There's nothing like the confidence that can come from a bomb, fly new hairstyle. I love my natural hair in all its beautiful and diverse glory, but I also love the versatility that comes from rocking hair extensions. Buying hair and then having to pay to get it installed, however, can be an extremely pricey and stressful experience. Who's the best stylist? What's the best hair to pick?
As someone who is NOT skilled in the hair styling arena and cannot do my own installs, I save getting a hair weave for special occasions only. When I heard about minority-owned hair company Mayvenn's new Mayvenn Install program, I knew I had to try it. The program allows customers to buy hair online and then get matched with a local licensed salon stylist who will shampoo, condition, braid down and, install the hair free of charge to the customers. Customers receive a pre-paid voucher via email that is scanned by the stylist, enabling them to collect payment from Mayvenn instantly.
To bring this service to fruition, Mayvenn raised $36 million in funding led by Andreessen Horowitz and Essence Ventures. "Now with Mayvenn Install, customers will be able to buy hair and the installation service for probably 40% less than what they normally would have paid," says Diishan Imira, Mayvenn CEO and co-founder. Though the program is marketed towards consumers, the company is dedicated to helping hairstylists develop their entrepreneurial talents and grow their own businesses. 25,000+ in-network stylists in over 250 cities are now being directly connected to customers in need of service, with Mayvenn fronting the install price. The company reports that some stylists are averaging 20-40 new clients a month because of Mayvenn install. In four months alone, the company has paid out over $20 million in commission to stylists who are part of the program.
As part of xoNecole's I Tried It series, the Mayvenn team allowed me to review the Mayvenn Install process. Read on to learn more about my personal experience, thoughts on the program, and whether or not I'd recommend it to our xoNecole readers.
Please note, this is not sponsored. The hair was provided free of charge for an honest review of the program.
The Mayvenn Install Process
Customers can access the free install program directly from Mayvenn's homepage. Once clicking "Get a free install", you are directed to a user-friendly customized webpage. The three-step process was simple and easy to walk through. First, I chose my desired hairstyle type, which was a closure. (Easy maintenance, please!) Then, after inputting my location, I was given a list of participating local stylists to choose from. I was able to read reviews and years of experience and choose the stylist that fit my preference. Finally, it was hair selection time, which was the most impressive part of this process.
As someone who wasn't sure what I wanted, I opted for the "show me looks for inspiration" button. I chose the "deep wave" texture option and scrolled through the multiple hair styles to choose the look that spoke to me the most. After browsing through several pictures of women rocking the deep wave texture in different styles and lengths (and since I love big curly hair), I decided on a 18" closure and 20", 22", and 24" bundles. After ordering, I received an email confirmation and pre-paid voucher that the stylist will scan in order to get paid.
Scheduling Your Appointment & Receiving The Mayvenn Hair
After payment is complete, you're connected with a Mayvenn assistant via text who helps you book an appointment with your chosen stylist directly. I was asked to send over time and date preferences to initiate the scheduling. To be honest, this is the part of the process that wasn't my favorite. Due to my stylist availability and the customer service lag time, it took me about one full-day to secure a date and time for the install. Being able to view the stylist's calendar directly without a third party would have made the booking much smoother.
The closure and bundles arrived in less than three business days and came in beautiful individual Mayvenn-branded satin-lined pouches. The hair was soft to the touch and the closure looked well-constructed with a realistic-looking part. A curly-hair maintenance guide was also included in my hair package. Having a FAQ booklet was helpful, especially when it came to knowing how to properly prep the hair for install.
The Mayvenn Hair Installation
Writer Rana Campbell
I chose NJ-based stylist Lucky a.ka "The Weavemaster" to install my bundles. I arrived at her Union, NJ salon ready for a few hours of hair pampering. Her assistant, Anjail, meticulously detangled my hair and gave me an ultra-relaxing shampoo and condition. She then took her time (a major necessity for thick-haired naturals like myself) blow-drying my hair and painlessly braided my hair in flat, neat cornrows.
Then, Lucky put in work. In less than an hour, she installed all three bundles and even tweezed my closure part to make it look more realistic. After the install, she defined my curls and did a light style, making sure my hair was LAID - baby hairs and all. (Now, I know why she calls herself the weave master!) The sew-in wasn't tight and I felt like I'd still have edges when I decided to remove the extensions. At the end, Lucky scanned my voucher. Though the service was free of charge, I made sure to tip both her and her assistant, per Mayvenn's recommendations.
