When you visit Diaspora Salon’s website, you’ll see a homepage filled with images of people of color, art, hair, quotes, Black Lives Matter signs, outfits, plants and more.
Owner and Randallstown native Yasmine Young explains that people often rely on firsthand reviews or referrals before going to a business. She created the website gallery to bring a sense of familiarity and comfort to her clients as well as help them understand the mission of the salon.
“Because I’m a visual artist first, I recognize that what we see resonates with us,” says the 36-year-old cosmetologist. “These images are beautiful and bold; I love the way they grab attention and create a form of nostalgia. People can look at them and say, ‘Oh, wow, I remember that image. That’s so and so. Look at their hair.’”
Diaspora Salon specializes in styling, cutting and coloring natural hair as well as “curl discovery,” bringing out the natural curl pattern that already exists in one’s hair. According to Young, 65% of the U.S. population have some type of wave or curl to their hair but many, especially Black women, aren’t used to wearing it in its natural texture because of negative stigmas in mainstream culture.
Diaspora’s mission is “focused on the preservation and continuance of the various Diasporic cultures and heritages outside of Africa through hairdressing.” The term “diaspora” itself refers to a dispersal of people.
“Jews have an original homeland, but they’ve been dispersed throughout the world. It’s the same with people of African descent. Whether we live in Baltimore, Barcelona or Brazil, hair ties us all together,” says Young, whose list of clients includes individuals from parts of Africa, such as Kenya, as well as Europe and South America.
The idea to create a space that embraces all types of curly hair came to Young after she graduated from University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and was working as a natural hair stylist. She knew she wanted to work with cutting and coloring natural hair, but she realized that few salons in the Baltimore and the Maryland region offered these services.
Young decided to go back to school to get her cosmetology license and entered the Aveda Institute’s Catwalk for Water scholarship competition. She blew everyone away with her outfit created from recycled materials and a West African–inspired hairstyle. After winning, Young graduated first in her class and set out to create her own salon.
She founded Diaspora in 2015 and has been inundated with appointments ever since. The salon focuses just as much on education as it does on hair cutting and styling. Each client receives advice and information about products and hair care so that they have a game plan for maintaining gorgeous hair once they step out of the salon.
Diaspora’s reputation is so distinguished that one client travels to Baltimore from as far as Tampa, Florida, four times a year for an appointment.
But it’s not the quality of the services only that makes Diaspora so popular. It’s the atmosphere that Young has built. Since people may not be used to seeing their natural hair, rediscovering their curls can be a very emotional experience. That’s why Diaspora places so much importance on building a strong relationship with their clients and establishing trust with them.
“This is all about how someone looks at themselves, and that’s a sacred thing,” says Young. “This work goes beyond just the hair on someone’s head.”
Over the coming years, Young hopes to hire more people and grow the business. Next March, she plans to visit a salon in Ghana and exchange techniques, then she’ll attend a natural hair show in Paris. She’s excited to bring her knowledge and techniques to places that don’t offer services for curly hair and hopes to continue to do so in the future.
She asks, “Why reach for the stars when there are footprints on the moon?”