These Celebrity Braiders Have Completely Changed The Hair Game

Meet the stylists behind the designs.

Originally Published: 

When it comes to protective hairstyles, braids are at the top of the list. For natural curls and coils, they offer a unique form of refuge from hot tools, mechanical damage, and environmental stressors. But there’s more to them than function alone. Plaited in patterns and intricate designs, braids have a cultural and artistic significance that runs deep within the Black community. Though stylists and creators continue to evolve the category, celebrity braiders have paved the way and brought the protective style to the masses.

For years, rappers, athletes, singers, and Hollywood’s elite have relied on these specialized stylists to deliver show-stopping looks. With each braid, flat twist, and cornrow, they’ve created hairstyles that have defined eras and transcended generations. Just look at the love Janet Jackson’s box braids continue to receive 21 years after debuting the style in her Poetic Justice era. Or how about Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” cornrows? The long, side-swept style took the internet by storm and remains a summertime favorite. Aside from the entertainment industry, braiders have also made an impressionable mark in the fashion and beauty spaces. Whether creating memorable moments on the runway or one-of-a-kind works of art for red carpets and magazines, there’s no denying their significance.

Ahead, TZR spoke with some of the industry’s top celebrity braiders about the inspiration and creative process behind their dreamy designs.

Susan Oludele

Courtesy of Hair By Susy

Best known as Hair By Susy, Susan Oludele is the definition of a hair artist. Her work — which has been featured in some of fashion and music’s top magazines — often doubles as wearable art. Though she’s no stranger to the category, it’s her commitment to creatively transforming braids and celebrating texture that has made her work stand out. From exaggerated shapes to coiled and colorful cornrows, it’s easy to see the artistry behind her designs. But as she explains, each look begins with intention. “To me, hair is spiritual, and the process is very divine,” she says. When speaking on the now-famous “Lemonade” cornrows she cooked up for Beyoncé in 2016, she notes that the style came about very naturally. “To me, the most iconic hairstyles are the ones that come together organically,” she says.

Looking through her vast portfolio, it’s easy to see that Oludele’s heritage also plays a big role in her work. As a Nigerian American artist, she frequently turns to her ancestors for inspiration. “African women have paved the way for artists like me to create intricate and inspiring designs,” she says. Every braid and pattern is a symbol of love, strength, art, and ancestry. “It motivates me to create something unique, and it’s inspiring to see how braids have become a form of therapy for people around the world.

Lacy Redway

Courtesy of Lacey Redway

It’s hard not to find an avenue of the industry Lacy Redway hasn’t dominated. From countless runway shows and magazine spreads to the red carpet, her designs have graced every form of media. While it’s true that celebrities and designers love her ability to create sleek and modern hairstyles, her braids are in a lane all their own. Take the cornrowed cowboy hat she created for Tessa Thompson’s 2021 Met Gala look or Teyana Taylor’s recent CFDA Awards style. Her creativity knows no limits. Each hairstyle is unique, and she tells TZR that dreaming them up depends most on where they will be showcased. “My process always starts with some music to put me in a zone, but the rest is all about the who (or what) I’m designing for,” she says.

Given the scope of her work, it’s easy to see the reasoning behind her method. “I design based on the customer in mind, so I like to get to know their needs first and then work them into my flavor,” she says. Each of her hairstyles has its own look and feel, but when it comes to her braids, Redway notes that inspiration comes from any and everywhere. She often draws on her culture — looking to the history behind braids and how they were derived from African tribes to artfully woven baskets. The versatility of braids is one many stylists love, but the looks from the early aughts currently top Redway’s list of favorites. “I love seeing how boho and micro box braids have come back and evolved thanks to different braiding hair and new techniques,” she says.

Xia Charles

Courtesy of Xia Charles

Trinidad and Tobago-born braider Xia Charles is known for many game-changing moves. First, there’s her Brooklyn-based salon, Braided New York. A unique space in the hair industry, her team specializes in crafting artistic designs and Instagram-worthy braids inspired by her style. Then there’s her portfolio, that includes working on the iconic 30-foot braids Beyoncé donned for her Black Is King visual album to the pristine cornrows seen on celebrities like Cardi B. But no matter where she’s giving her energy, Charles mentions that each look begins as a form of art. “I like to watch the braids come to life as I’m working,” she says.

To that, the stylist adds that once she starts parting, the styles become a culmination of her vision and her clients. “Energy is a pretty important part of my process, so I always try to engage with whoever is in the chair to really hear what they want,” she notes. Being a braider is a skillset that is unique in its own right. Typically, a look can take hours to create and have a significance extending beyond a trend. For Charles, it’s these styles that are the most inspiring. “Watching classic hairstyles, like tribal braids, turn into a new age movement is incredibly honoring and a rewarding part of the job.”

Kim Kimble

Courtesy of Kim Kimble

As the stylist behind some of the entertainment industry’s most notable celebrities (think Mary J Blige, Halle Berry, Rihanna, and dozens more), Kimble has long solidified her spot in the beauty space. Though her looks run the gamut of styles, her braiding skills are one of the most profound. During the beginning of her career, Kimble created the towering blonde styles of Halle Berry’s B.A.P.S. character. She’s also the stylist behind many of Brandy’s memorable Moesha looks and her iconic Cinderella braids. When it comes to the method behind her art form, Kimble notes that creativity has always been the driving force. “I like to take inspiration from cultural icons and incorporate them into my designs,” she says.

By her terms, she is a hair designer to the core. Mixing styles to form something fresh and unique is a skill she’s mastered. From wigs, weaves, and braids, she blends elements to push the boundaries of the hair industry. “Creating something that will challenge me as a stylist is something I enjoy,” she says. To that point, Kimble notes that braided extensions are among the trends she’s most excited about right now.

The evolution of braids is never-ending. With a new generation of stylists and content creators at the helm of the category, it’s exciting to see where the road will lead next. Regardless of what’s to come, we can thank celebrity braiders for making this cultural hairstyle a staple in mainstream media today.

This article was originally published on