My interest in hair and beauty began when I was a child, which I guess is not so far-fetched. I fell in love with hair when I was about six years old. When I lived in Jamaica, my aunt would take care of me. She worked in a salon and eventually had her own. When she would take me to the salons, she was supposed to be babysitting. But by being there, I fell in love with hair culture, people, and the salon.

Did you ever consider another profession besides hair?

Yes, I did. I started working on hair when I was seven years old with my aunt in the salon. When I moved back to New York, I played with the idea of hair with my sisters and my cousins. And then, when I was about 17 years old, I decided to go to Florida to apprentice under my cousins who had salons. I took hair seriously. But after that, I came back to New York to finish my senior year of high school. And something happened during my senior year of high school where I was like, I don't want to do hair anymore. You won't be taken seriously if you do hair. I don't want to be in a salon for the rest of my life

So, I decided to go into fashion. I applied to fashion schools, and I got into FIT eventually and finished my Bachelor's. I wanted to be an international fashion merchandiser. I didn't want anything to do with hair. I didn't think it was "sophisticated enough" at the time, which is crazy because I would always read magazines and wonder who was doing the hair for the models and these runway campaigns. I had a battle within myself about hair, and I left it alone for a little while. But I came back to it, and it's been great.

You were also trained by hair legends like Sam McKnight while you were in London. How did that shape your career and your perspective on hair?

I like to consider how I view hair as many different things combined because I have so many different experiences with hair and culture. I learned how to do hair in Jamaica, practiced doing hair in Brooklyn, worked at a Japanese cutting hair salon for a few months, apprenticed overseas, and did my own stuff as well. When I started working with Sam McKnight and the other people I assisted, I realized you could reach a lot more people doing runway and print work. Your work can be viewed in different places. The work that people see now shows that I'm a melting pot of so many different cultures. I have benefitted from working overseas and seeing what they were doing and putting on the runways. It added to the skills I already had and made them better, in my opinion. 

What have been some of your favorite career moments thus far?

To be honest with you, there's a lot that I reflect on. I feel very blessed to have had so many amazing moments so far. And a part of me feels like I'm just getting started. So, it's very humbling to know that there's a lot of things that have come my way. I've been able to work with celebrities like Beyoncé, Solange, and Megan Thee Stallion. I've also been able to work with fashion brands and collaborate with people I love, like Ricardo Tisci. Being in the presence of people that I've always admired and loved is a humbling experience. 

But one of the things that I loved was doing my exhibit "Coarse" with my friend and photographer Nadine Ijewere. We did an exhibit based on hair culture in Jamaica. It brought everything back full circle of why I started and where I started from. It was a highlight to see my work mounted in a gallery and have people looking at it as the art and culture that it is. It was a very profound experience.

When people look at your body of work, what do you hope they take away and learn about you as a person?

One thing I would love for them to take away [from my work] is that beauty comes in different forms. There was a time when we looked at fashion magazines and the runway, and there was one specific lens of what people thought beauty was. I want them to know that the world of hair, especially hair in the Black world, is so sophisticated. I want people to love, appreciate, and understand that. And when they look at my work, I just want them to feel something.

What are some products that you always keep in your kit? 

It is always changing. I think I got asked this question four years ago, and I saw that interview the other day, and I was like, I don't even use any of this stuff anymore. But right now, I've been using the Fekkai Shea Butter Curl Refresh Leave-In Spray ($25). It's a curl-defining gel spray from their shea butter line, which I love. I just used it for the first time at the Pyer Moss show on the girls with curly hair, and I was blown away by it. Of course, I always keep my Dyson Supersonic Hair Dryer ($400) with me. I always keep a soft brush for myself because I have an obsession with brushing my hair when I need to think—it's crazy.

Your skin is always glowing. What's your skincare routine?

I have been using some raw shea butter. I'm also using the Dr. Barbara Sturm Hyaluronic Serum ($300), which works well for me. I also see my aesthetician Vanessa Marc, who is amazing. She gives me hydrofacials from time to time, and I've been just drinking at least a gallon of water a day. 

Amid your busy schedule, how are you practicing self-care and taking time for yourself?

Well, I just came back from a six-week vacation. In the creative field, people don't know that it's not just actually physically doing work. You pour in so much emotionally and spiritually. And it drains you, so you have to take time for yourself. So, I take six weeks of vacation to travel and meditate. 

I also like to take care of my hair and skin because it adds to the value of what you feel about yourself. These are things that people need to make sure they take time to do because self-preservation is the only preservation that's going to matter. You have to take care of yourself, and, of course, our environment. I'm really big on self-care, and I'm actually working on a few things that can help with self-care for hair. 

What else are you looking forward to for the remainder of the year?

I'm looking forward to this upcoming [fashion week] season to grow, create with my friends, and be inspired again. Of course, 2020 was a trying year, and 2021 was a bit more optimistic. But there were still a couple of curveballs this year. So, I'm excited to see what 2022 has to bring. I have a few things that I'm working on that will be dropping in 2022, and I cannot wait for you guys to see them.

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