Kiyah Wright’s rise in the hair industry has been nothing short of spectacular. A two-time Emmy award-winning celebrity hairstylist and self-made entrepreneur, Wright has built her brand from the ground up, working her way from doing hair in her grandmother’s basement for $20 a pop to styling superstar celebrity clients like Tyra Banks, Jennifer Hudson, Ciara, Laverne Cox, and Taraji P. Henson. But, it’s not just Hollywood hair that she has a knack for, Wright also knows a thing or two about business. She founded the thriving hair brand, MUZE Hair, which offers an exclusive collection of premium wigs, extensions, and haircare products to women across the globe.
And now, Wright is adding another impressive title to her already extensive resume: author. Her new book From Beauty to Business: The Guaranteed Strategy to Building, Running, and Growing a Successful Beauty Business officially hits bookstores May 10. A memoir and resource guide, the book shares Wright’s advice on navigating your finances, harnessing the power of social media, and setting yourself up for success with your business —everything beauty pros truly need to know to understand the business side of beauty.
Ahead, Wright chats with The Tease about her new book, her best piece of career advice, and her goals for the future.
The Tease: First of all, congratulations on your new book, From Beauty to Business! What was the thinking behind how you wanted your book to be?
Kiyah Wright: I was so excited to write this book because as a stylist coming up in my era—like, the Diddy years in the music industry—I was doing a lot of artists back in the late ‘90s so, just coming up and making so much money. I made so much money without really understanding the value and how to keep track and how to diversify and set your businesses up separately, so that you’re not being taxed all under one umbrella. I was trying to figure out how to save money on taxes. I was making so much money, but I’m like, “Oh, my God! My taxes are going to kill me if I don’t figure out how to differentiate these businesses and set these businesses up differently. So, I was like, stylists could really use information, resources, and any type of financial literacy. It wasn’t how I was raised, so I didn’t really know where to begin. And, I started really late—like late 30s, early 40s—with understanding that you’ve got to really buckle down. You really have to have your money diversified and coming in from a lot of different places.
You know, I’m a salon stylist. I’m a freelance artist. I have my own hair extension and wig business. I also do DIYs and produce my own content. I really do wear a lot of hats. But, I know that it’s necessary to create the business that I want to create long term. I can’t stand on my feet, running behind celebrities my whole career. You know what I mean? So, you have to think about your end goal. And, I thought that stylists could really use resources. Like, what is a 1099? What’s the difference between a W-2 and a W-4? Like, what are these things? And, I’m still not all the way there, but at least I know the basics. I meet with my accountant once a month. When I go to the bank, I know the bank teller because when you need favors or things to be moved around, you need to have someone you can be in contact with. These are the things that as artists, we don’t make time for. So, I wanted to put it all in one book.
The book is formatted into seven sections which share your seven principles for success along with your own personal experiences woven throughout. What was it like writing this memoir-meets-resource guide and having the opportunity to look back on your career journey?
Wright: When we first started to write the book, we really started it out with my biography. And, I was like, “Oh God, No! People don’t care about me. I don’t want to write that. No, I don’t want it to be about me.” So, what we did was, we wrote my story first. And, then I said that I really want it to be about business. So, it was awesome how it was all laid out because each story was related to a business venture or a trial and tribulation—something was wrapped into every single story. And, I was really happy when we really laid this whole book out.
And, I had to read the book, like seven times and I even have to read it some more. And, reading back it was awesome because how we wrote this book was I gave [Shirley Neal, her collaborator] my journals. I wrote journals my whole life because I always thought that when I have a child, I want to give them to her or him so they can understand who their mother was and who she is, as a person—just from the heart. You know, when you write, you can be pretty honest. You can journal about your life and little moments. So, to go back to some of these stories I’ve been writing since like 1997—like 25 years of just highlights of my life—and read about where I am and my accomplishments, I’m like, “Wow! You accomplished that. Ah, this is still on the list.” It’s great to just sort of recap and go over my life. It’s really awesome because each chapter of my life really did breed certain circumstances or trials and tribulations and things like that.
