“I want to influence those growing into the world. I want them to even be a better person than me and if I can do it through hair I will do it. “
Shavonne Patterson is a woman who immediately makes you welcomed into any space. She lights up when she is working with young people and has a way of making parents feel comfortable even when she is inviting them to share vulnerable things, not as easy task in a world where we all tend to feel we should be more competent than we are. This is particularly true in the world of trans-racial adoption. Those of us who adopt children of color should feel overwhelmed with all we do not know and need to start from a place of learning and admitting we have much to learn. This is not a condemnation but rather an invitation that we can choose to embrace learning and growth for the flourishing of our children.
Styles 4 Kidz partner with families to provide a place where kids can feel their true beauty and identity and where adoptive parents can be educated on how to help shape positive identity and loving and affirming care for their children’s hair & skin. Shavonne is one of the stylists who brings this vision to life. I interviewed Shavonne about her life & work with S4K.
Actually, I was not a haircare person. I studied international business and French and had plans to start businesses but my heart was always to mentor young people. I’m a person who cares about people and I started working in social work. I had a specific desire to help children who had to be removed from their home or who were adopted. I worked in a group home and saw a real need for mentoring and teaching life skills that was not always the priority. Unfortunately, sometimes money becomes more important than people and I realized I did not want to fight this fight. I saw Tamekia Swint (the Founder of S4K) volunteering in the group home and the impact it had on children. Since I had been doing hair since I was 13 (braiding hair for the basketball team at my school) I knew I could volunteer and use this skill to help children. My mom would encourage me “you should do hair!” I knew that regardless of circumstances children should not have to leave their homes without having their hair combed or feeling confident.
How did you get involved with Styles 4 Kidz?
About 3 years after initially meeting Tamekia we reconnected and I learned more about her work and saw that S4K was boosting the esteem of young people. I wanted to be a part of taking the time to allow children to feel beautiful I want to influence those growing into the world. I want them to even be a better person than me and if I can do it through hair I will do it. I know I wanted to be a part of it. Children in the system can feel lost or forgotten and I wanted to help. I have been volunteering and a hair stylist with S4K for 3 years now.
Can you share a story of a time you realized the importance of this work?
There was a mom and daughter who came into the salon and the daughter had more textured and coiled hair. Her mom was clearly uneasy and unsure and the daughter said “Mom, why are we here? I don’t like my hair!” More of the story came out as we talked and I learned she was being bullied at school because she had a lighter completion and had more textured hair and was unsure how to style it. This very situation is why S4K is here; to be a mediator and help adoptive parents understand how to better care for their children’s hair and help boost their self-esteem.
The mom and daughter both began to cry by the end of our appointment as I educated them on her hair and told her “you should NEVER feel bad about your hair because it is beautiful and we can help you enjoy it.” This is why this work is so important to me because I want to uplift those that feel they are not a part of the community they live in. They are family but they don’t look the same and we help them learn from each other and appreciate the differences. As a Black woman I want to help bridge that gap.
We go further than being a hair stylist. I want to help the young people to ask questions about their culture and identity. I think me being raised in my biological family I did not realize just how important this identity piece is for trans-racial families. Taking great care of our hair is part of hygiene and it is full of so many possibilities. This education boosts their esteem because their hair is important- it is our crown and it is magical.
You received Stylist of the Year at the Styles 4 Kidz Gala this year- what did that mean to you?
I had no idea about the award!! I heard Tamekia sharing about a person who leaves her night job to then come in to make sure our clients get the best care and I realized she was speaking about me. I felt deeply appreciated being appreciated. I’m a big cry baby so of course I cried because being recognized is not at all why I do it but I was so grateful. I work to see the smiles but this did help me know that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing and working in my purpose.
How has this work changed you?
Working with young people helps me appreciate myself more in many ways. I am a black woman with textured hair and I went through a process of learning about and embracing my hair and I give a big part of me to whoever I’m serving. This work pumps me up more for my mission.
We ended our conversation sharing a bit about our experiences living in Africa. Shavonne shared that when she lived in Ghana it “touched my spirit. I was finally home.” She shared about the rich wealth of history that lives in Africa and through people from the Diaspora. As a trans-racial adoptive Mama myself I am so grateful for the work of Shavonne and Styles 4 Kidz. Please join them and support their work here.
A visual storyteller that focuses on human emotion & connection. I help families, individuals, & couples to capture their beautiful messy story.
I also partner with humanitarian, non-for-profit organizations, and NGOs share their stories with intention, dignity, & excellence, so they can have a greater impact on their communities.