Now hair this: Meet the people behind three standout manes

By Columbus Alive
From the September 13, 2012 edition

Sara Hussain

Age: 32

Hometown: Troy

Neighborhood: Clintonville

Job: PR Consultant; lead singer and bassist of metal band Nihilitia

Current hairstyle inspirations: Whitney Houston, Kelly LeBrock circa “Weird Science,” Melina from the original “Total Recall”

When she was a teenager, Sara Hussain made a promise to her Muslim father that she would never get a tattoo. Thus, her hair became her body’s canvas.

“The fact that I would never be getting any emboldened me to really play with my hair,” Hussain said. “My hair has always been my standout feature, and I have never shied from taking risks with it. I view it as an extension of my creative spirit, and I believe fully in its transformative power.”

She’s bleached it, Jenny-from-the-Block-ed it, dyed it and straight-ironed it into oblivion.

It wasn’t until recently that she let her natural hair color and curl shine.

“I guess when I crossed 30 I started being more honest with myself,” Hussain said. “I starting being conscious of how much time I spent in front of the mirror.”

Then Whitney Houston, one of Hussain’s heroes, died.

“I was so upset. I went to Dustin [Von, her stylist at Girl & Guy Republic in the Short North,] and asked for something bold like Whitney,” she recalled. “He was like, ‘OK, just trust me.’”

The result: a short cut that requires only some gel and a blow dry. She had never considered going natural with just a well-shaped cut. (She now swears by having a good stylist. No longer does Hussain trek to her former hometown, Washington, D.C., for a haircut.)

“My best hair was hiding in plain sight all along,” Hussain said. “I have no hair regrets, though. If I hadn’t have gone through all those styles, who knows if I ever would have found the curly holy grail. And, I think loving my hair gave me the confidence to go for what I really wanted professionally.”

It helps, too, that she gets special attention from dudes who like “Total Recall.”

 

Kenji Prince

Age: 33

Hometown: Pickerington

Neighborhood: Old North

Job: Owner of Old Familiar Barbershop in Olde Towne East

Current hairstyle inspiration: High-and-tight pompadour. “It looks professional but at the same time it’s not a boring haircut.”

He may look suave now, but Kenji Prince has rocked some seriously risky tops. Like the one he wore to his junior prom — a neon yellow mohawk with black polka dots painted in the side (paired with a baby blue suit, no less). Or that time he grew dreadlocks out for seven years to win a bet with a buddy that he could hold out on a haircut the longest.

Prince has always been “that friend” who cuts his friends’ hair. He didn’t really consider becoming a barber, though, until he’d already gotten his associate degree in music recording and a bachelor’s degree in theater.

Now he runs a place in Olde Towne East that he and his business partner Josh Wilbur call a “destination barbershop.” Old Familiar Barbershop hearkens to the days when guys came to their barber for a cut, a smoke and a joke. Barbershop culture has an aesthetic and past that has always appealed to Prince. Hair is just the beginning of his attraction to the profession.

“I’ve always been a fan of American history,” he said. “Barbershops are the epitome of American history and culture and everything that’s good about American values — people working hard to give a service at a fair price.”

Oh, and that new tattoo under his chin? It reads, “Tip Your Barber.”

 

Jessica “Pinky” Nagel

Age: 25

Hometown: Columbus

Neighborhood: Merion Village

Job: Stylist at Rendezvous Salon in Clintonville

Current hairstyle inspiration: Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

“My hair is my expression of what I want the world to see of me,” said Jessica Nagel. “And if they don’t like it, they can suck it.”

Seem harsh? It wouldn’t if you saw some of the looks people give the neon blue haired Nagel, a natural brunette.

“People just stare, mouths open sometimes,” she said. “One time [on a road trip at a gas station in the south] a guy saw me sitting in the car and asked my friends if I had a job. …To have the guts to walk around like this gives me a certain amount of pride.”

She’s had to earn that pride since she was in middle school. Nagel dyed her hair hot pink (a la Gwen Stefani) only to be sent home by the principal with a notice to dye it a natural-looking color or else. She’s had the nickname Pinky since.

The pink lady does switch it up from her signature hue, though. Sometimes she’ll wear blonde “Regina George wigs through the [OSU Student] Union,” Nagel laughed. Or she’ll choose a color that means something significant to her, such as the Special Effects brand’s Sonic Green and Blue Mayhem currently covering her coif; the combination represents the color of Ovarian Cancer Awareness groups for which Nagel and her fellow Rendezvous stylists are raising money throughout September.

“My hair means the world to me,” she said.