Chisa Wills On The Big Chop
Let’s start with a few things we really, really love about short hair:
- A short cut reveals your neck, an underrated erogenous zone (especially the nape)
- A short cut showcases your ears and earrings
- Frankly, a short cut usually is easier to style and care for than long tresses
- It’s FLY!
Chisa Wills @chisahairbiz has been cutting, coloring, and styling hair for 38 years in Long Beach, California, carrying on a family tradition: her grandmother and Auntie owned a salon, and an uncle was a barber. “Not only were they making a living, they were having fun, too!” recalls Chisa, who began her studies toward her cosmetology license while still in high school. “No time to get into trouble,” she says.
After initial apprenticeship as an assistant, shampooing, blow-drying, cleaning and sorting products, and “…learning how I would never treat my own clients,” Chisa was ready to open Chisa’s Hair Biz. Today as a short-hair specialist, she caters what she calls her Silver Foxes, meaning women past 40 or 50, as well as the younger demographic. Chisa once rocked waist-length tresses, flat-ironing dutifully until she saw of game-changing photo of Miss Halle Berry. The inspiration was too much to ignore, so to mark her 40th birthday, Chisa grabbed her best friend and together they went for The Big Chop: “I’ve never looked back!”
At the time, Chisa’s own stylist was one of the few in the area who focused on short hair. So Chisa took to the skies, flying to other cities where short hair techniques were taught. “Maybe it’s the concept of Hollywood glamour, but Los Angeles is still a long-hair, big-hair city,” she says. “Of course, to each her own. I do think shorter cuts are more polished and more sophisticated. You need to have a lot of confidence to rock it short, and it’s such a high-energy look and feeling when you finally get up the nerve.”
After cutting her own hair short, her clients began to follow her lead. “You attract the type of clientele that you yourself are,” she says. “All of my clients had long hair when mine was long. Then after I did The Big Chop, it was like I gave them permission. Suddenly everybody was like, ‘Oh yeah, I’m ready.’ “
On to color-ways, Chisa’s palette embraces the spectrum. She’s a genius in the platinum range, often swirling a crowning ruffle of candy-pink or brilliant fuchsia atop softly finger-waved, super-blonded hair– it’s a far cry from a librarian pixie cut! But she’s also a true champion of the natural silver, white and gray shades. “Again, I support every client in her vision of what feels and looks gorgeous to her. A lot of stylists tend to run for the hills when approached by a client with gray or graying hair, and I am the opposite. One of the things I really love about gray is that no two people have the same shade, or the same distribution pattern. It’s entirely personal and unique, like a fingerprint.”
Chisa eased her mother into the silver zone by gilding the lily, so to speak. When her mom turned 50, Chisa suggested transitioning out of the fiery auburn tresses that were her mother’s signature. After hesitating until age 55, mom consented to beginning the process. Chisa applied a temporary glaze to the roots as they grew in silvery, disguising the dreaded skunk-stripe effect. And one day, after trimming off the last of the dyed ends, the glaze rinsed out and mom was a Silver Fox! “Now she’s a complete advocate,” says daughter proudly. In her salon, a scalp-stream is a much-requested service. This luxurious treatment opens the pore of the scalp t ease out impurities, and allow better penetration by hydrating and conditioning products that white, silver and gray hair in particular requires.
And here’s the really good news: summer is the perfect time to go for a short cut, especially if it’s your first. “A short cut is great for vacations and travel, because it’s easy, requires fewer products and tools, and you can pretty much just get up in the morning and go.” She does encourage clients to think twice about going short, however, if they’re in an agitated state mentally or emotionally. “It’s a fact that men typically like women in long hair,” she says. “And universally, when a woman goes through a bad breakup, she may want to do something drastic to her hair as a kind of catharsis, and for the symbolic effect of starting a new chapter. I talk my clients down off the ledge if this is the case. I tell them to wait a minute.”
She also explains that keeping natural silvers looking their best does require a bit of common sense and a little pampering. “When natural pigment leaves the strand,” she says, “the texture changes. Your strands may have been smooth and sleek when they had their natural pigment, but when the pigment leaves, the strand gets kinky.” (Okay, that makes us laugh.)
Hair that has given up its natural pigment does tend toward dryness and frizz, so Chisa warns against excess heat which can turn hair an unwelcome yellow shade. “Go easy on the blow-dryer, the flat iron, the curling irons. Smoking also will turn white tresses yellow. And if you’re out in the sun a lot, smooth a mask into your hair and wear a silk headscarf under a straw hat.”
She recommends African Pride 5 Essential Oils, a nourishing blend of grapeseed, coconut, castor, argan and olive oils. “You can add it to anything,” she says. “Gray hair is usually so wiry and porous, so there’s no such thing as too much moisture.” She’s also a fan of Bantu Yellow-Out Conditioner, and recommends adding a shot of 10 volume cream developer to keep your grays, silvers and whites crystalline and sparkling.
As for the violet-colored shampoos recommended for white hair, that’s a yes with one caveat: “Be careful, especially if your hair is chemically relaxed. I always suggest diluting the violet shampoo with just a regular clear shampoo, otherwise you might get that Easter Egg purple tint to your hair. Of course, I love purple, and it’s a look! Just make sure that’s the look you’re going for.”