The Verdict: Is Mayvenn Hair Good?
Writer Rana Campbell
So, would I recommend Mayvenn Install? HECK YES! The process was fairly simple. I already knew Mayvenn was trustworthy when it came to hair quality. I liked that I didn't have to worry about buying hair and then finding a qualified stylist to install. Lucky came highly recommended from the Mayvenn platform and the actual install experience was pleasant and relaxing. What surprised me was how popular the service was. Both customers before and after me were also Mayvenn clients.
As a hair stylist, Lucky appreciates being able to be part of the program. The ability to attract new clientele has positively impacted her business, she told me. She sees being part of the program as part of her overall marketing strategy. Though the money she receives from Mayvenn isn't as much as she normally charges for a regular sew-in, the sheer number of new clients she's able to bring in monthly and re-market to, balances it out. I now have a trusted hair weave technician that I'd love to support again either using my own funds or by participating in the Mayvenn Install again.
Overall, here are some of my personal noted benefits and potential limitations of the Mayvenn Install program:
Writer Rana Campbell
- The hair purchasing and stylist selection process is very user-friendly. The program is great for people who want to try weave for the first time. The technology allows users to have a customized experience when selecting a style and stylist.
- Mayvenn hair quality is up to industry standard. Their 100% virgin hair is gently steam-processed and can last up to a year. I've had my hair in for about two weeks now with minimal shedding or tangling.
- You're directly supporting a local licensed salon stylist. Instead of buying hair and having it sit around, you're able to empower and economically fuel a local stylist by scheduling time to get hair installed.
- Free installs means you're saving a lot of money as well. Most stylists can charge upwards of $150 for a simple install. If you're a frequent bundle buyer - or even want to customize the hair, you'll still save hundreds over the course of a year.
- There's a 30-day guarantee! Even if you wear, dye, or cut the hair and are not satisfied, Mayvenn will still exchange the hair and allow you to try another stylist.
- In order to qualify for the program, you have to buy three bundles. If you want to buy less, then you can't take advantage of Mayvenn Install.
- You have to use a Mayvenn-vetted stylist. If you already have a trusted weave installer, they cannot scan the voucher and collect payment from Mayvenn.
- Installs are limited to installs only. If you'd like added styling, cut, or coloring, you are responsible for paying the service balance.
- The booking process can be a bit frustrating depending upon your and the stylist's availability. Plus, booking is limited to Mayvenn's customer service hours.
To learn more Mayvenn Install or to try it for yourself, visit https://freeinstall.mayvenn.com/.
Rana Campbell is a Princeton University graduate, storyteller, content marketing strategist, and the founder and host of Dreams In Drive - a weekly podcast that teaches you how to take your dreams from PARK to DRIVE. She loves teaching others how to use their life stories to inspire action within oneself and others. Connect with her on Instagram @rainshineluv or @dreamsindrive.
Amber Riley Is In Her Element
Amber Riley has the type of laugh that sticks with you long after the raspy, rhythmic sounds have ceased. It punctuates her sentences sometimes, whether she’s giving a chuckle to denote the serious nature of something she just said or throwing her head back in rip-roarious laughter after a joke. She laughs as if she understands the fragility of each minute. She chooses laughter often with the understanding that future joy is not guaranteed.
Credit: Ally Green
The sound of her laughter is rivaled only by her singing voice, an emblem of the past and the future resilience of Black women stretched over a few octaves. On Fox’s Glee, her character Mercedes Jones was portrayed, perhaps unfairly, as the vocal duel to Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), offering rough, full-throated belts behind her co-star’s smooth, pristine vocals. Riley’s always been more than the singer who could deliver a finishing note, though.
Portraying Effie White, she displayed the dynamic emotions of a song such as “And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going” in Dreamgirls on London’s West End without buckling under the historic weight of her predecessors. With her instrument, John Mayer’s “Gravity” became a religious experience, a belted hymnal full of growls and churchy riffs. In her voice, Nicole Scherzinger once said she heard “the power of God.”
Credit: Ally Green
Riley’s voice has been a staple throughout pop culture for nearly 15 years now. Her tone has become so distinguishable that most viewers of Fox’s The Masked Singer recognized the multihyphenate even before it was revealed that she was Harp, the competition-winning, gold-masked figure with an actual harp strapped to her back.
