'More than just hair': How community bloomed for one York City stylist
When she was young, Michelle Wright would crawl up high to reach her mother's bathroom cabinet and stuff every hair product she could get her hands on into a little black bag.
Wright's neighborhood friends would call her up asking if she could do their hair.
She always had one answer: "I'm on my way."
By age 11, she started working at a salon, shampooing hair.
"I would sit in the salon as a little girl — it was something about the energy in the hair salon. It was something about the conversations that the women would have," Wright said. "I remember telling my sister, when I become a famous hair stylist, you don't ask me to do my hair."
After bouncing around at different salons, Wright is now the proud owner of her own studio: Luxe and Mane Salon, located at 342 W. Market St. in York City.
Although she opened her doors seven years ago, the journey since hasn't been easy.
A fire destroyed her building just days after businesses were shuttered because of the COVID-19 pandemic — while she was also recovering from giving birth to a baby boy.
"There were definitely some ups and downs and some rollercoasters that I experienced," Wright said. "I didn't give up. You keep going — you keep fighting. It's something that you do from your heart, and that's all I know."
While many local businesses were opening back up in June 2020, Wright wasn't able to reopen until October.
Knowing she needed to find other sources of income during that period, she turned to developing hair products for her own community.
"Something that I know a lot of women suffer from is alopecia, and all I've known is to service our community," Wright said. "I started testing it out on family and friends, and women who suffer from hair loss — I've been getting great results from it."
Her "Momentum Invigorating Oil" is infused with natural ingredients including almond oil, aloe vera and avocado in order to stimulate the scalp and promote hair growth.
"It's something near and dear to me, because I have clients that I felt it was a necessity to be able to offer them this," Wright said. "I'm happy to be able to take my clients along this journey with me, because they get to see the progress."
Many of Wright's clients were proud followers of her hair-styling journey long before she opened her own studio.
Gloria Brown has been a customer of Wright's for 10 years — following Wright from her old job to her own salon.
"The knowledge and quality in her love for hair keeps me returning back," Brown said. "I"m very particular about my hair and who does my hair, and I hold that person accountable."
Brown said hair is an essential part of who she is.
"That's a part of your first impression, your hair, and you want it to look just the way you feel," she added. "It makes you feel good too, so it's a part of your identity."
Though cutting and shampooing hair may seem like simple tasks, Wright said being a hair stylist is beyond the skills learned in beautician school.
"I get to do exactly what it is that I love, and that's making women feel great and beautiful about themselves," she said. "Being in this industry is more than just hair — it's connecting with women on so many different levels."