Everything that Rekiat Okpe does sets her apart from those around her, and this includes the way she dresses, styles her hair and works. It is this uniqueness that transformed the dreams of a former village girl into an upmarket hairstylist. Originally from Nigeria, Okpe operates Rekky’s Signature Hair and Nails Studio, a hair salon in Killarney, Johannesburg, where those with upmarket taste go to look beautiful.
Speaking to Vutivi News, she said that she found working with South African hair very different from working with Nigerian hair. “South African women’s hair is kinky and has a lot of coils, whereas Nigerian women’s hair is very soft and curly, mainly due to the climate in Nigeria,” she said. “This has made working with their hair very enjoyable.”
Okpe said that coming from Nigeria, girls were expected to know how to do hair. “Growing up in Nigeria we were always expected to know how to plat hair and we used to practice on each other’s heads. If you didn’t know how to do hair, you were left out,” she explained. She said she started being a hairstylist at university while studying geography and regional planning.
“I started to charge significantly less than other hairstylists and this set me apart because when I came back from class, I would find a long line of people waiting to have their hair done,” Okpe said. The hairstylist moved to South Africa in 2004 where she hoped to continue studying to pursue her dream career as a geographer.
However, work was hard to find and surviving in a strange land was difficult. “I had visited a friend and I did her hair and she was so happy with me that she took me out with her to go and have our nails done,” she said. “When we got there the owner of the nail studio asked where my friend did her hair so stylishly and she referred her to me. I was offered a job and started working the following year in 2005.”
After working for a few salons, she developed and honed her passion for hairstyling and established herself as a stylist in Rosebank. She is now in Killarney Mall. Okpe told Vutivi News that it was a process to purchase her equipment. “I would buy hair tongs with one client’s money and then I would buy a hairdryer with another client’s money and I did so until I got to where I am today,” she said.
“I chose an upmarket area because that is where I started, and I wanted to maintain the image and quality,” Okpe said. Her clients included politicians, Members of Parliament and people incorporated managerial positions. The mother of two also told Vutivi News that her success helped her open a guesthouse called Rekky’s Signature Guest House in 2018.
It was based in Bramley and she employed 15 people. Okpe said that what she loved about her South African clients was that they opted for natural styles, unlike Nigerian women who explored bold and colourful hairstyles. She told Vutivi News that she would like to continue seeing her business grow and would never stop being involved in its day-to-day running. “I still consider myself a hairstylist and count myself as one of my own company’s employees because my passion lies in making other women look and feel beautiful,” she said.