Mushiya Tshikuka is a walking blast of sunshine. When the owner of The Damn Salon walks into a room, she alters the mood and shifts the environment in an instant with a subtle but confident strut that should be patented. She flashes that trophy smile with ease, belying an inner strength and unbreakable resolve that simmers just beneath the surface.
Her colorful personality — and even more flavorful natural hair which has a personality of its own — will be on full display during the debut of the new WEtv reality show, “Cutting It in the ATL.” The series, which debuts May 21 at 10 p.m. EST, chronicles the emotional and professional rollercoaster journey of five salon owners who fight to enhance their brands and compete for clients and talented stylists.
Speaking of flavor: you have to have ample supplies of it, combined with a healthy heaping of intestinal fortitude, to name your shop The Damn Salon, a natural hair boutique nestled comfortably along the manicured streets of the north Atlanta suburbs.
“I named it The Damn Salon because everything that we do, everything that we touch, every transition we make into somebody … it will make someone stand up and say ‘damn!’ and fall in love with themselves … like, ‘Damn!’ Mushiya said.
You’ll learn early in the series that Mushiya is cut from a different cloth and traipses through life to her own rhythm that beats strongly from her soul. Her life’s trajectory towards natural hair salon ownership began in the Motherland, in the country of The Congo, where her impressionable young mind was not contaminated with false and narrow definitions of beauty.
“I’m very proud of where I’m from. I’m proud because it has a lot of culture,” said Mushiya, who also spent time in Zimbabwe before moving to Montreal. “My father is a very radical thinker, which is probably why I am radical. He is a strong believer in ‘love yourself’ and that ‘you are the best thing that ever happened,’ ya know? He always told us how beautiful we were.”
Her father’s invaluable life lessons informs her of her sociopolitical and cultural outlook today, which is why she wears her cocoa-coated skin like a biological trophy that is to be flossed with pride, not hidden in shame. Mushiya wants to impart this mindset into others.
“So today, my mission is to tell make women feel beautiful, to get them to understand their beauty. They have this typical philosophy believing that beauty comes in light skin and straight hair. I was never taught that,” she said, her words coated with passion. “I was taught that beauty comes in any color and shade and that straight or kinky hair is gorgeous.”
“Cutting It in the ATL’s” audience will also see that Mushiya is unique in that her salon is a bastion, a safe haven, where natural hair can blossom and flow freely.
Ironically, Mushiya once talked about the one time she straightened her hair at the behest of a friend for her wedding, describing the experience as if it was a day in jail. “I was 18 and I straightened my hair,” she recalls with disgust. “And then she had the nerve to get divorce.” When she was asked if she would ever straighten her hair again, she folded up her face as if the question had a bad odor to it.
This writer took that response as a definitive and unequivocal ‘no.’
SHOCKER: MUSHIYA HATES DOING HAIR:
Mushiya loves how hair can help transform a woman’s view of herself and her place in the world. But she doesn’t necessarily like doing hair.
“What I love is transforming women. Loving to do hair is actually a lie. I never actually loved doing hair,” said Mushiya, who’s been styling hair since she was in single digits in Africa. “Actually, I hate doing hair. My love comes in the beginning and the end and transforming her and reconditioning her (mind). And I use hair as that platform. That’s really what happens.”
Mushiya looks at the real estate atop of women’s skulls much the way an architect views an empty lot and sees a goldmine, much the way an NBA point guard surveys the court and sees the successful play develop before anyone else. What Mushiya is, more than a salon owner and hairstylist, is a visionary.
“I realized my passion which is to change women’s lives. Using this as a platform. In the beginning, I’m like ‘we’re going to do this, we’re going to change that.’ That’s the part I like. And then at the end … ‘Ahhhh,’ she says as she lets out a high-pitched sound.
THE DAMN SALON SIGNATURE STYLES:
It is impossible to walk out of The Damn Salon without taking a piece of the atmosphere with you. No wonder she says the salon has personality, as if it is alive. And that personality is reflected in the wondrous displays of styles decorating the walls, not to mention on the clients’ heads.
Among the styles that Mushiya created and The Damn Salon specializes in are:
- City Twist: “You can add hair and the maintenance on it is completely zero. You can wash it, you can go to church put it in a gorgeous updo. You can go to the club put it down. You can go to dinner and have it half up, half down or whatever. It also can be very, very corporate. A lot of women love it because it’s very healthy for the hair, hair that is very lightweight and easy on the follicles. I created the style waaaaaay before natural was “in.”
- Urban Twist: “They are bigger, they are wilder, they are more daring. But they, too, can be tamed and worn corporate America.”
- Micro City Twist: “It is also very natural. They are also very light, very easy on the follicles, very versatile. Men can run their fingers through her hair morning, noon and night without having to worry about something falling out. And you don’t have to go to sleep on your face. You can actually go to sleep on your hair, wake up and still feel sexy.”
The debut of the “Cutting it in the ATL” show is fortuitous because Mushiya sees a thirst for natural hair like never before. “Now it’s a movement, it’s organic. It’s no longer a style, it is a lifestyle. It is a way of life. And it is not going away.”
“Who the hell said that natural hair is boring?” she asked rhetorically, as if she needed answer.
Mushiya’s plans including training other signature stylist and runway curl stylists, create opportunities for all stylists to be able to create opportunities for them. Most of all, she wants people (especially women) to live out their highest selves.
“A lot of people have dreams. They dream about this and they dream about that. I’m not a dreamer. Other people who tell me they are dreamers, I tell them: ‘stop dreaming, and start ‘goaling,'” she said. “The difference between a dream and a goal is that dreams remain dreams. A goal has tangible to-do task list on how to reach your success. That’s what I do: I “goal.” I’m a “goaler.”