Still, it wasn’t until recently that Riley began to feel like she’d found her voice. This sounds unbelievable. But she’s not referring to the one she uses on stage. She’s referencing the voice that speaks to who she is at her core. “Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind,” the 37-year-old says. “It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women. I got so comfortable in [doing so], and I really want other people, especially Black women, to get more comfortable in that space.”
“Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind. It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women."
If you ask Riley’s manager, Myisha Brooks, she’ll tell you the foundation of who the multihyphenate is hasn’t changed much since she was a kid growing up in Compton. “She is who she is from when I met her back when she was singing in the front of the church to back when she landed major roles in film and TV,” Brooks says. Time has allowed Riley to grow more comfortable, giving fans a more intimate glimpse into her life, including her mental health journey and the ins and outs of show business.
The actress/singer has been in therapy since 2019, although she suffered from depression and anxiety way before that. In a recent interview with Jason Lee, she recalls having suicidal ideation as a kid. By the time she started seeing a psychologist and taking antidepressants in her thirties, her body had become jittery, a physical reminder of the trauma stacked high inside her. “I was shaking in [my therapist’s] office,” she tells xoNecole. “My fight or flight was on such a high level. I was constantly in survival mode. My heart was beating fast all the time. All I did was sweat.”
There wasn’t just childhood trauma to account for. After auditioning for American Idol and being turned away by producers, Riley began working for Ikea and nearly missed her Glee audition because her car broke down on the highway while en route. Thankfully, Riley had been cast to play Mercedes Jones. American Idol had temporarily convinced her she wasn’t cut out for the entertainment industry, but this was validation that she was right where she belonged. Glee launched in 2009 with the promise of becoming Riley’s big break.
In some ways, it was. The show introduced Riley to millions of fans and catapulted her into major Hollywood circles. But in other ways, it became a reminder of the types of roles Black women, especially those who are plus-sized, are relegated to. Behind the scenes, Riley says she fought for her character "to have a voice" but eventually realized her efforts were useless. "It finally got to a point where I was like, this is not my moment. I'm not who they're choosing, and this is just going to have to be a job for me for now," she says. "And, that's okay because it pays my bills, I still get to be on television, I'm doing more than any other Black plus-sized women that I'm seeing right now on screen."
The actress can recognize now that she was navigating issues associated with trauma and low self-esteem at the time. She now knows that she's long had anxiety and depression and can recognize the ways in which she was triggered by how the cult-like following of the show conflicted with her individual, isolated experiences behind the scenes. But she was in her early '20s back then. She didn't yet have the language or the tools to process how she was feeling.
Riley says she eventually sought out medical intervention. "When you're in Hollywood, and you go to a doctor, they give you pills," she says, sharing a part of her story that she'd never revealed publicly before now. "[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that's not fixing my problem. If anything, it's making it worse."
“[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that’s not fixing my problem. If anything it’s making it worse.”
Credit: Ally Green
At one point, while in her dressing room on set, she rested her arm on a curling iron without realizing it. It wasn't until her makeup artist alerted her that she even realized her skin was burning. Once she noticed, she says she was "so zonked out on pills" that she barely reacted. Speaking today, she holds up her arm and motions towards a scar that remains from the incident. She sought help for her reliance on the pills, but it would still be years before she finally attended therapy.
This stress was only compounded by the trauma of growing up in poverty and the realities of being a "contract worker." "Imagine going from literally one week having to borrow a car to get to set to the next week being on a private jet to New York City," she says. After Glee ended, so did the rides on private planes. The fury of opportunities she expected to follow her appearance on the show failed to materialize. She wasn't even 30 yet, and she was already forced to consider if she'd hit her career peak.
. . .
We’re only four minutes into our Zoom call before Riley delivers her new adage to me. “My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway,” she says.
On this Thursday afternoon in April, the LA-based entertainer is seated inside her closet/dressing room wearing a cerulean blue tank top with matching shorts and eating hot wings. This current phase of healing hinges on balance. It’s about having discipline and consistency, but not at the risk of inflexibility. She was planning to head to the gym, for instance, but she’s still tired from the “exhausting” day before. Instead, she’s spent her day receiving a massage, eating some chicken wings, and planning to spend quality time with friends. “I’m not going to beat myself up for it. I’m not going to talk down to myself. I’m going to eat my chicken wings, and then tomorrow I’m [back] in the gym,” she says.
