Ellin LaVar

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Owner, LaVar Hair Designs
New York City

With a clientele that reads like a Who’s Who in entertainment, sports and music, it would be easy for Ellin LaVar to get caught up in the fast-paced lifestyle of a hair stylist in demand.

But the owner of LaVar Hair Designs stays grounded by focusing on the spiritual and practicing the work ethic she inherited from her mother, Betty LaVar.

“I thank God for everything, and in my work I always give one-hundred-and-ten percent,” says LaVar.

When LaVar was 9 years old, girls in her Mount Vernon, N.Y., neighborhood would line up at her door to have her braid their hair.

By the time she was 16, she had secured a chair at a local salon.

A chance meeting with Susan L. Taylor, then Essence magazine’s fashion and beauty editor, brought her international recognition.Taylor was so impressed by LaVar’s technique of invisible braids, which for the first time made hair weaves look natural, that she featured her styles in the magazine and allowed her to create what has become Taylor’s signature look.

LaVar did not plan a career in hair design — styling was just a means of funding her college education.

She has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a minor in business from Fordham University at Lincoln Center.

Encouraged by a client, she opened a salon on Manhattan’s Upper West Side in 1991. Today, she is a highly sought-after stylist for film and television with an Emmy nomination to her credit.

In addition to starring in Hair Trauma, her own reality show on WE TV, she launched Ellin LaVar Textures, a product line carried in CVS/pharmacy, making her the first Black woman to have a hair-care line distributed in a national drugstore chain.

Her keys to success? “Treat clients with respect and take your ego out of the equation,” she says.

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