Transcript: Celebrity Stylist to Rhianna & Ashanti, Nadia Vassell, Talks About Her Entrepreneurship Journey

Welcome to the Holistic Wealth Podcast. I’m your host, Kesha Blair wife, mother of three, Author of Holistic Wealth and Founder of the Institute on Holistic Wealth. The show will showcase various experts in the key pillars of holistic wealth. Each week we deliver the best information on how to become holistically wealthy and live your life best life.

Keisha Blair: Today, we have a very, very special guest with us. We have celebrity hairstylist, Nadia Vassal, whose work has caught the attention of many celebrities like Rhianna and Ashanti, several actresses and singers alike. She’s built an extensive portfolio of video and print work and has been featured in major publications, including Essence Magazine, Heart and Soul, Smooth, Uptown Magazine, the Dr. Oz show and many others.

Nadia, welcome to the show. It’s great having you here.

Nadia Vassel: Thank you so much for having me, Michelle. I’m really excited. Great. We’re happy. You’re here. And I wanted to get started very early in your journey because you started mastering your hairstyling techniques in Montego Bay, Jamaica at the tender age of 10. So I’m eager to hear about that because we have lots of audience members from Jamaica in the diaspora, in North America. And of course, we’re just eager to hear how your journey unfolded. So can you tell us the early days how things progress?

Nadia Vassell: I am from the country part of Montego Bay. I’m from a very small community and I can remember growing up in Jamaica and on Sundays now would be the date I’ll be dedicated for my wash and my, you know, my deep conditioning, making them my own concoction at home, my hair mass, my hair treatment. But I remember one particular moment where I began doing other people’s hair and it was an aunt of mine. I did some braids and nobody really taught me how to do the braids. I think I just saw somebody doing it one time and I just understood. I grasped the gist of it. So that’s how it began me sitting on my veranda, down in the countryside of Montego Bay braiding.

Keisha Blair: That’s amazing. And so of course, I’m eager to hear about how you transitioned to the U S and how that went with setting up your salons and then building from there?

Nadia Vassell: I still had to finish my schooling. At one point, I thought I wanted to get into traveling tours because I wanted to travel the world. I wanted to see the world. So I thought the best career for me was to get into travel and tourism. I did that schooling for a little bit, then decided that, you know, that’s not truly what I wanted to do. And I’ve always had like family members, like, you know, try to push me, try to encourage me, because they saw how great I was at doing hair. And you know I just listened. And I said you know, let’s just go to beauty school. I went to beauty school and I think everything just took off from there. I did a little modeling and that’s when I met well-known professional hairstylists. And I just mentioned to her that, you know, I know how to braid.

And then she just invited me to be an assistant and I assisted her for a little bit and she saw how great I was at it and before you know it, she’s giving me clients.

Keisha Blair: That’s great. And then things just blossomed?

Nadia Vassell: One thing led to another, you know, working with her and just seeing her doing photo shoots behind the scenes and just networking and getting connected to other people. And I got an agent and she would book me for celebrity jobs. I felt like I was just thrown into it. I guess that’s the best type of learning, you know. I remember my first job. I think it was for a music video for her and I’m like, I stepped away and I went to the bathroom and I prayed to God. Please just let this pretty much everything that I’ve ever done. I’ve always done that. And I say a little prayer, you know, I’m just thankful and I’m grateful and I just pray that everything turned out well and it always works out in my favor.

Keisha Blair: That’s amazing. And through amazing lessons shared there about faith as well, which is great. And so we hear about the scene in New York. I mean, it’s very competitive, highly competitive, um, in terms of the beauty arena and lots of good talent there, you know, What would you say was the defining thing for you that led to that success? I mean, you mentioned, getting an agent, which I suspect was instrumental as well in terms of getting those celebrity clients, but how did you navigate that cutthroat scene in New York to rise above that and shine?

