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Meet Lacy Redway: the Celebrity Hairstylist Changing the Industry and Mastering Motherhood

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You already know Lacy Redway. Well, you at least know her work. A multifaceted hairstylist, Lacy’s artistry has graced the covers of Vogue, W Magazine, and Essence (to name a few) and has turned heads at A-list red carpets and events. From the most intricate yet sleek ponytail you’ve ever seen on Hunter Schafer, to braided bangs on Alicia Keys and Tracee Ellis Ross’s Pattern launch hair—Lacy, much like her work, cannot be put in a box.

Multidimensional hairstylists like Lacy are what the industry needs. No crown is too straight, too kinky, too long, or too short for her to work her magic on. While many actors, models, and on-air talent have found that beauty professionals don’t quite know how to handle their unique textures, the possibilities are endless when your hair is in Lacy’s hands. We caught up with the celebrity hairstylist, entrepreneur, and mother to see beauty through her lens.

Discovering Her Own Beauty

All of our beauty stories begin somewhere in childhood, whether it’s watching our mother’s nighttime skincare routine or learning who the “prettiest girl” at school was. For Lacy, her beauty journey began pure and simple in Jamaica, with the ritual of wash day.

“Like a lot of black girls can relate to, every Sunday was wash day,” Lacy recalls. “My sister would sit me down in front of her and do my hair in what we now call bantu knots—that’s how we would stretch our hair. While it was wet, she would comb it, part it, and wrap it in little buns to dry. That was just prep. Then she would come style it in braids and little barrettes and bobos.”

Later, when Lacy’s mother sent for her siblings and her father to join her in the United States, beauty began to take a new form. Her mother and father, who were once a nurse and a police officer in Jamaica, now had the new honest careers of a babysitter and a gas station attendant, and Lacy was faced with what we all know too well in America—comparison.

“I did not have a great perception of my beauty growing up,” she shares. “When I first came to the U.S, I was coming here as a foreign child. I had my accent, and I just wish I knew that people with accents are cool as hell, but I didn’t. As a kid, you want to fit in and you don't want to be different. So I worked to lose most of my accent, and I got a relaxer when I was just eight or nine years old, causing all of my hair to fall out. Not only did I not have the cool shoes and clothes, but I also had short, broken hair. On top of that, having darker skin, I was taught a lot about the relationship of long hair and fair skin to beauty. Even on black TV shows and movies, the love interest always had light skin and long hair. I finally learned to embrace my own beauty as an adult when I unlearned those standards.”

The representation of darker women on TV and in magazines with various hair textures was just not present for Lacy growing up, but her desire to beautify herself sparked a new adventure for her. “When I lost my hair, I became my own hairstylist, and I taught myself how to do weaves very early on.” Her natural knack for doing hair would open up more opportunities for herself than she could imagine.

Paving a Lane in the Beauty Industry

As an immigrant child, Lacy didn’t exactly have beauty entrepreneurs to look up to, but she did learn the value of hard work. “In junior high school, I started braiding hair on others, and I discovered that it was a skill that I had. This was the era of Allen Iverson and uniquely designed cornrows. So I would charge kids like $10 or $15 to do their hair, and I became an entrepreneur before I even knew what the word entrepreneur meant.”

“I started working in a salon by age 15 and became a shampoo girl along with my braiding on the side—but I really wanted to do fashion public relations (PR). I remember seeing TV shows and thinking that was the coolest job. So I went to college for communications, but a stylist at the salon I worked at also did photoshoots, and I began to assist her. I got to see what it was like on set and I fell in love with the process—you know, doing the hair and then seeing the final results on screen or on a product packaging. I knew I wanted to be the lead stylist on set some day, so I decided to start my own portfolio.”

“I hired a friend as a model, and then I hired a photographer and a makeup artist, and I produced my first photo shoot. This was the era of Myspace and another platform called Black Hair Media where black women would go to just talk about hair and their needs. It was a great resource before YouTube and Instagram. I also used Model Mayhem where I would barter services with other creatives to grow my portfolio. On that platform, I became really well known for my hair extensions work and women from London, Bermuda, or Texas would come to me in New Jersey to get their extensions done.”

“While I was on these platforms, I also decided that I wanted to be a trained hairstylist. At this point, I knew how to do hair, but I didn't have any proper technique or science behind it. So I decided to leave traditional college, and I went to Aveda Institute in New York City to get my license, all while I had already started my career. I was a freelancer at Bloomberg television, so I went to school at night. I would have a photo shoot at like 8:00 a.m. and then I had a hard out by about 4:30 p.m., so I could lug my kit on the subway to school. Then I would have class from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. and get a few hours of rest before I would have to be at the news station at 3:00 a.m.. That was my grind for about a year.”

“At school, I learned how to do color, how to cut properly, and how to correct mistakes. I did finger waves and everything else the state board required, but I never ever worked on women of color. That’s why many trained professionals still don’t know how to do black hair. I tell aspiring hairstylists to assist, assist, assist! There are so many ways to get to an end result. Learn from different people and work with different types of hair.”

On Motherhood

While the media might have shaped a warped perception of beauty for Lacy as a child, she is determined to share a new message as a mother. “I did not have the relationship with beauty that I should have had at a younger age. That's why as a parent to a black son, I give him so much space to discover his identity and his own beauty. I remind him of how beautiful he is and how great his hair is. We recently started twisting it during the pandemic, and I want to make sure he defines beauty for himself and not the standards of what everything else tells us that we should be.”

