Today we’d like to introduce you to Marva Stokes.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Marva. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I learned how to braid when I was around 7 years old and literally used my cousin’s and friends for practice. I braided hair all throughout elementary, junior high, and high school. I remember sending girls home from school with different hairstyles than what they came to school with. I initially said that I wanted to get my cosmetology license and a degree in business management but would go back and forth with other occupation ideas. At one point, I was tutoring kids and working as a site coordinator for a charter school, thinking that my next step would be to get my credentials to teach. I quickly decided that wasn’t for me and took a job as a banker for Hustler Casino. Doing hair was always a side job, but it was at the casino where certain individuals started to question me being there as they thought I was talented in doing hair and should be doing that full time. I prayed and asked God to help me if it was his will for me to do his full time. I enrolled in Aveda Institute full time while still working at the casino full time. It was exhausting. I was only able to do both for about 4 months before I decided to quit my job and focus only on doing hair.
I’m proud to say that I’ve been completely freelance with no other sources of income for 4 years now. While at Aveda, I entered into a student contest for NAHA called Beacon. I was an honorable mention and had the awesome chance to experience a side of the beauty industry that I did not know existed and that had very few African American industry icons and leaders. I decided then that I wanted to be one of the top hairstylists in the game. Also, while I was still in school at Aveda I took my first job on a film set as a hairstylist and the period for the short film was set in the 1940s and that’s where I fell in love with working on set. I love period hair styling and bringing characters to life.
From there, I made a commitment to myself to get into the union to work on TV & Film. I graduated from Aveda in June 2015 and the journey was just beginning to build a portfolio and resume. I did so many jobs for free for the experience and possible connections. I tell people all the time that currency isn’t the only form of compensation and to cultivate really good relationships with people. One connection leads to the next connection. I prayed for a mentor and God lead me straight to Camille Friend. I took her “Hair Scholars: Hollywood Hairstyling and Makeup” class in Atlanta in 2016 and she’s been mentoring me ever since. She’s been a great source of help in techniques, skills, and support mentally, spiritually, and physically. Mentorship is definitely earned. Just because you ask doesn’t always mean you will get it. You have to work for it and even show the potential mentor that you really want it but you must also show how you can be of value to them as well. How I got to where I am today is solely because of God, a good attitude, mastering my craft and a great mentor.
Has it been a smooth road?
Definitely hasn’t been a smooth road. Some of the challenges I faced was how to get film jobs in Los Angeles. One of the ways I resolved that was signing up for craigslist alerts for hair and makeup. Any posting that had the words hair, hairstylist, makeup, and makeup artist would be sent to my email. I created an email template with a generic email stating who I am, what I can do (value), and why they should hire me. I would customize the email according to posting (availability, rate, etc). I got a lot of legit jobs and some nutty ones as well from Craigslist. The jobs have definitely helped with learning how to deal with all sorts of different ethnicities and cultures. I also had to learn (still learning really) how to negotiate rates. It’s been trial and error. Also finding genuine people in the industry to learn from and collaborate with. I did a lot of volunteer events and met other artists who I still work with today. A good 75% of gigs have come from other hair and makeup artists, whether it’s needing help on a job or referral.
We’d love to hear more about your business.
I work under my name “Marva Stokes” as a session stylist and set Hair & Makeup Artist. Meaning I do hair & makeup for film productions that range from commercials, music videos to short films and movies; and I also cater to a personal clientele when not on set. Because I work on set, I have to know how to do hair and makeup for all ethnicities. For my personal clientele, I’m known for and specialize in braids, extensions, and styling. I’m most proud of the fact that I have a very diverse portfolio and clientele. I believe what sets me apart from others is my spirit and energy. It’s not something that can be explained but definitely experienced to know what I’m saying. That plus my meticulous attention to detail, style, and attitude. Frankly, it’s God in me.
Is our city a good place to do what you do?
Los Angeles is a great place for the beauty industry! This is where Hollywood is! The making of stars! I do wish our city was more forthcoming with how to get started as I didn’t have anyone to consult with early on.
- Website: MarvaStokes.com
- Phone: 1-310-200-5724
- Email: info@MarvaStokes.com
- Instagram: _Marstar