When’s the last time you loved your hair? If you could change anything about your hair, what would it be?
These aren’t questions from the latest Buzzfeed quiz or from a L’oréal commercial. These are what Chrystal Graves-Yazici asks her clients as she helps them embrace their beauty regardless of hair type or skin color.
“Hair is hair, and it doesn’t have a skin color,” Graves-Yazici* says. “I do all hair, which has always been my philosophy. So you diagnose the hair, and you go from there.”
Her salon, Chrystal L. Hair & Makeup, is all-natural. She uses vegan, gluten- and carcinogen-free products. Graves-Yazici says it’s important to use healthy options on her clients and make sure they leave the salon with the knowledge to use natural products at home with confidence.
Graves-Yazici didn't start out in cosmetology, but when one of her friends opened up a salon, she jumped in to help. At the time, Graves-Yazici was an administrative assistant for the University of Missouri office of undergraduate research.
Her friend noticed her skill and suggested Graves-Yazici take the hair business seriously and go to cosmetology school. Graves-Yazici had a different idea: “I don’t want to spend $17,000 to learn what I already know,” she says. “I was pretty familiar with the makeup of cosmetology schools and the segregation within them. So, I knew that I would most likely learn about the hair of people who look like me, which I felt like I had a pretty good grasp on.”
Instead, Graves-Yazici started an 3,000-hour apprenticeship. She eventually rented a salon booth and managed a salon part-time for nearly three years. Then, she decided to venture out on her own.
Upon opening her salon in 2011, Graves-Yazici was determined to help her clients feel empowered to care for their hair naturally. That’s because of how quickly products are absorbed through the scalp and into the bloodstream.
“Being mindful of those things, I knew that I wanted to try to do this as healthy as possible,” Graves-Yazici says.
As a mother of three, being her own boss gives her the flexibility to be more involved in her childrens’ lives as they grow up. It has also given her the flexibility to be a catalyst for social change in Columbia.
Over the years, Graves-Yazici has taken note of the women she encounters throughout her day. She pays attention to what makes them stand out, where they work and how they help the community.
Wanting these women to be role models for Black and Brown girls in Columbia, Graves-Yazici co-founded a nonprofit called The BOLD Academy, a youth empowerment program for girls of color. The girls in the program participate in leadership development and enrichment activities, all geared toward helping them achieve social and economic equity. While they’re in the program, the girls go on weeklong visits to local colleges, where they engage in everything from art and STEM to leadership and personal development. The academy also starts a 529 fund, which is an investment fund for the post-secondary education, for each girl in the program.
One good thing to come out of the pandemic is the extra time it allowed Graves-Yazici to develop an online coaching platform that will help stylists diversify their business and understand all hair textures. She plans to launch the site in mid-July.
“There is a really big conversation that’s happening about segregation and about cosmetology schools’ responsibility to teach everyone the importance of understanding the diversity in hair textures,” she says.
Graves-Yazici is looking forward to the website launch and to combatting the segregation within hair education. Each day, when clients are in her seat, no matter the hair type, she wants to help them embrace their true selves.
“I feel like as humans, when we can be our authentic selves, we are happy,” Graves-Yazici says. “So whatever that looks like is why I’ve always wanted to do this.”
CORRECTION: Graves-Yazici's name and business location have been corrected since this story was first published.