Donquellatish Smith discusses her passion for cosmetology and gives advice on how to be a successful salon owner and entrepreneur.
Our hair is said to be our crowning glory and when it comes to women—it’s important that it looks right. The ‘Leopard Lady’ AKA Donquellatish Smith is a hairstylist and owner of her home-based salon, the D*Spot. She understands the importance of healthy and beautiful hair and is dedicated to making sure she gives her customers exactly what they’re looking for. For the past 28 years, she has been doing just that and carries a large clientele as an independent hairstylist.
Donquellatish Smith has been a hairstylist for 28 years—and loves every moment of it.
“When I sit and do a client’s hair, a woman’s hair, my goal is to make sure she not only likes her hair, not only is she satisfied, but she loves her hair,” said Smith. “My job is not done until I feel that it is perfected.”
Born and raised in Inglewood, CA, Smith attended Inglewood High and graduated from North Hollywood High, knowing that her future was in the hair styling industry. She remembers how she always had an interest in hair and how she followed her passion that started early in her life.
“It was always a childhood dream,” said Smith. “I was always fascinated with hair—just all my life, growing up, I’ve always been fascinated with hair.
“At the age of 5-years-old, I knew that [hair] was something that I wanted to do for the rest of my life. It was a dream I pursued and became very successful with.”
Smith was unable to take cosmetology classes during high school and wouldn’t find out about beauty school until college. She started out taking classes at Trade Tech until she opted for classes at Newberry’s Beauty School.
“That was a time in my life where I was very focused, dedicated and committed in school—which I had never been before. I was a C-average student but I loved [beauty school] and it was just something I looked forward to.
“It was a dream come true.”
It would take Smith a year and a couple of months to complete beauty school after becoming pregnant with her daughter. She was determined to accomplish her dream and completed her required hours. Smith took the state board and passed getting her license.
Smith works on the silver curls of one of her longstanding clients.
“I was so excited,” said Smith. “That was one of the happiest days of my life.”
Smith began to build her clientele in Inglewood and the rest is history. She truly loves what she does and stays current with the hairstyles, treatments and products in the haircare industry.
“There’s not a day that goes by that I’m not trying to reinvent—recreate myself,” said Smith, “working in different salons has taught me a lot about skills, professionalism, people—it taught me most importantly about women.”
Smith spoke about the other end of ‘barbershop talk’—which is ‘salon talk’ and the perception some women have about the hair salon. “The barbershop is for the guys—they talk about women, everything just like we do,” said Smith.
She continued, “I’ve learned so much from women. When I hear the sistas say ‘well, I can’t be around them other women… ooh, I don’t like a lot of women,’ that is just so far-fetched for me. Women—we make the world go round. Women are the mothers of Earth.”
Smith spoke about how hair stylists become confidants, friends, advisor and counselor in some aspects. “I try to create a home-like atmosphere where you feel at home when you come in my shop.”
Starting in the mid-80s, Smith has seen it all when it comes to hairstyling. She talked about where she sees hairstyling is going in the future.
“[Back in the 80s] it was basically press and curl, basic chemicals, color and the perms, relaxers and… weaves were out there too,” said Smith. “Now they’re doing all kind of lace fronts, wigs… now it’s not such a secret, it’s not so embarrassing to even put on a wig.”
On the natural hair versus other hair debate, Smith leaves that up to the individual to decide what’s best for them. “I like the natural [look]—you see more sistas trying to do natural hairstyles when they don’t want chemicals in their hair and that’s good for those soul sistas.”
Smith says about her work ethic, “my job is not done until I feel that it is perfected.”
Smith continued, “I, for one, need to have some chemicals in my hair to make me feel my best but if you can still feel your best and be natural then that’s your thing.”
Smith wanted to share some tips to future hair stylists and haircare professionals about working in salons and becoming an independent hair stylist.
“Just stay eager to learn,” said Smith. “Reinvent yourself, your style and don’t get comfortable. Always look for new techniques, latest products—you don’t want to stay stagnant in the old-fashioned styles.
“I recommend starting off in a salon—definitely because that gives you that base…on how to do business. It gave me a great foundation to be able to work in salons, work with other people and see their skills—it taught me how to be a better business person.
“D*Spot came about after being successful for several years in different hair salons. I decided I did not want to be a type of hairstylist that shop-hopped… and I was not happy where I was working.”
Smith converted her basement into a hair salon with all the tools to turn clients into runway material. “I call it D*spot—the ‘D’ is for [her name] and ‘spot’ is for the spot to get your hair done and… for the leopard,” which is her favorite wild cat.
“I do recommend if you have an established… and mature clientele, if you have a [space] to create and be separate from your home…it’s definitely a benefit. I recommend it to those who are ready for that.
“For those who are not—stay in the beauty shop.”
“The ‘D’ is for [her name] and ‘spot’ is for the spot to get your hair done and… for the leopard.”
For more information about D*Spot Hair Salon, call (310) 673-4080 or find them on Facebook.
All Photos by Brian W. Carter