Lexie Washington came to life in her mother’s closet as a young person. “She didn’t really like the fact that I was dressing up in her closet, but I just loved those shoes she wore,” said Lexie. Her mother, a pastor, raised Lexie with her father in the small town of Sanford, North Carolina.
“We lived in a home on a dirt road with no running water – I had to pump it from the well – no toilet, no tub, no walls. My parents had to hang curtains to separate our bedrooms for privacy. We were extremely poor and all we had was Jesus,” she said. Lexie stepped into her mother’s shoes once again at the age of 18 to care for her younger siblings when their parents died.
“I was determined,” she said. “I told myself before I died, this world will know me for doing something great. I have to make my mark.”
This meant allowing the woman inside her to emerge outside of her mother’s closet. Otherwise, she said, “I was doing myself and the community an injustice.”
Although Lexie comes from a religious family, they were loving and supportive when she came out as transgender in her early 20’s. By then, Lexie had graduated from the top of her class in cosmetology school.
“I worked really hard to polish my craft,” she said. Her dreams were coming true in the Tar Heel State before the age of 25. Lexie already owned two salons (one in partnership with her late friend Barbara Wallace), but she wanted to pursue a bigger name for herself in the cosmetology industry. So she packed up and drove to Detroit on Sept. 10, 2001.
“I said ‘God there is no way you let me move here in the middle of a war,'” said Lexie, who woke up to the news of 9/11 in a friend’s mother’s basement where she lived for the first six months in the city. Lexie said, “I’ve been grindin’ ever since.”
She began working at Silver Spoon Cosmetics and Salon where she built her name and a clientele despite the recession. Lexie felt the pinch caused by Detroit’s fiscal woes, but the downturn in the housing market afforded her a couple inexpensive properties and in January 2014, she had the opportunity to take over the salon.
“It is an absolute blessing and an honor to stand with Detroit on the comeback and to be a business owner in Detroit at this time,” she said.
Lexie changed the business name to Salon Kinki and uses the slogan “Beautiful People” to promote their full-service salon menu including nail, lash and makeup services.
Although stylists there cater to all types of hair and hairstyles, Lexie said the name Salon Kinki spoke to her as an African American woman who understands the natural texture of kinky, or tightly coiled and overly curly hair. Salon Kinki specializes in everything from extensions, weaves, braids, sew-ins, dreadlocks and twists to natural hairstyles, which Lexie said, “we have embraced so much more in the last three to four years. We have a newfound love for ourselves and who we are.” Lexie, who sees up to 20 clients on any given day, said she is known for cutting and coloring short hair creating edgy and funky styles with vibrant colors.
BTL Photo: Andrew Potter
The Hair Diva
Billy Cason, publisher of Hair Designer Magazine, came into Silver Spoon to do business with Lexie. Back then, he called her “the Hair Diva” and it stuck.
Lexie loves the name and recognizes the expectation that comes with it.
“It forces me to live up to the glam and glitz,” she said. Lexie has become a premier stylist for the stars. It’s not her way, but Lexie can boast of many famous people she has worked with like the Clark Sisters, Robin Givens, Angela Winbush, Blanche McAllister, Vanessa Bell Armstrong, and Jennifer Holliday. Lexie also works with BET and Oxygen Media. In June, she was asked to style the ladies for Aretha Franklin’s tribute during Detroit Music Week.
Anything but a prima donna, Lexie is giving the word diva a meaning of her own.
“She is so encouraging, uplifting and motivating,” said Emmatine Kemp, one of 14 hair stylists at the salon. There are more than a dozen styling chairs available as well as three nail tech stations. Lexie said she is always looking for fresh, new talent.
“We are part of a team. There is no competition,” said Deborah Kirkland. “She [Lexie] works hard and it’s not about the money.”
Salon Kinki finally has a team that gels after a few staff turnovers. Some stylists did not want to work for a transgender person. Despite that, Lexie stays true to herself and remains visible.
“This is so important because the stereotype is that we are promiscuous, we’re on drugs, we’re ladies of the night or whatever you want to call it,” she said. While that may be true for some, often times, she said, “It’s because these women have been abandoned by their families and their communities.” Lexie hopes to uplift the narrative of trans women of color by sharing her positive story.
“Many of us are smart and are goal driven and have morals. All of us don’t do the unthinkable.” If given a chance, she said, “We don’t have to do the unthinkable. There is another way. We can use our brain in another way. We can be entrepreneurs. We can use our beauty and our looks in another way.”
In the last 15 years, Lexie has established a reputation for her community and philanthropic efforts for which she received the Spirt of Detroit Award two times. Salon Kinki collects school supplies during the fall and boots in the winter for local children in need in exchange for discounts on hair services. Through Lexie’s “Stylist Beating Hunger” program, Salon Kinki helps feed families during the holidays. Lexie has also participated in the Craig Memorial Tabernacle Church’s community outreach program, “My Sister’s Closet,” to provide new and gently-used clothing to women.
“I constantly remind myself what I was taught and where I came from,” said Lexie, reflecting on the values her parents impressed upon her growing up. “Living like I did brought a certain amount of humbleness and no matter where you go and no matter what you do, if you stop for a second and think back on all that the higher power has done for you, there’s no way that you can be haughty or puffed up.”
Back: Nesha Patterson, David McCants, Carmen McGee, Erica Carter and Emmatine Kemp. Front: Carlita Brown, Deborah Kirkland, Lexie “the Hair Diva” Washington, Mary Williams and Latrenda Hill. BTL Photo: Andrew Potter
About eight years ago, Lexie made the choice to end a 15-year relationship with a “bad boy” who taught her things about love and forgiveness that she carries with her today.
“I wanted to make sure I had all the right influences around my child,” she said. Her outlook on life changed when she unexpectedly became a mother after a woman struggling with a drug addiction came to the salon and left her little boy with Lexie.
“She said she’d be back. She never returned. After finding her three weeks later, she asked if they could stay with me until she figured things out and found a place to live. I helped her out for a little while, she left again and we haven’t seen her since. I don’t know what his mother was thinking when she didn’t come back for him,” she said. But over a decade later, Lexie said her 15-year-old son is doing great on the National Honor Society at Renaissance High School.
“We have our challenges, which is expected considering the way we came into each other’s lives, but hey, we’re just goin’ for it. I am so proud of him,” she said.
As a single working mother, a day in the life of Lexie is hectic squeezing in workouts at the gym, driving her son to school, planning meals, answering calls from two different cell phones, balancing budgets, making wigs for mail orders and juggling her salon schedule.
Lexie has made time for herself to prepare for the International Beauty Show in February 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia hosted by Bronner Bros. – the largest private African American hair and skin care producers in the U.S.
In their search for the next face of Detroit, Lexie’s friend and world-renowned fantasy hair stylist Kevin Carter – who owns Artistry of Hair in Farmington Hills – suggested she apply. Lexie will begin her studies this month to become an educator and platform artist.
This validates for Lexie that “everybody doesn’t have to see us in a negative light. You can come out and be yourself and be successful and make a difference in the community regardless of what anybody thinks about who you are.”
BTL Photo: Andrew Potter