Becoming a celebrity hair stylist wasn’t the initial goal, especially after a challenging childhood that leads to your mother being murdered and a lack of support and resources to a fulfilling childhood.
But defying defeat and gaining strength is developing into a spot at the top for stylist Pekela Riley – one where the title, “celebrity hair stylist” definitely fits her style and poised talent.
The industry vet from Jacksonville, Florida, has been in the game for 15 years creating a brand that promotes hair care while marrying hair and fashion.
“Being a hairstylist, certainly hair care is my thing, but I bring a life to it that translates to hair fashion,” Pekela says. “Hair has trends like fashion. It’s an extension of fashion. As I started to look for different things in the industry, they were related to editorials, fashion shows or runways and that became sort of my niche.”
She gained exposure by investing in her vision and passion, leading Salon PK to be one of the first in Jacksonville to be featured nationally in Sophisticates Black Hair Magazine and Ebony.
Recently, Pekela made her way back to Chicago for a collaborative editorial shoot with Sophisticate’s Black Hair and Créme of Nature Argan Oil Brand for their Perfect Edges product, which is featured in the May/June issue of the magazine.
“I love the hair culture in Chicago,” Pekela observes. “What I see is a lot of body, a lot of healthy hair and a lot of finished ends, meaning that women are getting their ends trimmed whether it’s long or short. I’ve also seen really good hair cuts.”
Pekela completed her advanced training for cosmetology at Pivot Point in Chicago and went on to gain her cosmetology license in Florida.
Noticing a lack of salon recognition brewing from Jacksonville, the former 2-½ year pharmaceutical student took the D-I-Y (do-it-yourself) approach and made things happen, launching what is now known as Salon PK, with national recognition and high-demand for Pekela’s expertise. She’s often traveling to Atlanta, Chicago and New York.
“I would look in the magazines and see nice work, but knew that we were capable of work that was just as good or better,” she says. “You never saw a Jacksonville or Florida, so I invested my own money and would bring in a photographer from Atlanta, a make-up artist and create a shoot in my salon.”
From that innovation, Salon PK’s owner gained notice from brand managers who hired her for packaging or advertising for their products.
“That just pushes you further out there and one day I looked up and I had a feature and then about four or five times they ran all the photos and added editorial,” she says humbly.
Her movements continue to grow with the launching of Hair Elements, a black-owned and manufactured product line, where she serves as a co-partner with Allen Bird, Sr.
The specialty with Pekela is that she educates her clientele in hair care. Success equates to providing quality all-around service to your clients. So, with that, when you step into Salon PK, you’re not only coming out with fashionable hair, you’re coming out with knowledge about your hair and health.
“Hair, scalp, and skin tell us so much about the inner health and I think it was just divinely designed that way,” Pekela says. “If we’re not helping you to be healthier or helping your hair to be healthier and giving you a fabulous look, then we fail. It’s not a favor.”
When styling Pekela takes care of hair in a three point system. “I use essential oil, we have the protein strengthener embower and I have moisturizer, so I pretty much have the system and switch it up according to the texture of your hair,” she explains.
“The products are based in a lot of natural foundation with a lot of scientific enhancements. We utilize that to make it effective in regards to hair care.”
The success embracing Pekela’s gift is rewarding and her visions for continued growth are undoubtedly on the move. She’s embodying the dream she and her mother shared.
“I don’t think you set out to say, ‘I want to do celebrity hair…and not saying that no one should go about it that way…but that was certainly not the motive that drove me,” Pekela clarifies. “Basically what drove me was the passion about it.”
Pekela also serves on Ebony Magazine’s Beauty Board, which consists of industry experts voicing and picking out the best beauty products for consumers. Here, Pekela gives tips on the latest hair trends and top products between salon visits:
Color Blocking: Color blocking is really the trend now with fashion as far as attire – all of those of trends will be seen in hair. Not as bold and bright and animated as they once were, but it’s still color blocking – blocking panels underneath the color to kind of have placement or highlights along the face.
Texture: Certainly texture is a trend. Also, the side braid or the front French braid to just kind of play up a little down casual style.
Encompass by Hair Elements: My number one top product all-around would be Encompass by Hair Elements. This is a great product because it is a salon exclusive-salon quality product.
It’s not very expensive and you can use it wet or dry. It works great for natural hair as a detangler. It works great for relaxed hair as a thermal styling protectant. It’s just best all around for kids and adults!