A lot of people consider 23 to be their "Jordan Year," referencing the number Michael wore on his jersey. As promising as it sounds, Jordan years aren't always the reality for young adults who are just graduating from college, piling on debt, and trying to forge their own path. But for Kahh Spence, a Brooklyn-born and LA-based celebrity hairstylist, 23 is actually shaping up to be his best year yet — and he's just getting started.
At 23 years young ("I hate the word old," he says) and with nearly 52,000 followers on Instagram, the pro already has superstar clients like Kehlani, Cardi B, Normani, and Justine Skye on his roster. Read ahead to find out how Spence got his big break, and why that'll be a name you'll be hearing for years to come.
Finding His Beat
"My first passion was music; I can play the piano and I sing. Hair was just a hobby for me, and I didn't take it seriously in the beginning. My mom used to do hair and my father's a barber, too. I would always be in the salon with my mother, and she'd teach me how to do a wash and set or how to braid. As the years went on, I'd have friends who'd need their hair touched up. From there, I took a few classes and really started getting into it.
"In 2016, I assisted Cynthia Alvarez, who is now my good friend and probably the most amazing hairstylist I've ever met. Working with her, I picked up the skill of weaving and wig making. I learned how to work really well with extensions and color and cutting. During that time, I developed a love for enhancing a woman's beauty and seeing her feel a little more confident about herself. My first clients were friends and people I went to school with, but word started spreading and, eventually, I began working with stars like Elle Varner and Cardi B."
The Follower Flood
"I began posting looks on my personal Instagram and a makeup page reposted a wig I did on a friend — that's when I went from 8,000 followers to 21,000 followers in a day. And then my page just kept growing and growing. This was around the time when people were starting to see these drastic beauty transformations on social media, so I kept doing them more and more, trying to build interest.
"These days when I post, I try to make sure that my captions are super interactive. I always ask my followers what their favorite products are, and do polls on my Instastories. I try to answer as many DMs as possible, too. I've learned that in this industry, you don't always find people who are still down to Earth and willing to teach you a thing or two. I try not to get too caught up in my moment and give back, because that's how I got my start. If it wasn't for people looking out for me, I wouldn't be in this position."
The Kehlani Connection
"We met right before her album dropped in 2017, when a friend of mine did her makeup for her 'Distraction' music video. Kehlani was looking for a hairstylist, so the friend connected us. I didn't believe it'd happen until two weeks later, when she texted me like, 'Can you come over? I want to try some stuff.' I went over and did a look for her, and she fell in love.
"Soon after, she invited me to go on tour with her. From the beginning, she saw my drive and liked that I wanted to be so creative with her. She saw how innovative I was, and I think that's what keeps us going. She's my wildcard."
The Switch-Up King
"Kehlani can adapt to anything and everything. There is nothing that I can't do that won't work with her complexion, her makeup, her outfits — so it's fun with her. Underneath her wigs, I like to wash and condition first. If she's performing, her wigs are only on for the the performance. I put a leave-in conditioner on for her braids and then pin the piece down, so we're not using any glue. And once we take it off, her natural curls are always so super soft and she wear her hair loose on the tour bus.
"With Cardi, one of my favorite looks had to be the head wrap at Alexander Wang, where she was sitting next to Anna Wintour. That's the most creative thing I've ever done. When her publicist and stylist said they wanted that look, I tried a few different ways of wrapping that didn't work out. Eventually, I settled on sewing the head wrap onto her wig before she left. We're so used to seeing her in long extensions, and most people don't do head wraps for a fashion show; it was a different side that most people hadn't seen of her."
"Last August, during the end of my first tour with Kehlani, my mom passed away. I really questioned whether or not I wanted to move forward with doing hair... and whether or not I wanted to move forward in life. I was in Australia when she passed, and my brother called and told me that I needed to come home immediately. He didn't tell me why, and I didn't make it home in time.
"That was a moment of discouragement, but now more than ever, I made a promise to myself to never give up. I tell my friends and followers that sometimes, there are things that you have to put on pause when you're giving back or providing services to other people. And now maybe there are certain things that I have to put on pause. Losing her was losing the one person I could go to with questions and for inspiration. But I won't give up. I won't."