It was the hairstyle that shook the world and brought women of the Black community together in one collective “yasssss.” Family group chats were shaking in jubilation. On January 20, when Michelle Obama stepped onto the inaugural scene, hand in hand with President Barack Obama, it wasn’t just the monochromatic coat/pantsuit/belt combo that caused us to skip a breath. It was Barry’s Angel herself, complete with a fanned and feathered mid-length ‘do that would make the late Farrah Fawcett blush, layered and styled to perfection.
As social media was set ablaze, it only took moments for Black Twitter to identify Yene Damtew as the woman responsible for rocking our worlds with Mrs. Obama’s gorgeous mane. Although Damtew has been working with the Obama family and other notable high-profile clients for years, it was beautiful to see her work get the recognition it deserves and to see the spotlight on one of the most talented and diverse teams of stylists in the hair biz.
Damtew is the founder and owner of Aesthetics Salon, located in South Arlington Ridge near the Reagan National Airport in D.C. Everything about Damtew and the diverse Aesthetics team exudes excellence and feminine grace. From promising an “attitude-free” environment to treating guests to upscale decor, refreshments and soothing jazz at the newly renovated salon, we can see why so many have chosen these ladies as their super stylists of choice.
We had the chance to hear from Damtew and asked her, via email, about the post-inauguration bliss she experienced, celebrating Black hair, the importance of representation, hair trends for 2021, and the one piece of career advice that most impacted her career.
Madame Noire: You recently went viral for your team’s work for the inauguration. As a Black woman, what did that moment mean to you considering the complex history we have had with how our hair is publicly accepted and celebrated?
Yene Damtew: I’ve been truly blown away by all of the attention. I’ve been working with the Obama family for more than a decade now, and while that hasn’t been a secret, for whatever reason, this specific day things really blew up. I’m humbled and honored that so many people watching that historic day appreciated Mrs. Obama’s look. I’ve heard from women all across the globe and I am so thankful to have played a small role in such an important day in our country’s history.
Aesthetics has a diverse team of stylists from various backgrounds with different types of hair textures and styles. How important is representation in the salon world?
Representation is very important. Every person should be able to walk into a salon or shop and feel like someone on that team can provide a service for their specific hair needs. I’ve built a team of women who can do natural hair, treated hair, color, braids, etc. It’s 2021. Stylists should be educating themselves on how to do all types of hair, especially textured hair. It’s important to be able to service all clients and at least be knowledgeable.
What hair trends do you see for 2021?
Solid hair color is coming back — browns, coppers, wine colors. Another trend will be subtle pops of color.
What was the one piece of advice you feel impacted your career or personal life most?
I once had a stylist tell me that I had to choose between my professional life and my personal one — that I couldn’t have both. That made me determined to break that stereotype of professional women. It also made me build a business where my clients are always taken care of, with or without me. I did that by hiring several amazing stylists for my salon so that I never felt pressure to overwork myself or never take time off. It’s important to create boundaries.