Johnnie Sapong, Hairstylist

Photo: Jake Chessum

How did you get into hairstyling?
I’m Ghanaian by descent, and most good West African families want their offspring to be doctors or lawyers, not artists, so it was like a rebellion thing to do hairdressing. And there were so many pretty girls when I went to interview at the hair salon.

Tell me about your hair.
Me? I’m a roots man. Dreadlock Rasta. Basically, I use aloe vera as an oxygenator and cleanser. It pumps life back into skin, hair, anything. I’ve had my dreads for about twenty years; it’s part of being a Rasta.

Tell me more about that.
Rastafari is basically a way of life. It’s about getting back to Africa and understanding where you come from. I go back to Ghana normally once a year, but of late I’ve been having children, so it’s harder. I’ve got three boys now.

Do they have baby dreads?
It’s hard enough work to get their hair washed! But I don’t want to make that decision for them. If you’ve got dreads, the other kids are going to be saying stuff, so it’s best to wait till you are choosing it for yourself.

Are there lots of Rastas in New York?
You get yourself out to East New York and up in Harlem, and they’re there. There’s some amazing youngsters coming through.

Johnnie Sapong, Hairstylist