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Rising Stars: Meet Melina Lewis

Today we’d like to introduce you to Melina Lewis.

Hi Melina, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
I am 32 years young and was born and raised in St. Louis, MO. Becoming a Braid Artist was actually never on my mind as something that I could do professionally and excel in, but the love for the craft was always in my heart. Age 10 is when I started braiding, first with my little sister Meghan. She played basketball and always wanted her hair braided like Allen Iverson. I ran track and played tennis in high school so keeping my hair braided was one less thing I had to worry about.

Still not realizing the gift that I have with braiding, I went off to college on a track scholarship. The first in my family to graduate from college, receiving my Bachelor’s of Science in Textile, Merchandise & Design from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff in 2012. One month after landing my “big girl” job in the corporate space, I knew it wasn’t for me but what else could I do? I was married at the time and didn’t want to disappoint my family and friends. I hopped from job to job searching for something that would bring me any kind of peace or joy but I was only met with sadness and un fulfillment which caused me to become extremely depressed. With my mental and physical health on the line, I quit. I didn’t have a plan and I didn’t know what I was going to do but I knew that my life was worth more than walking into a job that I despised everyday.

While in search of a new job, I started braiding my family members hair in my grandmother’s basement to pass time. Through word of mouth I started to gain a clientele base which prompted me to make an Instagram page to showcase my work and meet more people. In 2016 I took a leap of faith that turned out to be the best decision of my life. I started braiding full time from my home. January 2018 I found my first salon home at Hairgasm STL. September 2018 I attended the very first Mahogany Revolution Academy in Los Angeles, CA where I received my certificate in Advanced Natural Hair & Braiding under Celebrity Stylist & Inventor of the Goddess Locs Dr. Kari Williams.

In 2019, I was blessed to be apart of the styling team for the BET Experience in LA. Fast forward to present day I am now a mother to my beautiful baby girl Ahmi and married to the love of my life Andrew Eason III. I’m in the process of working on some cool things for my business but I can’t tell ya just yet lol. Just know that when your dreams become a burning desire, there’s nothing that can stop you. Styled by Mel is not just about braids. My passion to uplift and encourage women is evident if you’ve ever sat in my chair. Educating people about the cultural importance of hair braiding, the history and roots behind the artistry and creating a safe space for my clients to feel free is what I’m all about.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
I like to think of challenges as opportunities to learn & grow. Entrepreneurship is tough, especially when you’re first starting out. My biggest obstacle was overcoming my negative thoughts. I still have them because I’m still human, but I’ve made a deliberate effort to do the inner work on myself so that I’m able to navigate through those negative thoughts. I experienced trauma at a young age losing my mother. I was 13 when she was murdered and my biological father was never in the picture. In college I was taken advantage of sexually and by age 29 I was already divorced.

Those life altering events shaped how I perceived myself. Comparing my work & skill to others. Comparison kills joy. I have and still to this day am unlearning and relearning so much about myself. Mental health and self care are extremely important to me. You can be the most talented person in your field/industry but if your mental is not in a healthy place you won’t be able to fully enjoy all the beauty that surrounds you.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I am a Braid Artist. Specializing in the artistry of Braids, Locs & Twists. I’m known in St. Louis as the Gentle Braider.

I would have to say that I’m most proud of not giving up. There have been plenty of times where I wanted to throw in the towel. Even gotten off track with my vision because I listened to someone else’s vision for my life. Braiding hair is my gift, pouring into women and helping them see their beauty from within is my purpose. I believe what sets me apart from other braiders is the experience I create for my clients. The atmosphere is warm, welcoming and a space for them to just be. A lot of my clients joke that they should pay me to be their therapist as well, because by the end of their appointment we have bonded in such a way that makes them feel good not only about their hair but about life.

The crisis has affected us all in different ways. How has it affected you and any important lessons or epiphanies you can share with us?
The most important lesson I’ve learned from this crisis is that you are capable of more than you think. I believe we have all been tested in many ways this past year and a half. Personally, birthing my daughter into this world during a pandemic was terrifying. With the work that I do, being in such close proximity to my clients was also very scary but I had to believe in my heart that we are safe and protected. When you have no choice but to press forward, you’ll be surprised at how creative and capable you truly are.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Anthony Robinson
Ralph Watson
McArthur Photography

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