Nadia Vassell: You know, I think it’s truly just being yourself, just be, be authentic and. And just a lot of times when you’re in this type of field, you have to let the talent shine and not try to own shine up the business side of it. Right now I have one location. I am thinking in the future of possibly opening another location. So currently it’s just one and it’s in New York city. I opened it in 2010, so it’s, it’s been 11 years. And honestly, when I opened my business, it was my savings. You know, that I look to, you know, me working, how many years with celebrities and doing all of the work that I was doing as a freelance hairstylist really contributed to me being seen.

Keisha Blair: Absolutely. And so many entrepreneurs, especially on this show have talked about using their savings, you know, bootstrapping the business because that’s what they’ve had to do. And some of them have had to cut back on their lifestyle, you know, to go on funding the business. As well. So in terms of your celebrity clients, because I know the audience would love to hear about how that worked, and like for instance, working with Rihanna, like how was that? Are you able to talk about any of that?

Nadia Vassell: I’m able to talk about it. It was a great experience. She’s a great, a great girl. I had a wonderful time working with her. This was way before, you know, she was as big as she is now. She used to come into the salon and get her hair done. And then, you know, I used to travel with her to go to MTV and VH1 and do her appearances. So it was just great. It was a great opportunity. And I enjoyed working with her.

Keisha Blair: Sounds like you were her personal stylist and then traveled with her to events as well. Was that the case?

Nadia Vassell: That was the case. Whenever she had, you know, I think VH1 and MTV when they were big back in the days, I used to travel with her too. There was one movie that I did for her as well (hairstyling). I don’t remember the name, but yeah, I used to be wherever they needed me to be. I was there.

Keisha Blair: That’s such a big accomplishment and I know she’s from the Caribbean too, which is amazing, you know, to see the talent from the Caribbean rise to the top. I love it.

Nadia Vassell: Whenever I see another Caribbean woman. I don’t care, which part of the Caribbean they’re from. I’m like, I see you. You’re my sister. You’re my brother.

Keisha Blair: I know exactly. You also mentioned Ashanti as well, so it wasn’t the same with her then? You were her personal stylist and traveled with her?

Nadia Vassell: Yes. I remember one particular incident. I was on vacation in Jamaica and my agent called me. She’s like, “Ashanti needs you”. And I’m like, “I’m on vacation”. She’s like, “she needs you now”. So I jumped on the plane and went to the Bahamas. So I jumped on the plane, went there and then caught up back on my vacation in Jamaica.

Keisha Blair: So was that like just a one-day Bahamas trip and then went back to your vacation then?

Nadia Vassell: Yes. So that was a one-day Bahamas trip and then back to Jamaica and then back to the U.S. Wow.

Keisha Blair: So was it that she was doing a shoot there or an event?

Nadia Vassell: She was attending a golf tournament and when she needed her hair done. So they flew me out to do her hair and then flew me back.

Keisha Blair: That’s amazing. And what do you have any tips, Nadia for stylists? Who want to work with celebrities? Like any advice that you’d have in terms of how they’d go about doing that and attracting it because you had these celebrities coming into your salon, which is a major achievement, but any tips and advice?

Nadia Vassell: You know what times have changed. We didn’t have the technological advances that we have now with social media and all of that. I know when I started out, I had a portfolio. You have to make sure that whatever you put out there is good. It needs to be perfect. So if somebody who’s looking for a hairstylist, on your Instagram handle, I would just say making sure that the images that you put out there are relatable and that they’re professional. And I feel like it’s a lot easier these days, before, you had to reach out to an agent. So I feel like it’s just always be prepared and be ready because you never know.

Keisha Blair: That’s amazing Nadia, so good to hear these stories and I’m just wandering beause you’ve had so many professional achievements. Do you have one moment that you think is like your crowning glory or do you have a moment when things changed? You know, sometimes when you get a moment and something happens to you and that one person says yes, or that one client signs off. And you’re just like, yes, this is the turning point. Is there anything like that?