Though Lacy has built a career that allows her to essentially create her own schedule, it doesn’t make being a working mom any easier. “Honestly, on some days I don't know where I get my strength from,” she shares. “Sometimes you can go into autopilot because you have no choice but to get things done. Even through the pandemic, I saw so many people on Instagram discovering recipes or doing TikTok challenges. Meanwhile, I was trying to do home school. I never had the chance to get bored! Being a working mom in this industry can be really challenging. In the beginning, I was actually ashamed about being pregnant, and I wanted to hide it because I didn’t want it to change the way that people hired me. I didn’t want them to think ‘oh, she’s a mom, so she’s busy. Don’t call Lacy.’

“Thankfully, I have my parents who are so helpful, and I coparent with my son's dad. If I didn’t have that foundation, I don’t know how I would have been able to do it. I used to worry about how motherhood would affect my career but really, it should be celebrated! Sometimes I feel such mom guilt, especially if I’m working consecutive days in a row, and I don’t get to see much of my son—especially before the pandemic when I would travel globally. You feel so much guilt because you want to be present, but it’s important to teach your children work ethic. My son gets to see me working hard and making a difference and he’s so proud. He’ll brag to his friends that his mom works with people from Marvel, and having him see me make an impact makes it all so worth it.”

On Representation in the Beauty Industry

Lacy’s work is so much bigger than just hair. It’s allowing women of all ethnicities, shades, and textures to be seen and to take up space in a way that is authentic to them. She shares, “I want brown girls to know that we are worthy and capable of anything that people tell us we cannot do. It’s my favorite part of the journey. I feel like I’ve been an underdog throughout my career and have had people not believe in me, but I’ve gone on to surpass those expectations.”

“I love my work,” Lacy continues. “I get to work with so many different hair types and textures and that has been so important to me. As black women, we get pigeonholed into one type of job so often, so we’re constantly having to prove ourselves. There’s such a misconception, and I don’t know where this idea came from, that men are better hairdressers than women. Think of the biggest professional hair care lines you’ve heard of: Paul Mitchell, Frederic Fekkai, Oribe Canales. All men! I want to change that.”

“To go from not seeing myself represented to impacting the red carpet is a big deal. A few years ago, you never saw textured hair on the red carpet and Zendaya even was criticized for wearing faux locs, but that gave the average woman an okay to wear protective styles to work. All of those red carpet or editorial beauty moments of representation trickle down into daily life. It’s important for me to uplift my community and to create more opportunities. Pat McGrath was that role model for me with the change she’s made in the makeup industry and she’s also of Jamaican descent. So now, to have younger artists contact me and tell me that I have an impact on them similar to what I saw in Pat McGrath is really special.”

To Aspiring Hairstylists

Lacy built her career by connecting with her peers, not being afraid to showcase her work, and assisting various hairstylists. She credits her success to her constant desire to learn. “Even today, I’m always open to taking classes,” says Lacy. “There are always new techniques that are coming out. We see that today with the new wig trends—these are not the same wigs from 10 years ago. I will never stop learning.” When she was first trying to get her name out there, Lacy gave her information to various agencies and established hairstylists, but it was her relationship with other assistants that opened the most doors for her. Being a quality assistant is a value that has gotten a bit lost in our Instagram age.

“Today it can be really challenging to find assistants that understand how to be on set and work professionally in different environments,” Lacy explains. “Social media is great, but a lot of hairstylists today have birthed their careers through Instagram or YouTube and they’re super talented, but it’s so different than working with other people. You have to please the photographer, the talent that’s in your chair, and your client who put the shoot together while also staying true to your brand. What I do like about this new crop of hairstylists is that they understand how to make a name for themselves, and I think that’s smart. But a lot of people don't have the patience in the process anymore. Instagram success has everybody wanting to be famous and wanting things to happen quickly. Take your time and climb the ladder—every step up is still important.”

Not sure where to start? Here’s Lacy’s advice: “First, learn who you are as an artist. Don’t try to emulate someone else’s aesthetic or follow every trend you think is sellable. Slow down, take your time, and discover who you are. Also, study history and understand how to reference different hairstyles and techniques according to different time periods. And finally, find your own lane because no two people have the same journey. Even if someone is able to emulate your style or be similar to it, what makes you unique is everything else that you bring to the table. What do you bring to the room? That ‘it’ factor is what adds to your value. Be someone that is easy to work with, professional, and timely. Have a kit that makes you worthy of your rates. And most importantly, be patient. Things don’t happen overnight, and things that are lasting take time to be built.”

Lacy has seemingly done it all in the world of celebrity hair, but she’s just getting started. “This is kind of cliche, but the sky's the limit,” Lacy says. “I don't want to put any limitations on what I can or cannot do. I've now been dabbling into the film and television space, and I’m excited about that. Previously, I was told you had to pick one lane, but now I know I can do it all. I know every hair type, so don't put me in a box.”

Want more Beauty Through the Black Lens? Learn how Mented Cosmetics co-founders created a makeup brand with melanin in mind, see how Ndeye Peinda is breaking the stereotypical beauty mold, and hear from podcast host Brooke DeVard Ozaydinli about building an inclusive beauty community.

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About the author
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Kindra Moné
Kindra Moné is a writer and content creator who works with brands and magazines to create culturally relevant fashion and beauty content. She is also the founder of The Moné Edit: a community and podcast at the intersection of style and wellness.
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Article Last Updated April 27, 2021 12:00 AM