Charlotte Mensah holding trophy

 

Is there anyone who knows Afro hair better than Charlotte Mensah?  The British-Ghanaian has been named Afro hairstylist three times and has over thirty years experience in the industry.  Last year, Charlotte earned her place in history by becoming the first black woman to be inducted into the British Hairdressing Hall of Fame.  And her talents don't stop there!  The award-winning stylist is founder of the highly acclaimed Manketti Oil range, a premium collection of sustainable hair products for afro and curly hair.  Since opening the doors to her Notting Hill salon, Hair Lounge, in 1999, Charlotte has established a client list that reads like a who’s who of celebrities.  From Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Janelle Monae to Eve and Naomi Campbell, Charlotte’s styling expertise is deservedly in demand.

We had the honour of catching up with Charlotte for a glimpse into her world...


What does your job entail?

I don’t actually have a normal job description as my work is so multi-faceted from my salon work to product brand owner, creative brand ambassadorship, academy owner, it all flows into one amazing journey.

 

How did you get into this field?

I started on my hairdressing path doing my three year old sister's hair after our mum passed away when I was thirteen. Like many teenagers, my sister and I were always interested in fashion and visuals, so I started looking at magazines for styles to practice. When a careers officer visited my school, I realised that I wanted to pursue hairdressing as a professional career and they recommended a work-based training course. I was very fortunate to be offered an apprenticeship in one of London's leading Afro salons in the late 1980s, under the tutelage of the God Father of Afro hair the late Winston Isaacs.


What do you like most about your role?

I’ve always enjoyed creating art and I’m so fortunate to be able to have a job that does exactly that. I also love people, and the relationship I have with my guests fills a special place in my heart.

 

How has the industry changed over the years?

Today’s hairdressing is not about chemical services as it was when I started. Clients want to fall in love with their God given textures. With many different styles, trends and new technology, Afro hairdressing has become a sort of science with many people looking for a professional who will be able to provide them with a particular style they may have seen online. More and more women are embracing the wondrous textures of their hair and celebrating its versatility with bodacious fro's, beautiful braids, tempting twists and luxurious locks. My styling philosophy is that I’m an artist and hair is my canvas, and I always want to create an outward beauty that reflects the person’s inner beauty.

 

 woman with silver African threaded hair

You use natural and organic ingredients in your products. What should we look for when purchasing hair care products?

When purchasing hair care products look for products that contain humectants that attract moisture. Always seek out and experiment with the right products that work for you your hair texture.

 

Describe your workspace?

My salon is based in London’s trendy Portobello Road. As the name Hair Lounge suggests, it has been designed to make clients feel relaxed and at home as they sit back with a cup of tea and delicious, homemade cake and biscuits whilst letting us nurture their hair.

It has clean white walls adorned with striking images from my award-winning photographic collections, solid wooden flooring, fresh flowers and plants sourced from local high-end florists, spotlights, a chandelier and a comfy sofa.

As my heritage is important to me, it also features beautiful pieces collected during my travels to Ghana and throughout Africa, including beautiful hand crafted afro combs displayed in a frame. Hairgrips and bobby pins are stored in handmade mahogany bowls from Africa and our products are displayed on a unique unity table. 

 hair products in bottles

 

Where did you grow up?  

I was born in London but grew up in Accra, Ghana

 

Describe a memorable moment in your life.    

Apart from the birth of my two children, another memorable moment was launching the Charlotte Mensah Manketti Oil range. There were so many obstacles that I encountered but I believed that I could succeed and found ways through the different obstacles. I’m thankful to God for giving me the strength, wisdom and guidance. So “If you can imagine it, you can achieve it; if you can dream it you can become it” (William Arthur Ward).

 

What does a typical day look like for you?  

My days are always different.  If I’m not doing a football client, or music video, I’ll be in the salon looking after four to six guests. I do lots of cooking from scratch on Sunday morning whilst listening to hi-life music which sounds like Cuban music mixed with African beats. I always have this on as it reminds me of my youth and growing up in Ghana. I always cook in batches to make all my food for the week, and usually finish cooking around lunch time when I wander around my area as it's so vibrant with its many interesting shops and markets.  


Charlotte Mensah with Ambassador AdichieCharlotte styling Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's hair for Stylist Magazine

 

Talk me through a hobby of yours

I love baking cakes. I make my Grandma’s Pound Cake recipe; I use lots of nutmeg in it. It’s so good and I find the process so relaxing.


Who or what inspires you? 

I have to thank both my grandparents who were an important inspiration to me. When I was young growing up in Ghana, they taught me the importance of a strong work ethic, which has remained with me to this day. My grandmother was an amazing lady; she could do everything from sewing, cooking and she also did hair, but unfortunately she never took any of her skills to a professional level.  This made me think a lot about my own future.



hairdresser consulting with client

 

For more information about Charlotte Mensah and her products, visit charlottemensah.com or follow @charlottemensah on Instagram.   

 

Images: Charlotte Mensah