Nadia Vasell:  I haven’t had a chance to, to really soak it in, even though it’s been so many years, my clients tell me all the time that you deserve this you’re worth it. I feel like I haven’t had a chance to like really sit down and like soak in everything that I’ve achieved. Yes. I was just going, going, going. I’m not sure if I had that moment. You know, this is it, or the defining moment.

Keisha Blair: Which is perfectly logical given the fact that you’ve probably just been going, going, going, and busy and the opportunities just come because of your hard work and you know, word of mouth.

Keisha Blair: So do you think that with celebrities too, it’s the word of mouth in terms of your work?

Nadia Vassell: It is the word of mouth. And honestly, I’m going to mention the part about Dr. Oz, know how I got called for doctor. You know, I hardly pay attention to my Facebook messages and one day I just decided, let me check my Facebook message. And then when I logged in and checked in, it was a Producer asking me if I could be on the show two days later, I’m like, sure. I’m like, how did you find out about me? Just Googling, like just searching and we found you and like, wow, that’s pretty impressive.

Keisha Blair: That’s amazing. That’s such a great opportunity too, right?

Nadia Vassell: In terms of publicity. Oh my God. That was, you know what, I think that was one of the highlights of my career actually, given that I didn’t have to go out and ask anybody to be on a show. They actually did their research and decided to pick me to be on the show. So I feel like at that moment I felt like, okay, you know, when people are recognizing the work that you do.

Keisha Blair: Yeah, absolutely. As you know, I’m a big proponent of female empowerment, especially economic empowerment for women. And through my book, Holistic Wealth, I talk a lot about that. I talk about my one-year sabbatical in Jamaica too. And so one of the things that I’ve been really pushing is this whole concept of the personal financial identity, the Personal Financial Identities framework that I introduced in the book, Holistic Wealth. And then through COVID-19 so many readers came back to me and they’re like, well, how do I identify my own personal financial identity? You know, how will I know what I am and what I identify with? And so during that first lockdown, I tried to hammer it out to help the readers, identify for themselves through a free quiz, which is posted on the Institute on Holistic Wealth website. I’m really interested in hearing your results, especially in light of your entrepreneurial journey and even in your personal life, in terms of how you manage your own money and you make your own spending decisions. And even things that might have impacted us throughout our journey, you know, as kids growing up or, you know, as adults. So I’m eager to hear what your results were in. Can you just give us some thoughts on what you think and how you see it playing out in your daily life?

Nadia Vassell: So I’ve already doubled down on the book and I’m reading it and I’m definitely rocking. I am a minimalist.

Keisha Blair: Wow. That’s amazing. And are you surprised that you would probably see that?

Nadia Vassell: Okay. As far as like living spaces, I like, for example, at home, I don’t like too many furniture, just, you know, things that we don’t need. So I’m a minimalist and doc and that right with spending, you know, I like to buy quality things. That’s going to last a very long time, or if it cost a little bit more, I will pay a little bit more so I can wait for a longer time.

Keisha Blair: Yeah, no, for sure. And in terms of your business too, cause I’m trying to picture this salon, but I don’t have a mental picture.

Nadia Vassell: You know, every, so often I try to do some updates in the salon and. Did a few updates and clients are just walking in. They’re like, wow, what did you do with that? You do over the entire space. So, you know, it’s a clean professional setting, with nice furniture –  Minimalist again.

Keisha Blair: Yes. I would say that that’s yeah, that would be amazing to see, because, especially because you’ve had celebrity clients coming in over a long period too. Was there any pressure there? To provide any amenities or, specialist services or even special products that they would require?

Nadia Vassell: There was no pressure to accommodate. I just wanted it to be welcoming to everybody and not just celebrities. So I wanted like folks who are not celebrities to still come in here and probably feel like they’re a celebrity, you know, they’ll give them like the celebrity treatment. I don’t think there was any pressure to include anything. And it sounds like you’ve had clients, you know, even the celebrity clients, themselves who have been amazing just in terms of their own personality and not being overly demanding and really put you at ease too. So I think maybe it speaks to the nature of your clients too.

