Cedric Angeles
Cedric Angeles

Truvy Jones said it best: “There is no such thing as natural beauty.” Portrayed by Dolly Parton in the movie Steel Magnolias, Truvy had a sweet-as-pie salon that served as more than the small Louisiana town’s buzzy spot for getting your hair and nails fancied up. It was a cornerstone for women—the church of beauty, whose congregation was anchored in friendship.

And it’s not just on the big screen. There’s a certain mystique to salons in the South—where girls learn the secrets of Southern elegance. I remember going to my mother’s salon, where the strong smell of perm solution would mingle with women’s perfume and fill the single-room building. I’d listen as the ladies traded news and tossed their rod-covered heads back, roaring with laughter.

These small shops, where women have gathered for generations, are more than places to get your hair styled—though that’s certainly important too. Visits to the salon are how we know who’s dating whom, who might be pregnant (again!), and who’s been hired or fired. It’s a post to pore over turmoil, tragedies, and triumphs.

Our salons need not be gilded or fussy—a smaller structure is often preferred to bring the group together. And like many women, I think of the salon as part of my routine. My grandmother never missed her weekly “set,” and (like my mama) I’d rather bake a bad biscuit than miss an appointment to touch up my “natural blonde” locks. Hair in the South is a thing—one that has developed its own stereotype. But if styled strands get us closer to God, then pass the comb.

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My salon, Albert Brown, is located on Magazine Street in Uptown New Orleans. An appointment with my stylist and now-friend Kelly Ann Snesrud may as well be a lively therapy session. I have a handful of girlfriends who frequent the salon, too, so if we’re not catching up on the town’s talk, Kelly Ann and I might pass the color-processing time by chatting away on the front porch, in two rocking chairs that were built for a ballyhoo.