After Working in Nigeria’s Hair Industry for 28 Years, Hairstylist Zubby Definition Shares Tips for Newbies.
Hair styling has been a major part of African culture for women for decades. In recent times, we have seen the massive evolution of hairstyling in the beauty industry, the creation of breathtaking hairstyles and patterns for fashion shows, exhibitions, photoshoots and so on. Modaculture’s Sophia Edisi had a conversation with celebrity hairstylist Azubike ‘Zubby Definition’ Enoma, who has been in the beauty industry for 28 years and has worked with several A-list celebrities and fashion events.
The 49-year-old industry icon takes us into the scene of hairstyling and how he has managed to create a career and name in the beauty industry.
Modaculture: Having been a hairstylist in the industry for so long, what is it about your style of work that makes you stand out from the crowd?
Zubby: I do a lot of things and it’s beyond you knowing the job or your creativity. Your attitude to work goes a long way and I think that is the most important thing. Your appearance, the way you relate with your client and how you carry your client. Also, doing a lot of research on hair and new styles. I feel so much that what I have as an edge over other people is the way I take my job. No job is a common job so I always take every job I do seriously because you can never tell whom you are going to meet or attend to. I love to leave a very beautiful impression and although there might be some clients that are very hard to please, at the same time I try to only dwell on the good side of that person.
Modaculture: What are the major challenges you face as a hairstylist dealing with clients?
Zubby: I won’t say I don’t face challenges but I think I’ve become conversant with them. One thing that always occurs is that if I face challenges at the beginning of meeting a client, by the end, we will become the best of friends. I’m not saying that every client poses a challenge but having been in the industry this long, I give room for it and I forgive on time unless it’s becoming unbearable but if I do meet an unbearable person, it would only last for that day. Then coming to the entire challenge that everybody who has a business in Nigeria faces – electricity issues, unbearable bills, taxes, inflation of rent or whatnot, we have to forge ahead.
Modaculture: Is hairstyling a career path that you have always wanted to do?
Zubby: As earlier mentioned, I hail from Enugu State and everyone who knows an Igbo man, knows that every Igbo father expects his first son to be into a professional course. I’ve always shown my dad that I’m art-inclined but the fact is that I’m the first son and with that mentality, it was mandated that I have to study a science course. The only one I could study was Animal Science and Production. It was a 5-year course which I did and immediately after that, I dropped the certificate and said, “Daddy this is the certificate, let me go and do what I want you to do with my life”.
Nevertheless, while I was still at the university, I had a salon and I was the hairstylist to almost all my female lecturers. I was living off campus and was running the salon with a lady, footing my bills and taking good care of myself. At some point, I would say I enjoyed the course maybe but you could still see me doing the other art-related activities in which I have an interest, like dancing. I was a professional dancer, and I represented Enugu State at the National level so I’m seriously art-inclined and hairstyling has always been my thing.
Modaculture: What would you say is the highlight of your career or the fun part of being a celebrity hairstylist?
Zubby: It starts with me meeting the client. Because I’m into runways and there are different classes of hair I do and I specialize so much in special creative or runway hair. At this level of my life, like the days that we have photoshoots around, I always look forward to that day and you could see my body shaking because of it. In that space, they give you every opportunity to outdo yourself. So your creativity comes to that height where you are given that hand and freedom to do whatever you want to do. So to me, I will call it my highlight or when you see the models that you have worked on go on the runway and you could see your work, it’s something that is a good feeling.
At that point, I don’t want to care what the media is going to say about it but the fact that I have been given a task to turn a bucket or scorpion into hair and I am able to do it and watching them on the runway and everything appears good, that’s the highlight for me.
The ability to create something on somebody’s hair. It’s challenging which causes lots of sleepless nights like “How am I going to do it? How is it going to be on the person’s head? “ And it has to be light so that the person can walk. I think of how I’m not going to take the beauty of the person out as a result of stress or otherwise and so once I’m able to do it, you will see that I will go to sleep perfectly well.Zubby Definition, Modaculture 2022
Modaculture: As a hairstylist who focuses on creating amazing hair designs, what would you say has been your best project so far?
Zubby: To be sincere I don’t have the best project but my most challenging task has to be GTB Fashion Week. The fashion week is tasking and draining. I’m talking about 18 foreign professionals, designers, etc., and each of them knows what they want, down to the smallest details and hair. One might tell you they want 35 inches of hair on all 50 models. Then, another would say they want no hair on the models. So how are you going to create that hairless hair? However you want to do it, you just have to do it. So this kind of thing is very challenging but it makes me stronger. And, these kinds of people come from around the world and they want only the best, so there are no excuses. So, for me to accomplish and finish the show, having worked with GTB for 5 years as their Nigerian hairstylist, I rest for the year because I feel I have done a lot. It’s quite draining, but it’s something I’m doing happily.
Modaculture: As with all jobs that come with ups and down, was there ever a time when you had an unsatisfactory project and how did you work your way around it?
Zubby: Oh sure but to be honest, I really cannot remember. I believe it has happened but for the simple fact that it’s not something that occurs all the time, I really wouldn’t be able to place it.
Modaculture: How do you manage your business affairs and what is your support system like dealing with numerous projects at a time?
Zubby: I’m sorry to say but I’m not really a good teacher, like if I’m teaching you something and you are not getting it, I become very emotional. But what I do when I have such jobs is that I call on good hairstylists around and tutor them on what to do and how to do it in like a week crash program on all the hairstyles for each designer and they become my assistants for the project and you find out some of them become excited and all that makes me happy. And, as they are learning, they are also able to assist me to do my work. So it’s a whole large team.
Modaculture: Do you think that there is enough recognition for hairstylists in the beauty industry?
I think that is something that’s lacking in my generation or time of work in the industry. Hairstylists have not been celebrated much and I tell you, all the accolades go a long way.Zubby Definition, Modaculture 2022
I can now say I’m an award-winning hairstylist and it just happened. I am patient enough but others might not be. It could lead to depression, doing something and people not seeing it. You start wondering if it’s because you are not doing it right. The truth about it is that if the international world can celebrate me and if my indigenous people can’t, I will appreciate the one who does.Zubby Definition, Modaculture 2022
People should be celebrated and yes, we have a union but we actually cannot celebrate ourselves. So we should be celebrated more often. I remember the very first time I received an award, I was in tears, you could see that a glow came from within.
A fashion show will go on and you will see very big massive, well-created hair on models but you won’t hear the name of the hairstylist.Zubby Definition, Modaculture 2022
Meanwhile, you can’t take the hair off from the clothes or models because everything works hand in hand. So if I have my way, I will bring up a program where hairstylists are celebrated to bring people to the limelight from backstage. At the end of the day, hairstylists are the neck of the event. People come and go and if you don’t hear about them, everything fizzles out so we should be celebrated more.
Modaculture: What upcoming projects should we expect from you?
Zubby: I’ve always wanted a situation whereby I will leave a legacy, to be able to say that these are my protégés, these are people that I’ve taught.
And because some of them don’t have the courage to seek my advice, I call some of them to find out where they are lacking or the challenges they are having because I see them trying to replicate my work. So because they are things I formed myself, I try as much as possible to teach them how I did it.Zubby Definition, Modaculture 2022
It’s my one-on-one thing with them. I don’t want to make it like a blown thing, I just love to provide a one-on-one interaction. So that’s something I’m working on.
This piece, written by Sophia Edisi, was originally published in Modaculture magazine’s October – December 2022 issue. Get a copy here to read the full original story.
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