Jeneice Gaston is a 23-year-old Beyoncé look-alike who’s as passionate about styling hair as the diva is about performing. She grew up in Oroville, where her big family—"mom and dad and brothers and sisters, the whole gang"—still lives, and she has been doing hair in Chico for four years, most recently at Campus Cutters on Third Street downtown, where she’s an independent operator specializing in ethnic and African-American hair. She’s bright and charming and bound for bigger things.
Where’d you learn to style black people’s hair?
I learned a lot at home, growing up. We girls always did each other’s hair, braiding and such. But I’ve also studied it.
Is it taught in schools?
Oh yeah. There are seminars in Sacramento where they teach braiding styles and other techniques.
Are there a lot of styles?
You wouldn’t believe it. [Pulls out trade publication to demonstrate.] There are all kinds of braids and hair extensions. Lots of different styles. And of course I do a lot of straightening. We use chemicals for that, like the opposite of getting a perm.
They used to be really harsh, right?
They’re still pretty harsh. You have to know how to do it quickly, to minimize the stress on the hair.
Do you have many white clients?
I have some. They like to get their hair braided.
What’s up with that?
It’s fun. It’s all about diversity. I have customers of all different races.
Is it related to white kids’ love of hip-hop music?
Who does your hair?
I do my own. Even in back. I sit in front of the TV and vege out doing my hair, braiding it, putting in extensions.
Is styling something you want to do indefinitely?
I love my work. But I want to get bigger, do platform hair and makeup. I’ll have to go to Los Angeles to do that. I’m saving my money to study fashion design there. I’ll miss my family. We’re really close. But I’m gonna do it.