Nadia Vassell: Yeah. I’ve had some really, really great celebrity clients. Chrisette Michelle, she was one of my clients as well. You know, she used to visit the salon, and she’s still a very close friend of mine. I know that they truly believe in my craft and my talents because they truly believe that I’m capable of executing whatever styles they want it.

Keisha Blair: And over time, did you just know what they wanted or is it that there’s a process of them telling you upfront?

Nadia Vassell: I think it was a collaborating coming together and trying to. What hairstyle would look good for a particular event? What hairstyle would look good for a particular outfit? So it really depends on where they’re going and what they’re doing. And then we come up with a style for whatever it is that you’re doing. It could be a music video. You know, it depends on what they’re wearing. It depends on what the song is. So I think we collaborated and we came together and we decided what hairstyle would be best.

Keisha Blair: Thank you so much for being on the show. It was amazing having you here and hearing your experience. And, you know, the journey from Jamaica to this point. Is there anything else on the horizon for you that you want to tell the audience about? Any future plans?

Nadia Vassell: I also have my own hair care line, my own hair care products, and I am planning on launching three additional products that align, which will be a leave-in conditioner, a hair mask and the name of that brand, I call it, it’s called hair-freeq, and it’s spelled F R E E Q. And I’m also considering possibly opening a pop-up shop or maybe a salon  somewhere in New Jersey, I’m not sure yet, we’re still thinking about it.

Keisha Blair: Okay. sounds good. And congrats on the expansion of the haircare line and we’ll be sure to be looking out for that. And of course, whenever the products come to Canada.

Nadia Vassell: I will personally send you some!

Keisha Blair: Awesome. I can’t wait for that. And it was amazing. And having you, Nadia, where can people find you like on social media and your way?

Nadia Vassell: Yes. So if somebody wants to purchase my product or they want to schedule an appointment. My website is And if they want to keep up with what I’m doing in the salon, my Instagram handle is @NadiaVasellSalon.

Keisha Blair: Perfect. And once again, not yet, it was amazing having you here and hearing your story.

Nadia Vassell: Yeah. So thank you so much for being here. Thank you so much, Kesha for having me.

Keisha Blair: Thank you for joining us this week on Holistic Wealth with Keisha Blair. Make sure to visit our website where you can subscribe to the show on iTunes, Spotify or via Rs so you will never miss a show. While you’re at it, if you found value in this show, we’d appreciate a rating on iTunes or if you simply tell a friend about the show that would help us out too. Are you a member of the Institute on Holistic Wealth? If not, what are you waiting for? Go to Institute on Holistic Wealth/memberships to choose your membership plan and join as a member. You get so many perks, free worksheets, advice coaching, and a member’s workshop to design an intentionally designed life. Do you need to figure out your life purpose? Take the Build Your Life Purpose Portfolio, an online self-paced course. Are you struggling with all your money decisions? Take the free financial identities quiz and then take the personal financial identities course. Did you recently suffer a breakup job loss or experience the death of a loved one? Take the Holistic Healing online course. Do you need an overall plan to achieve holistic wealth? We will help you figure out your Holistic Wealth Blueprint and of course, if you want to start making money by helping others achieve Holistic Wealth, become a Certified Holistic Wealth Consultant. Regardless of what career you’ve got, the Institute will show you how to increase your income and walk in your purpose. The sooner you join the sooner you start to achieve a more holistically wealthy lifestyle and you’re going to want to stay for a very long time so go to Institute on Holistic Wealth/memberships to join. If you haven’t read the book yet pick up a copy of the award-winning best-selling book Holistic Wealth: 32 life lessons to help you find purpose prosperity and happiness