It’s common knowledge that the beauty industry has rarely catered to women of color but Jessica “Jake” Tafoya is a trailblazing Latina who took matters into her own hands. Tafoya launched The Body Labb and the Mod Labb, beauty salons for skin and hair, respectively, and in early 2020 she’s opening The Mod + Body Labb, a 7,100 sq.ft. salon that combines both hair and skincare for a full-service beauty experience for women of color in Dallas, Texas.
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The Dallas-based entrepreneur grew up dealing with humidity that caused her hair to always get frizzy. Battling the surrounding environment was one struggle but it was compounded by the lack of salons that knew how to handle her naturally curly hair.
Pursuing a career in beauty was a consequence of her love of all things beauty and the glaring absence of salons for women with hair like hers.
“As part Native American and Latina, my hair texture and skin tone is unique. It had always been difficult to find a professional skilled enough to know how to cater to my long, coarse hair and olive skin,” Tafoya told HipLatina. “After a couple of years of experience under my belt, I decided to transform that gap into an opportunity and create my business.”
A fourth-generation Mexican American Texas native, she initially studied fashion and merchandising at the Art Institute of Dallas but then decided to put all her energy into beauty and move on to the Ogle School of Hair, Skin, and Nails.
The turning point for me came in hair school, early on I knew I loved being behind the chair but didn’t know my place in the industry until a new client sat in my chair scheduling a simple treatment and style. She saw herself and immediately started to cry, I was so scared I had done something wrong, but she reassured me the tears were happy ones. No one had ever cared for her hair the way I did. I remember sitting in the salon chair shortly after and had an overwhelming feeling of joy. At that moment, I had found my place. I was able to make someone love what they saw in the mirror and it was the most rewarding feeling.”
The Mod Labb is a hair salon that offers curl cuts and hair extensions in addition to all other hair services while the Body Labb is all about skincare and cosmetic services including brow shaping and makeup. The Mod Labb started as a 400 square-foot space that she opened three years after graduating from hair school in 2010 with only two employees at just 25 years old. She later opened the Body Labb across the street and now she’s opening the Mod + Body Labb in Arlington in the Dallas-Fort Worth area to better serve the community.
According to Tafoya, they looked at customer analytics and found that several clients were driving from the Arlington-Fort Worth area which is an hour away from their Oak Cliff location, so she decided to come to the customers with this new location.
She has not only opened her doors to clients of color, 100 percent of her staff is made up of people of color and educated and trained to cater to any woman that visits the salon, according to Tafoya. This gesture is more profound than the average salon goer might realize when women of color continuously struggle to find adept stylists.
Earlier this week, Khalisa Rae tweeted about getting charged extra at a salon because they needed to use extra product on her “textured” hair. She received several responses from women who’ve experienced something similar and it wasn’t just women of color, but curly haired women in general.
“They showed me there’s really no equality existing now in the beauty industry,” Rae told Glamour magazine. The magazine also explored how women sometimes have to travel thousands of miles to find a salon that can properly work on their hair.
I've had this problem at several salons. I call them white salons. They always quote me at 200 for the thickness and texture of my hair or refuse to do my hair. I'd have to drive 40 mins to an hour for a salon that would accept me but luckily I finally found a good salon
— Friendly Neighborhood Jameelah (@MamaMeelah) October 16, 2019
Tafoya believes it’s because stylists don’t generally take the time to educate themselves on different hair textures and colors other than their own.
“It is a common misconception that a colorist or stylist should only learn how to do hair/skin similar to their own and that’s where they need to realize that the more diverse skillset they have as a hairstylist/makeup artist, the more they’ll be able to serve more of our communities,” she explained.
She recommends apprenticeships in salons where there are opportunities for people of color to rise and judging by the number of women of color-owned businesses that are steadily growing, there’s a better chance of that now more than ever.
Women of color account for 1,625 of the new businesses opened every day over the past year for a total of 89 percent, Fast Company reports, with one of the primary businesses being beauty salons.
“Your skin color and gender does not define your capability. Learn and choose to love and accept yourself with all qualities that bring forth positivity,” she shares with aspiring entrepreneurs. “The toxic narrative that still remains of ‘not being enough’ needs to be changed and we can do so by celebrating the goodness that is all around us starting with ourselves.”
In order to better inspire and help others, she recently launched a video series called After Hours with Jake where she’ll discuss professional and personal topics to ideally encourage viewers to reach their potential.
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Truth is: You might not know me personally. You might not know my heart, or my views on life and death, you might not know I’m sensitive, & I’m scared to sleep in complete darkness, i love the sounds of trains bc it reminds me of my hometown. You might not know I’ve been broken, or that I don’t want love if it’s filled with fear, but most importantly…you might not know that I’ve been lost too, or that through the darkness I found light within myself, and it led me to God & all the good people in my life. You might not know these things because “you don’t need to” all you need to know…is that your not alone…and that its ok, because without pain, and loss, without failure, you might not ever have the chance to find your true self, and true happiness within. 🙏🏼
“I recently made it a priority to find time and explore who I am behind closed doors with the help of others,” she says in the trailer for the series, where she opens up about how her work has meant she’s sacrificed time with her son and relationships.
“The biggest challenge has been finding balance and it’s still something I struggle with today. There must be mental hours of operation daily or eventually, you will run out of gas.”
But she’s showing no signs of stopping in 2020. Not only with the opening of The Mod + Body Labb but with the launch of The Mod Academy, an online beauty educational platform for cosmetology students and salon professionals. The platform will consist of evolving content made by and for innovative, beauty enthusiasts focused on hair and skin services.
Her entrepreneurial spirit is partly a result of growing up with parents who started a law firm business when she was 11 years old and through the years she saw how they expanded to multiple locations throughout the state.
“Being able to have a front-row seat and watch the ins and outs of growing a business from the ground up, it opened my eyes to the opportunity I would have when opening my own business,” she said. “So you can say that my roots have empowered me to create a business that resonates and caters to every woman, always embracing and enhancing their features. At the end of the day, if you want something, you need to be willing to create it.”