Your book is full of career advice—on everything from marketing yourself and managing your money to starting your own business. I was wondering if there is a single best piece of career advice that you’ve received or that you find most crucial for aspiring hairstylists.
Wright: Diversifying your portfolio and diversifying your income, because one means of income is just not enough. And, as a creative person, it doesn’t fulfill all your dreams—it just doesn’t. So, diversifying your income and really just paying closer attention to your money and your accounting. That is really what the book is about, so I would say that is probably my biggest takeaway.
In your book, you talk about using social media to market yourself. How has it been building not only your personal brand on social media but also your haircare brand, Muze Hair?
Wright: I created Muze Hair very early on and I was so excited about it when I first started. Right now, it starts out with hair extensions and wigs. And, that is where I get to highlight all of my work and other people’s work. Ultimately, I want it to be just things and people that inspire me. Right now, it’s starting out with me, but I ultimately want it to be a bigger, bigger brand. And, then you have Kiyah Wright, the beauty authority. That’s where I’m going to teach you little tips and tricks and share a little bit about my life, my lifestyle, and my personal brand.
So, keeping the two brands is really, really challenging. I have to have a social media team. And, everybody on my team, we have to understand social media because that is how we are all getting paid these days. Everything has changed. And, because I have to physically go to work, I have to have a team help me manage and maintain these two businesses, to even maintain my sanity. Most people who are social media people are sitting all day at the desk blogging. I don’t have the time to do that. Or, they can just post pictures one time and it’s done. That’s not how my life and career works. You know what I mean? I have to physically be there where I am at and I have to have a team that does everything. I have to do the recording and then, dump it back to them. They have to edit it and then we put it out. So, it really is a nice machine and system.
Do you have any tips for how stylists can best utilize social media to advance their careers?
Wright: I would say make sure that you highlight your hero moments, even if you are not a big social media person. Some people are like, “Oh, I don’t want to do it. I don’t have time for this.” I think you have time because if I can make time, I think you can make time. But, I also don’t have children. You know what I mean? Like, I don’t have a husband and certain things like that. So, I know that. Though, at this point in my personal life, it’s just already embedded into my career. It’s what I have to do because that’s how I highlight my career moments as well. So, I would say highlight your biggest moments.
Ultimately, what do you hope every reader takes away from your book?
Wright: I want you to understand that your creative side is so important—it’s just so who we are. But, the business side is necessary. It’s necessary because you’ll look up in 10 years and be like, “oh, wow!” You know what I mean? Be very purposeful with your money and your finances—where it is going, keeping everything online, and making sure that you are keeping your taxes in order. You just don’t want anything to happen in the long run. And, get yourself a mentor, a bookkeeper, and a financial advisor. Those people are so necessary.
You’ve worked with some amazing people over the years — from Laverne Cox and Tyra Banks to Jennifer Hudson. Is there someone you’ve never worked with in the industry who you would still love to?
Wright: I love Doja Cat. And, I’m loving what J Stay Ready has done with her hair. I would love to do Doja Cat. She’s just a lot of fun—young, fun, and adventurous with her hair, makeup, and wardrobe. Yeah, she probably would be my muse.
You’ve said before that your ultimate goal is to be the “Paul Mitchell of Textured Haircare”. What are other career goals that you still hope to accomplish in the future?
Wright: I want my Muse Hair brand to be a huge global brand. I really want Muse Hair to be a brand for the people, so that they can make money—we can all make money. And, it’s just for us with curly, kinky texture and wavy hair. So, that is a goal that I have to complete. That is something I really want to do and you know the goal of just having legacy wealth is really just my ultimate goal so I can relax.
Lastly, is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Wright: I feel that all beauty professionals, aspiring beauty professionals, and young entrepreneurs should just get the book. It’s a simple read. There’s lots of QR codes inside and the QR codes are something special. I hope you pull out your phone and I hope you just grab some of the helpful advice because I really wanted it to be interactive. And, I’m going to have the Audible that’ll be coming out, as well. So, you’ll be able to listen in your car and you’ll be able to hear me tell you amazing stories and where to get some of those great resources.
Interview has been edited for length and clarity.