Cliff is known as the 20-year-old celebrity hair stylist who has taken the game by storm. Currently residing in Atlanta, Cliff sits down with me to talk business, finding his niche and of course hair. Check out our Q+A below.
How did you end up joining the hair industry? Tell us your story.
Hair has always caught my eye. At the age of 3 growing up my father and my grandfather tried breaking me away from playing with dolls for the sake of hair but they just couldn’t. They went from throwing my dolls out, to putting me into sports, anything to pull me away from practicing hair. When I was about 12 years old, any allowance I got I would order mannequins and hide them under my bed from my father.
With these mannequins, I practiced so many techniques like braids, curls, anything you could think of. My mother and father split when I was 14, and my mother was out on knee surgery so I had to make a way to help her pay bills. Using public transportation back and forth on school nights to different clients houses I was making it happen, giving any money made to my mother to help towards pay bills. At first it was a hustle, then it turned into a hobby, then my career.
How long did it take you to perfect your craft?
I feel like it honestly took me about 4 years to perfect my craft looking back. At the time, I thought I was slaying, but now looking back I laugh because I see so much growth from then to now.
Why did you decide to go into business for yourself and what do you love most about it?
I decided to go into business for myself when I was 16 years old. I was doing hair in my basement, not really taking it very serious. I was so good at doing hair but never seen the bigger picture. Everyone in Delaware wanted me to work in their salon but one day a woman name Patience Foster, owner of “Vixated” salon in Wilmington, Delaware reached out to me via Instagram about me working in her salon. At first I instantly thought no. Because I didn’t even think I was ready. I didn’t think I was ready to be with the big dogs. Then on top on that $150 booth rent a week was a lot for me back then to only be 16! At the time, I had absolutely no responsibilities at all, so any money I made, it was spent, as an average teenager would do. But one day I ended up going there just to check it out, and it ended up being my home. The girls in there were so motivating, and not only that but they were even asking me for tips and tricks!
At first I was only charging $60 for sew ins which was very cheap. The owner told me I should raise my prices and that’s what I did. From touring from city to city, to coming out with my own product line to selling hair, a lot of things changed when I became an entrepreneur. As my business grew, I matured, as I matured I lost friends.
You’re known as the 20-year-old celebrity stylist, who are some of your celebrity clientele and what style do you love doing the most?
On Joseline from Love and Hip Hop my favorite look to do on her is a middle part, long jet black bone straight. On rapper Cardi B I’ve done multiple styles, but my most recent favorite style I did on her was a side part frontal with platinum blonde extensions, pressed bone straight. On most of my other celebrity clients I like to do big body curls, or even soft waves. It keeps it fun and glamorous.
As you grown in popularity, what has been the most difficult aspect of it?
The most difficult part of growing in popularity is that I feel like I’m always in the lime light. I feel like I can’t be an average 20-year-old and go party and have fun. I have a business, so therefore no partying for me. Another thing that’s difficult is ignoring the rude Instagram comments. Sometimes people don’t realize that I’m human too, and that I do have feelings. Now I know sometimes my temper can get the best of me, but for the most part, I keep it cool.
Tell us about a hard time in your life you thought you wouldn’t ever overcome & how you did it.
A hard time that I had in my life that I never thought I would overcome just actually happened to me last week. I just freshly moved to Atlanta. I had a U-Haul with a lock on it. I came to ATL on the 4th, but my move in date wasn’t until the 6th. On the 6th when I went to go get my U-Haul, everything was missing out of it. When I tell you everything, I mean every single thing I owned. From hair tools, to hair extensions, to wigs, to color, to clothes, shoes, bags, furniture. I feel as though that was God giving me a wakeup call. I know that he wouldn’t put me in any situation that I can’t handle!
Being so young and successful can be overwhelming, how did you learn to be an entrepreneur and what are ways young adults can do the same?
I basically became an entrepreneur over my high school years. I would definitely say when being an entrepreneur you have to learn to separate business and friendships. Meaning, never go into business with a friend, or another example can be, if it’s really your true friend they will buy whatever you sell to support you, if they don’t, don’t consider them your friend! Also minimize partying, as an entrepreneur you should work first and party later.
Were you always so comfortable with who you are and how did you get to being so comfortable with yourself if not?
I feel like I didn’t get 100% comfortable with myself until I got into the 11th grade. I started wearing makeup and being a little more feminine. In my city, I was one of the first boys to ever do that, so when other boys started doing the same thing it made me feel good because I feel like I was able to inspire them to be themselves. You always have to remember that the things you do shouldn’t be for anyone else, they should be for you! If you like it do it!
As well as doing hair you also sell products and teach classes, why did you decide to go this route?
I felt like teaching classes and selling products because I know a lot of people wanted to know my craft, and know the products that I use. So, I sat and thought about how I can use my talent to educate people and make money from doing so! The richest man has 7 sources of income!
Being a gay male in the industry, I’m sure you deal with haters, how do you handle them?
The funny thing is… I don’t deal with them… if I see any disrespect I instantly block them. Well I’m lying, sometimes I may get you together real quick and clap back, then block you!
What’s next for you? What goals or upcoming projects do you have?
I’m aiming towards television, I want people to see my fabulous life!
What do you want my readers and your supporters to take from this interview?
I want them to understand that nothing happens overnight, so always be patient and talk to God!
Who is someone you’ve always admired or looked to for motivation/inspiration and why?
Someone who I’ve always admired has to be Ming Lee. I just absolutely love the way she carries herself. You never see her in any drama, and she stacks her money and is all about her business!
What advice do you have to aspiring stylists?
Practice makes perfect, and if you are humble and be yourself you will go far in this industry!! Take as many classes as you can to be advanced. Trust me!