Cover Story: Nikki Nelms Dishes On Working With Janelle Monáe & Not Waiting For Validation

Janelle Monáe X Hype Hair
Photo Credit: Juco // Artwork: Hannah Aryee

When it comes to hair drama, celeb stylist Nikki Nelms is winning the game. The self-proclaimed “Hair MacGyver” has turned everything from googly eyes and safety pins to space buns and razor-sharp bobs into major hair moments.

[SEE ALSO: 25+ Times Janelle Monáe And Nikki Nelms Have Given Us Hair Life]

And her client roster reads like who’s who of Hollywood, including the likes of Zoë Kravitz, Solange, Kelly Rowland, and, of course, Janelle Monáe.


We couldn’t expect anything less from the phenom who has been booked and busy doing hair since the sixth grade. “I’m talking real appointments — teachers and lawyers and correction officers,” she says, remembering when her late cousin inspired helped her realize you didn’t have to be in a salon to have great, professional hair. “I became obsessed with trying to achieve salon-ish looking hair at home.”

We caught up with Nikki in-between flights to talk all things hair, including inspirations, her relationship with her own hair and the one thing she wishes all women would embrace.

— Stephenetta (isis) Harmon

Nikki Nelms
Photo Credit: Ryan Liu

Hype Hair: You and Janelle together are beyond epic when it comes to hairstyles. What is it like working together?
Nikki Nelms: Janelle is a super creative person and I am, too. We like to be original [and] kind of vibe with the moment.

HH: How do you come up with different ideas?
NN: I just come up with what works best for her hair at that moment or whatever the mood is. I try really hard to not do what’s being done, so that eliminates a lot of stuff right there. I’d much rather look to my past, or to past hair looks and moments, than to look to the side of me with my peers.

Janelle Monáe
Hair by Nikki Nelms // Photo Credit: Mireya Acierto/FilmMagic

HH: Any favorite hair moments with her?
NN: I love when we did the pixie cut and I love the googly eyes. I loved a lot of her moments from her album project — [including] the video for Pynk. I noticed a lot of looks from that being recreated with other stylists. I liked that. It lets me know that people liked it — not just me and Janelle.

I like our off days, too, when she gets a fresh trim and blowout and her hair is so beautiful — which you probably don’t get to see because it’s like “nothing to Instagram, nothing to see here.”

HH: You care for her hair between styling?
NN:
I care for everybody’s hair outside of styling it. The quickest way to be unemployed as a hairstylist is to not have hair to style! [laughs]

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About The Author

Stephenetta (isis) Harmon

isis is a music, hair and communications junkie. she is a Black beauty editor; founder of Sadiaa, the premiere beauty directory for women of color, and editor for HypeHair.com.