Beauty | February 12th, 2024
FAMU Alum Redefines Natural Hair Care in Tallahassee
By: Kesley Knox | Staff Writer
In the heart of Tallahassee, Dr. Valencia Jones fosters empowerment, upliftment and education for Black women in the realm of natural hair.
As the founder of Mandisa Ngozi Art & Braiding Gallery, a doctor in Trichology, and an educator, Jones intertwines her passion for psychology with her expertise in natural hair styling, creating a space where black women can embrace their roots.
At 19, Jones moved to Tallahassee and enrolled as a psychology student at Florida A&M University.
While at FAMU, Jones found a passion for braiding and natural hair care. She says her department allowed her to recognize the cultural significance and power of natural hair.
“The psychology department was very instrumental with me and this business,” Jones said. “FAMU was the foundation for my very huge clientele.”
Jones saw the struggles, the beauty, and the need for Black representation in natural hair care.
In 1996, Jones graduated from FAMU with her bachelor’s in psychology and opened the first Black natural hair salon in Florida.
“I felt very strongly about opening Mandisa Ngozi Art and Braiding Gallery to inspire and uplift through natural hair and natural hair care,” Jones said.
Jones’ journey into the world of natural hair care was rooted in her deep appreciation for the health and resilience of natural hair.
Navigating through a college town, Jones has worked with numerous college students and professionals.
One of the biggest misconceptions surrounding natural hair she encounters is that “it’s not professional, and you may not be able to get a job.”
Many college students sit in her chair and cry to her because they feel they’re wasting time and money going natural, fearing it might hinder their chances of securing employment after graduation.
Nevertheless, she motivates them by highlighting the diverse range of professionals she has collaborated with, including doctors, lawyers, and professors, who proudly sport locs and natural hair, thus empowering them.
“It’s just good being able to have that mixed clientele to inspire the younger generation to embrace their natural hair,” Jones said. “I think it builds strength and strength in character.”
Empowerment through Expression
At Mandisa Ngozi Art Gallery, Jones cultivates a space where Black women can embrace their African roots.
The gallery’s aesthetic revolves around African themes, from its decorations and color schemes on the walls to the handmade products it offers. This fosters a feeling of representation, enabling Black women to see themselves reflected in artwork and experience the richness and diversity of African culture.
“At Mandisa Ngozi, you have the chance to sit down, unwind, and share experiences,” Jones said. “It’s a place where we all learn from each other.”
As the celebration of Black History Month continues, Jones encourages women struggling to love their natural hair. She says natural hair is empowering and takes us back to where “we originally come from.”
“Embrace the way you were born. It’s about self-love,” Jones said. “Embrace the creativity and the uniqueness we have.”
For many centuries, Black women have been very fearful about the beauty of natural hair.
Dr Tiffany Packer with FAMU’s Department of History, Political Science, and African-American Studies expressed her natural hair concerns.
In 1990, she went natural for the first time and recalls being fearful.
”I remember feeling very nervous because I was afraid of how people would judge me,” Packer said.
Despite insecurities and ongoing challenges Black women face with their natural hair, Jones is a leader in instilling confidence and celebrating cultural identity.
“You have to find your tribe and your place when it comes to working with your hair,” Jones said.
Mandisa-Ngozi Art & Braiding Gallery has become the place for all things “Black pride” and natural.
Students seeking natural hair care services such as locs, braids, silk presses, and general natural hair care can contact the gallery by phone at 850-561-0330 or via text at 850-94-BRAID to make appointments.