As a little girl growing up in the hustle and bustle of Brooklyn, New York, Arlette Pender would spend countless hours watching her mother style the hair of relatives, friends and neighbors in their kitchen. As a “kitchen beautician”, Arlette’s mom pressed, braided, curled, combed, teased, brushed and styled hair to perfection. And the proverbial apple did not fall far from the tree. Arlette credits her mom as being the inspirational force that propelled her into her own foray as a natural hair care stylist. “My mother is the reason I do hair”, she says. At age 12, Arlette informed her mother she wanted to take dance lessons. Knowing money was tight, she told Arlette it would be her responsibility to earn her own money to pay for the lessons. Without a second thought, Arlette began braiding the hair of her friends and other neighborhood children outside on the front stoop, charging $8.00 a pop. And a business woman was born. Arlette Pender is the owner, operator and driving force behind “Hairloks by Arlette”, located in Scottsdale. Her focus is on maintaining and styling the hair of clients who wear their hair natural (hair that does not contain a permanent, nor is relaxed). Arlette specializes in twists, locks, braids and extensions.
Now how does one decide to make the leap from providing natural hair care services in New York, to providing that service clear across the country in Arizona? What inspires one to relocate from a market with a seemingly “endless” clientele of Black folks to Arizona, which admittedly in comparison, not many of our people reside? What makes a budding entrepreneur and single parent uproot everything and literally start from scratch? And what makes the service she provides as a stylist, unique? One has only to converse with Arlette for a few minutes to unearth these answers. According to Arlette, it quite simply stems from her love, desire and commitment to give her clients the best of her gift, skill and talent.
All the hours spent watching and studying her mother style hair, made Arlette’s talent for braiding come naturally. “It came so easy”, she says. Styling hair became a passion she explains. In the early 1980’s she enrolled in a local beauty school in Manhattan but was unable to finish due to giving birth to her eldest daughter. However, undeterred Arlette began a career as a self-described traveling beautician for the next several years, mastering African hair braiding techniques, single-braid extensions, standard braiding, weaves and yes, even that 80’s hairstyle many of us don’t want to admit we wore….the Jehri Curl (somewhere, the members of Full Force and Ready for the World are smiling).
It was during the early 90’s when Arlette says the art of “locking” hair became more popular, and as a relative “unknown” in Brooklyn, she became one of the few pioneers who began styling locks. Not to be confused with so-called “dred locks”, often worn by Rastafarians and other Caribbean cultures. The main difference between the two, Arlette explains, is that dreds are not groomed or styled in the hair’s natural state due in part by adherence to a culture or religion. The hair is not separated, and therefore grows together. Arlette emulated a style of locking based on separating the hair so that the individual locks form separately. As a result, it can be styled in various fashions. According to Arlette, this locking technique was unique. After several stints in various barbershops and salons in New York, Arlette also had the opportunity to lock and style the hair of several celebrities during the years. However, as the popularity of wearing natural hairstyles increased as well as the number of salons and stylists accommodating the demand, she says the industry soon became saturated. That, coupled with the economy and the every day stress of normal life, caused Arlette to make a change.
Stepping out on faith with a desire to start fresh and with extensive styling skills, on June 1, 2005, Arlette Pender moved to Arizona. And, it is a move she does not regret. In fact, she credits Arizona with instilling in her a deeper love and appreciation in working with natural hair, as well as the chance to start, grow and expand her own business. Opening “Hairloks by Arlette” is a dream realized. “Before I came to Arizona, I never thought of doing hair as a gift, just a talent”, she says. As a result, Arlette says her clients have confidence in her because she uses all natural products, she’s adamant about being on time for appointments, and she promises no double-bookings. She schedules one client at a time to ensure quality, and it gives her the ability to focus on that one client. It’s a “bonding” time between Arlette and the client. In fact, prior to an appointment, Arlette schedules new clients for a consultation to establish a comfort level and to connect. It also gives her an opportunity to answer and ask questions and examine your hair.
Locks, as well as other natural styles, create attention and admiration, and contrary to popular belief, Black people’s hair does grow long if it is locked, she points out. Per Arlette, transitioning from relaxed hair to natural is not easy but she assists as a guide every step of the way from the initial consult through follow up appointments. “I establish honesty and expertise”, she says pointedly. Through “Hairloks by Arlette” she has developed seminars for “each one teach one for natural hair and beauty” and wants to hold future hair care seminars to assist White parents who may have Black or Mixed-race children.
With over 30 years experience in the hair care industry, Arlette Pender is not nearly ready to slow down and is constantly ready to give back. This proud mother of two daughters, one son, and grandmother of one, has come a long way from braiding hair on the front steps to being the owner and operator of her own business. But with her gift, she just may have the keys to your locks. To schedule an appointment with Hairloks by Arlette, contact 480-443-7755 or visit www.hairloksbyarlette.vpweb.com or hairloksbyarlette.blogspot.com.