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Conversations with Tyla Donnell

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tyla Donnell.

Hi Tyla, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
My family has been an integral part of my journey. At the age of five, my grandmother taught me the sacred art of hair braiding, it came very natural to me and served as a way in which we could bond. By the age of nine, my aunt, a cosmetologist, further assisted me in expounding upon the art. All the while my baby sister Tanese helped me to fine-tune my skills by acting as my live beauty mannequin. In this manner, I naturally entered the cottage industry of indigenous art at the age of eleven and began accepting clients part-time under the supervision of my aunt.

Skipping forward to college, my sophomore year at CSULB, I was prompted by my African Art Professor to submit a visual hair art project for my finals using my classmates as models. During my research I learned about traditional Afrikan Braiding Arts and became fascinated with indigenous styles, in particular the various threads and fibers I observed to be incorporated in these styles. Continuing my research I eventually discovered Dr. Joann Cornwell, now known as the creator of Sisterlocks, while at a demonstration from the Institute of Fine Braidery Art and was introduced to the concept of microlocs. This was my eureka moment. What if I combine microlocing with extensions? This seemingly innocuous art project eventually became the basis of my business.

After college, I continued doing hair part-time up until 2011; the demand for natural hairstyles increased and I desired to have more flexibility with homeschooling my son. In 2011 I fully transitioned to doing natural hair full-time and never looked back.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Traditionally braids and locs have been considered a cottage industry, a social art in which women gather together, often at home, and socialize while getting their hair done. These environments have customarily been void of policies, stylist and client agreements, or structure; unfortunately, this attitude has often caused the natural hair care industry to be belittled as unprofessional and invaluable. This stigma has sometimes resulted in clients not taking my policies, created to facilitate professional and structured environment serious.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I’m a Master Braider and Loctocian that specializes in Micro-sized Braids and Locs. I am most known for Sankofa Microloc Extensions; I am extremely proud of this technique that I developed while attending CSULB. This technique has allowed me to increase the confidence in women with scalp issues, medical conditions, and those working in image-driven work cultures reclaim their natural hair with pride. What sets me apart from my peers is that I place an emphasis on facilitating a cultural experience while providing a professional service.

Is there something surprising that you feel even people who know you might not know about?
People tend to look at the finished product and not what was put in to make it. Most people that know me as an entrepreneur think that I’m filled with confidence and void of any doubts within my business. However, that is far from the truth, in this business, I’ve had a lot of insecurities especially as a single mother with no regular paycheck or benefits.

Contact Info:

  • Instagram: Gimmesankofamicrolocs

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