When Nakia Collins was still in beauty school, she created a vision board with clippings of Beyoncé and Destiny's Child. Less than eight years later, the pro hairstylist is working with all of those women — plus Beyoncé's mother, Tina Knowles, and sister, Solange. Just recently, the 29-year-old styled Beyoncé's braids for her iconic September Vogue cover. The following story was told to Rachel Lubitz and edited for length and clarity.
Growing up, I was a really big Destiny’s Child fan because I used to want to be a dancer. In elementary and junior high school, I thought I was going to be a celebrity background dancer.
Then I started braiding in a Jamaican salon in Sacramento when I was 12 years old. Because it was open 24 hours a day in the summer, I would go braid half the day — like 12 hours at a time. In elementary school, I was doing hair at lunch. At church, I was braiding or styling my friends all the time.
In college, I was thinking I was on the road to becoming a doctor, and doing hair and working as a shampoo girl on the side. Then when I was 19, I took my sister on a tour of the nearby Paul Mitchell school because she was interested in becoming a hairstylist. They told me a story of a client who had come in to get her hair done; she had sent the salon a card thanking them afterwards because she had wanted to commit suicide that day, and that appointment changed her mood. I thought, If you can help people and make them feel good by doing their hair and talking to them, then that's what I want to do with my life. So I dropped out of college and started going to school there.
On one of my mood boards that I created while at Paul Mitchell, I had Kim Kimble, Beyoncé, and an old picture of Destiny’s Child. A few years later, I started speaking with Kim Kimble on Instagram. We had gone back and forth for a year and eventually she told me, "You know, I'm opening up a new salon in Los Angeles and you can come in for an interview."
You couldn’t have told me this would be my life growing up.
I packed up that day, drove down to L.A. for an audition, and then my husband and I decided to move to L.A. to follow our dreams. I started volunteering at her salon and then eventually became one of her assistants. She was my introduction to celebrity clients. I was doing Kelly Rowland’s hair with Kim and [Kelly] would say, "I want you to work on my sisters." Then I got introduced to Miss Tina [Knowles]; I would work with her and Solange when Kim wasn't available.
I went to Beyoncé's Mrs. Carter concert [in 2013] and, for the first time, really understood how much work goes into hair for a performer like that. Miss Tina connected me with Miss B and I started doing her hair in late 2015. The first official gig was for her Parkwood [Entertainment] holiday party in Los Angeles. It was a dream coming to reality.
Her Vogue shoot was really my first major magazine shoot. The direction was natural hair and I recently went natural myself. Her goal was to touch people struggling with their natural selves and feeling like they have to glam up all the time. Miss B always knows what she wants to do; she’s very visual and really hands-on with everything. The styles we did were something that an everyday person could recreate.
I did all the braided looks, and we didn’t have that much time. For one of the braids, I actually had to do it on the set between shots. At one point, [Beyoncé] was even helping braid the ends so we could hurry up.
You couldn’t have told me this would be my life growing up. At one time I had been told, "You could maybe do wedding hair," because I got pregnant in beauty school. I could have easily taken that idea and settled, but I've surpassed that. Now I'm one of those girls that came from almost nothing. I think people who come from where I did don't realise we have the power to change our outcome. I'm proof of that. I'm proof of what happens when you follow your dreams and never settle.