Felicia Vanqueta Smith is proof that the race does not always go to the swiftest, as she pursues her dream to own a hair salon, Four-Sixteen.
Smith, 47, has made her name as a minister and a strong activist for spiritual and mental health.
Just over two decades ago, she was a young mother of one in Havana, a rural town in neighboring Gadsden County.
When she was 23 years old, her life composed of raising her daughter, LaPhadre Ward, while working part-time at temporary jobs, yet her love of hair styling and beautification always was there. After the birth of her daughter, Smith decided to discontinue her studies as a cosmetologist to care for her newborn.
“Getting my license in cosmetology was always a dream. It was something I always wanted to do,” Smith said. “However, I was prepared to put that on hold to provide and to be a good mother, I knew what had to be done…God had my back.”
According to Smith, her co-workers would admire her “unbelievable” and “breath taking” natural hair styles and begged for hair treatment tips and even occasional gigs where she would braid hair at their home after work. That is when her opportunity really began.
“That was my calling. God gave me the gift to take any strand of hair and turn it into art. A talent many would not imagine possible, I did it,” she said.
With her newly found talent, Smith continued to plat, braid, twist, and curl hair for women of the nearby community. Many times, she performed her operations out of her two-bedroom apartment complex in Tallahassee as her daughter slept down the hall.
LaPhadre is now 24 and she recalls her mother staying up endless hours of the night “perfecting her craft.”
“Not only did she fight for what she believes in, but she wanted the best for me,” said LaPhadre. “She is by far one of the strongest women I know.”
Over the next few years, Smith’s clientele grew, stretching from city to city accumulating enough funds to attend Keiser University, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in managerial accounting.
Her life accomplishments continued to expand as Smith secured an entry-level position with the state of Florida as an Operationsconsultant.
In 2018, Smith’s long wait finally ceased. She would go on to enroll and complete all cosmetology courses at North Florida Cosmetology School in Tallahassee. The program was nine months long and she led her graduating class of future hair stylists with honors.
Smith got married in 2019 and now resides with her husband, Fred, in Midway, where she hopes to own a hair salon by 2022.
As her plans to one day own her store, she shares her life experiences with family, friends, and neighbors. She was ordained as a minster this past year and gives a testimonial speech to members at Chosen for Worship Ministry in Havana every Sunday.
“Felicia is like no other,” said Kimberlee Melissa, a member and close friend of Smith’s. “When she speaks, it’s almost as if the whole room listens. You can hear the passion in her voice — so godly.”