As the beauty community grows, society is slowly seeing more and more Black representation nationwide. While most Americans have been able to create their brand and see a promising future, very few Black artists are held in the same esteem.
Meet Salena Ellis, one of the newest booming Black nail technicians in Tallahassee.
When the idea of starting her own nail business came to Ellis, the licensed cosmetologist said it was a task that required dedication and confidence.
She would know. Her mother is also a licensed cosmetologist who dabbled in nail work for a while. She would help her mother with small tasks around the shop growing up. This is where her love for cosmetology was born.
“Just being there all the time, it was like I grew up in a shop. It was like home to me,” she said.
Growing up in the small town of Quincy in neighboring Gadsden County, where the population is about 8,000, shaped Ellis into the ambitious person she is today. She said as she observed her surroundings and saw how people were living around her, this would push her to strive for more.
Ellis enrolled at Tallahassee Community College in 2013. She began doing prerequisites to become a registered nurse. However, after five years off and on, she decided this wasn’t the route for her.
Directly after this decision, Ellis decided to enroll at North Florida Cosmetology Institute. After a year and a half of dedication and hard work she received her cosmetology license.
For her, this was something she could only achieve by applying herself and manifesting success in the end. Ellis said that she lacked the support that she felt she needed as her mother wanted her to go to a university and get a degree in nursing.
Despite that, Ellis launched her business in 2018 and started doing nails immediately. With only two years under her belt, Ellis has acquireda significant following on social media, but still hopes for a larger audience.
When asked about how she deals with the challenge of building her brand on social media, Ellis says perseverance is her only option.
“It is hard but I just try to continue to post,” she said. “I never let the amount of likes on my posts discourage me. I just feel like if this is what I want, I just have to keep doing it.”
With that type of mindset, Ellis has impressed her peers. Trinity Slater, a family friend of Ellis’, said that her work ethic is her best quality.
“Once Salena puts her mind to something she’s going to give it her all no matter what,” she said.
One of Ellis’ loyal clients, Miranda Byrd, said, “You can tell that Salena is a very ambitious person. She pays close attention to detail and that’s my favorite thing about her work.”
The moment Ellis noticed that her work made her and her clients feel equally satisfied, she realized that this was her calling.
“I like to help people feel good about themselves and now I’m able to do that while also releasing my creativity that I’ve had bottled up for so long,” she said.
Ellis works out of L.A. Stylez Beauty Salon on North Monroe Street. She receives about 20 clients in a week and sometimes has to adjust her schedule for the generous amount of bookings she gets.
This month, Ellis is offering a 20% off discount for her clients in honor of it being her birthday month. She said this is just a way for her to give back to all of her clients.
“When my clients get out of my chair with a big smile on their face and they can’t stop looking at their nails it just gives me a great feeling,” Ellis said.
Ellis says, no matter what, her goal is to make her clients feel beautiful. She hopes to do this on a larger scale one day by opening her very own all Black salon.
For more information, visit @styledbysalena on Instagram.