Stylist helps African Americans embrace the natural hair style
Aug 23, 2022
Holding fast to what comes naturally
Growing up in Newark, Jennifer Cherilus always enjoyed styling her own and others’ hair. And in 2018, she successfully brought that unique skill to a broader audience when she opened The Natural Hair Studio, an Orange-based salon focused on natural hair styles for African American women, men, and children.
“I have three sisters and when we were kids, my mom did our hair all the time,” recalled Cherilus, 41, a Union resident. “But when I was about 10 years old, I began changing up how my mom styled it. I started experimenting on my sisters and friends and it grew from there. Everyone knew I did hair and they were very supportive.”
Cherilus went on to graduate from Rutgers University with a psychology degree and began a career in social work, but the lure of hair styling continued to call to her and she decided to follow her passion. “I went to Empire Beauty School in Bloomfield in 2012 and started working at area salons and growing my clientele,” she said.
“In 2018, a woman who owned a natural hair salon in Orange but was looking to step out of the business learned about me and reached out to ask if I’d like to take over her clientele,” Cherilus said of an opportunity that was too good to pass up. "Although this made salon ownership happen faster for me than I’d originally planned, the timing worked out great.”
Today, at her five-station studio, “we offer natural hair care treatments such as deep conditioning and protein treatments as well as natural hair styling, including two-strand twists, braid combinations, and cornrows, all with our client’s own hair,” Cherilus said. “Because African American hair is very delicate, we don’t use any colors, chemicals, or relaxers and don’t do any straightening styles, blowouts, silk presses, or extensions/wigs because many of those things damage and/or put a lot of stress on our hair. We’ve often been taught to use chemicals and straighten our hair, so working with our hair in its natural state is new to many within the African American community,” she noted, “but it will make our hair stronger and keep it naturally beautiful.
“Women have become increasingly aware of what they’re putting in and on their bodies and that jump-started the natural hair movement and the understanding that they don’t have to straighten their hair or wear a weave to fit in,” Cherilus said of the growing market for her services. “People are feeling more comfortable wearing natural hair and we’re here to help them style and maintain it.”
Among the many services offered at The Natural Hair Studio, “cornrows, two-strand twist combinations, twist-outs, and rod sets are very popular,” said Cherilus, who serves as lead stylist and currently employs one other stylist who focuses on hair trims, maintenance, and preparation. Services can range from a one-hour shampoo and blow-dry for $50 to mini twists, a more intricate style which takes two to four hours to complete and costs $250.
“Most styles last about a month and clients say that their hair feels strong and healthy and that they never knew they could wear it like that – they feel liberated,” Cherilus said. “Natural hair is so curly and requires a lot of time and attention, so we help educate clients on how to care for it.”
Based on the huge demand for her services, “I’m looking for more natural hair stylists to join our team, including those who specialize in different natural hair styles,” said Cherilus, who sees even bigger things for her business someday. Ultimately, she shared, “I want The Natural Hair Studio to become a household name and to see us expand to other cities and states as a go-to place for natural hair styles.”
For Cherilus, one of the most rewarding aspects of her business is being part of the natural hair movement. “I love helping people be who they are, feel great about wearing their hair naturally, and not feel the need to conform or cover it up,” she said. “Each natural hair style we do is like a showcase that says ‘this is what our hair can do and it’s beautiful.’ It feels great to help people take pride in themselves and show their art to the world.”