Hair Nadia Vassell Out!
‘Nothing happens before its time’ is one of those adages widely acknowledged in many a West Indian home. And was quite a propos when confirmation of an appointment with Gotham-based hairstylist Nadia Vassell came, early October. Vassell had long been recommended by SO reader, global traveller and noted cardiologist Claudine Lewis. The plus, shared Lewis in between sips of latte at nearby Balthazar, after an early morning appointment with Vassell is that she’s from Montego Bay.
Stepping into the building complete with concierge (great location: 594 Broadway, walking distance to Soho and great shopping), her name is on the building directory, which directs you to Suite #1002 located on the 10th floor. A single buzz later and we’re inside the très chic state-of-the-art salon welcomed by the modelesque looking Vassell. A cursory glance is all it takes really to grasp why her journey thus far, in her own words, has been “nothing short of fulfilling and extraordinary… filled with experiences that have enriched my life in countless ways.
“One of the most remarkable chapters was the opportunity to accompany my dear friend and R&B singer, Chrisette Michelle, on a tour of Iraq and Kuwait. It was an adventure that few would decline, and it allowed us to witness the historic grounds of Saddam Hussein while Chrisette shared her music with the troops. We all came back with plaques and certificates for our participation,” she shared.
There is, too, her hair extension line with a famous actress who, for privacy reasons, she is unable to disclose. Together, they travelled to India to personally inspect hair factories, ensuring the quality of the hair. The launch party took place in St Maarten, where Vassell taught various hair extension techniques.
Reluctant to name-drop (she was at the forefront before IG and X (formerly Twitter) with gentle coaxing we gleaned she has worked with a roster of A-listers like Rihanna, Ashanti, Lil Mama, Danity Kane, Blacc Buddafly, and even styled Natalie Cole’s hair for a Chrisette Michelle video featuring Nas.
“These experiences,” she tells SO, “not only showcased my talent but also allowed me to form enduring connections in the industry.
I had the honour of being featured as a guest expert on the renowned Dr Oz Show, where I shared my expertise and knowledge with a broader audience, further expanding my impact. But my journey isn’t solely about fame and success; it’s also about giving back to the community. Initiatives like back to school drives and providing hair makeovers for women in need have been heartfelt ways for me to make a positive impact on those around me.
“Each summer, I collaborate with an organisation that arranges internships for high school seniors. These interns join me for a meaningful six-week programme, where they gain practical on-the job training and hands-on experience. It’s a wonderful opportunity to provide these young individuals with the skills and insights that can shape their futures positively, and I’m honoured to be a part of their journey toward personal and professional growth.
Currently, I serve as the hairstylist for Brynn Whitfield on Bravo‘s Real Housewives of New York, and I’m also a valued hair consultant for a well-known wig company.
Not bad for a woman from the picturesque and tight-knit community of Orange District in St James, Jamaica. The daughter of Sydney Vassell, who served in the Jamaica Defence Force and later transitioned to a role with the Ministry of Agriculture, where he specialised in budding and grafting, and Elma Smith, who pursued her education at Jamaica Commercial to become proficient in typing.
“I took my first breath in a humble one-room apartment… it’s a moment etched in the memories of my family,” she reveals. “Outside, on the verandah, my father, friends, and uncles eagerly awaited my arrival, passing the time with a lively domino game. Orange District was more than just a place, to me; it was a close-knit family of neighbours who knew each other intimately, where bonds were strong, and a sense of community was paramount.”
“At the tender age of three, I started at our local basic school in the community, where I still fondly remember learning about all the railway stations of Jamaica. As I grew older, I continued my schooling at Catherine Hall Primary, in Montego Bay, with my cousins.
“Later on, I embarked on my high school adventure. I attended Anchovy High from 7th grade through to 10th. During my time at Anchovy High School, I approached my studies with curiosity and a keen interest. While I didn’t excel in every subject, there were specific areas that truly captivated me. I found great enjoyment in English, Spanish, art, food and nutrition, clothing and textile, and typing. My high school experience was enriched by my genuine enthusiasm for these particular fields of study.”
“I immigrated to New York in 1996 to live with my mother, who had relocated to the United States in the late ’80s. I began my new life here in New York, enrolling in high school, graduated, and pursued an associate degree in travel and tourism at a community college here in NYC. I worked briefly as a booking agent, but I knew this role wasn’t for me. The moment I arrived to work, I was already drained. Although I worked briefly in the tourism sector, my passion was in providing exceptional customer service and connecting with people.”
Vassell’s immediate intention was not to own her own salon. “My dream was to achieve success in America, often referred to as the land of opportunity” she countered. “With unwavering determination, I committed to giving my absolute best in everything I pursued, driven by desire to make my dreams a reality. Back in 2010, I embarked on a journey that led me to where I am today — the proud owner of my own salon, which has been thriving for 13 years. Before opening my salon, I started by renting a salon chair through booth rental agreements, gradually building a loyal clientele.
Vassell’s foray into business was motivated by her dad. “Growing up in Orange District, I was deeply influenced by my father, who was a local entrepreneur. He ran a small shop that became a central hub for the community. Whether it was for purchasing groceries, essentials, or even just socialising and playing games, everyone in the neighbourhood frequented his shop. My father even added the joy of music to the mix by playing it there.
“The sense of community and camaraderie that his business fostered left a lasting impression on me. I was inspired by the way he brought people together and provided for their needs. It was this inspiration that fuelled my ambition to create a similar sense of community through my own business venture. I wanted to offer not only products and services but also a gathering place where people could come together, just as they did in my father’s shop. With this vision in mind, I found the courage to open my own business and continue the tradition of community-building.”
Opening a salon on the busiest street in Soho NYC is nothing to scoff at! Indeed Vassell lists it as a high point along with visiting New York City public schools on career day and speaking to the kids about her journey, giving makeovers to women in need, and seeing the look on their faces upon completion.
There have been challenges along the way but Vassell is one who gets on with life. “I have been fortunate not to encounter any significant low points in my journey thus far. While life naturally brings its share of ups and downs, I’ve been lucky to have a largely positive trajectory. Nevertheless, I understand that challenges can also provide opportunities for growth and learning, and I remain open to whatever experiences the future may hold.”
But Vassell is not waiting for the tide to turn. She is instead collaborating with women-owned businesses. “This past New York Fashion Week we hosted a panel discussion here at the salon and the feedback was phenomenal and I’m excited to see where this takes us”.
And her advise to female entrepreneurs:
.Entrepreneurship is a journey filled with both success and challenges, embrace the learning experiences along the way.
•Follow your passion.
•Consistency is key.
•Become an expert.
•Embrace lifelong learning.
•Network and Collaborate
•Set clear goals.
By the way Vassell handles pixie cuts as well as she handles shoulder-length hair. SO will be back.