“My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway."
This is the balance with which she's been approaching much of her life these days. It's why she's worried less about whether or not people see her as someone who is humble. She'd rather be respected. "I think you should be a person that's easy to work with, but in the moments where I have to ruffle feathers and make waves, I'm not shying away from that anymore. You can do it in love, you don't have to be nasty about it, but I had to finally be comfortable with the fact that setting boundaries around my life – in whatever aspect, whether that's personal or business – people are not going to like it. Some people are not going to have nice things to say about you, and you gotta be okay with it," she says.
When Amber talks about the constant humbling of Black women in Hollywood, I think of the entertainers before her who have suffered from this. The brilliant, consistent, overqualified Black women who have spoken of having to fight for opportunities and fair pay. Aretha Franklin. Viola Davis. Tracee Ellis Ross. There's a long list of stars whose success hasn't mirrored their experiences behind the scenes.
Credit: Ally Green
If Black women outside of Hollywood are struggling to decrease the pay gap, so, too, are their wealthier, more famous peers.
Riley says there’s been progress in recent years, but only in small ways and for a limited group of people. “This business is exhausting. The goalpost is constantly moving, and sometimes it’s unfair,” she says. But, I have to say it’s the love that keeps you going.”
“There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman,” she continues. “We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
"There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman. We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
Last year, Riley starred alongside Raven Goodwin in the Lifetime thriller Single Black Female (a modern, diversified take on 1992’s Single White Female). It was more than a leading role for the actress, it also served as proof that someone who looks like her can front a successful project without it hinging on her identity. It showcased that the characters she portrays don’t “have to be about being a big girl. It can just be a regular story.”
Riley sees her work in music as an extension of her efforts to push past the rigid stereotypes in entertainment. Take her appearance on The Masked Singer, for instance. Riley said she decided to perform Mayer’s “Gravity” after being told she couldn’t sing it years earlier. “I wanted to do ‘Gravity’ on Glee. [I] was told no, because that’s not a song that Mercedes would do,” she says. “That was a full circle moment for me, doing that on that show and to hear what it is they had to say.”
As Scherzinger praised the “anointed” performance, a masked Riley began to cry, her chest heaving as she stood on stage, her eyes shielded from view. “You have to understand, I have really big names – casting directors, producers, show creators – that constantly tell me ‘I’m such a big fan. Your talent is unmatched.’ Hire me, then,” she says, reflecting on the moment.
Recently, she’s been in the studio working on original music, the follow-up to her independently-released debut EP, 2020’s Riley. The sequel to songs such as the anthemic “Big Girl Energy” and the reflective ballad “A Moment” on Riley, this new project hones in on the singer’s R&B roots with sensual grooves such as the tentatively titled “All Night.” “You said I wasn’t shit, turns out that I’m the shit. Then you called me a bitch, turns out that I’m that bitch. You said no one would want me, well you should call your homies,” she sings on the tentatively titled “Lately,” a cut about reflecting on a past relationship. From the forthcoming project, xoNecole received five potential tracks. Fans likely already know the strengths and contours of Riley’s vocals, but these new songs are her strongest, most confident offerings as an artist.
“I am so much more comfortable as a writer, and I know who I am as an artist now. I’m evolving as a human being, in general, so I’m way more vulnerable in my music. I’m way more willing to talk about whatever is on my mind. I don’t stop myself from saying what it is I want to say,” she says.
Credit: Ally Green
“Every era and alliteration of Amber, the baseline is ‘Big Girl Energy.’ That’s the name of her company,” her manager Brooks says, referencing the imprint through which Riley releases her music after getting out of a label deal several years ago. “It’s just what she stands for. She’s not just talking about size, it’s in all things. Whether it’s putting your big girl pants on and having to face a boardroom full of executives or sell yourself in front of a casting agent. It’s her trying to achieve the things she wants to do in life.”
Riley says she has big dreams beyond releasing this new music, too. She’d love to star in a rom-com with Winston Duke. She hasn't starred in a biopic yet, but she’d revel in the opportunity to portray Rosetta Tharpe on screen. She’s determined that her previous setbacks won’t stop her from dreaming big.
“I think one of my superpowers is resilience because, at the end of the day, I’m going to kick, scream, cry, cuss, be mad and disappointed, but I’m going to get up and risk having to deal with it all again. It’s worth it for the happy moments,” she says.
If Riley seems more comfortable and confident professionally, it’s because of the work she’s been doing in her personal life.
She’d previously spoken to xoNecole about becoming engaged to a man she discovered in a post on the site, but she called things off last year. For Valentine’s Day, she revealed her new boyfriend publicly. “I decided to post him on Valentine’s Day, partially because I was in the dog house. I got in trouble with him,” she says, half-joking before turning serious. “The breakup was never going to stop me from finding love. Or at least trying. I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness, and you enjoy it and work through it.”
Credit: Ally Green
"I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness and you enjoy it and work through it.”
With her ex, Riley was pretty outspoken about her relationship, even appearing in content for Netflix with him. This time around is different. She’s not hiding her boyfriend of eight months, but she’s more protective of him, especially because he’s a father and isn’t interested in becoming a public figure.
She’s traveling more, too. It’s a deliberate effort on her part to enjoy her money and reject the trauma she’s developed after experiencing poverty in her childhood. “I live in constant fear of being broke. I don’t think you ever don’t remember that trauma or move past that. Now I travel and I’m like, listen, if it goes, it goes. I’m not saying [to] be reckless, but I deserve to enjoy my hard work.”
After everything she’s been through, she certainly deserves to finally let loose a bit. “I have to have a life to live,” she says. “I’ve got to have a life worth fighting for.”
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Janelle Monáe's Reveals The Real Reason Why She Stopped Wearing Her Signature Tuxedos
Singer and actress Janelle Monáe exemplifies how change can be a powerful catalyst for growth and transformation.
Monáe, who rose to fame in 2010 following the release of her debut album, The ArchAndroid, captivated fans' hearts with her powerful vocals, catchy tunes, and style. Around that time period, when various female artists were known to wear provocative ensembles on stage, the "Tightrope" songstress set herself apart by wearing her signature black and white suits and continued to do so for almost a decade.
In the later years of her career, after the release of her studio albums The Electric Lady in 2013 and 2018's Dirty Computer, many began to notice the shift in Monáe's artistry and fashion, which some widely praised.
Although the now 37-year-old rarely addressed the reason behind the transformation over the years, that would all change when Monáe sat down with radio personality Angie Martinez on her IRL podcast earlier this month.
During the interview, Monáe --who was promoting her latest album, "The Age of Pleasure"-- opened up about her mental health struggles, how she would cope, and why she chose to live in freedom.
Janelle On Why She Stopped Wearing Her Signature Suits All the Time
Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
In the May discussion, the "I Like That" vocalist revealed she suffers from anxiety, which she claimed would occur around "winter to spring."
Monáe added that when she has her bouts with anxiety, she tends to turn to food as a coping mechanism. Further in the interview, the "Lipstick Lover" singer disclosed that her emotional eating habits caused a weight fluctuation and that she could no longer fit into the suits she once wore earlier in her career.
Monáe explained that even though she tried to diet and exercise to return to her smaller figure, she ultimately stopped and made peace with herself with the help of therapy because she acknowledged that she isn't the same person she was nearly a decade ago and shouldn't try to be even if it was a highly "celebrated" version.
"I'm petite, but it can get thick... When I couldn't fit them suits anymore, and I was like, 'Oh my God, what is going on?' I would be dieting, running, or exercising, trying to fit into [it]. I'm just like, 'No. No, we're here. This is where we are.' We [are] not about to be utilizing life trying to be an old version of ourselves. No matter how celebrated that version of me was. I'm here. I'm here," she said.
Janelle On Freedom
As the topic shifted to freedom and what that meant to Monáe, the "Primetime" vocalist shared that in this new era of her life, she enjoys it because she can boldly express herself however she wants and honor who she is as a person right now.
Monáe also revealed that she had found ways to become a better artist and the best version of herself because of her freedom.
"What is the new version of freedom? What does that feel like? That's usually when I feel the most free is when artistically, I can honor exactly who I am right now," she stated. "I feel most free as a human when I can honor exactly who I am right now."
Monáe's fourth studio album, The Age of Pleasure, is set to be released on June 9.
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