Remembering LaTisha Chong, the beloved hairstylist behind Serena Williams’ iconic cover

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Paloma Elsesser, model: “LaTisha had an eye for detail and perfectionism and a laser focus on getting things done. She was one of the first people I felt a level of protection from when I was on set with her. She really saw me without me having to express my needs, she could pick up on when I was scared, or when I needed that little extra support and she knew what song to put on to piss me off. And that’s just how she touched every person’s life. She loved so fully and deeply. When I had the opportunity to shoot my first American film vogue story of an unmarried girl – and what does it mean? Who are the people I want around me who are committed to creating a legacy and images that last forever? I knew LaTisha had to be there. We had worked together a lot by then, and she was a breath of fresh air in the way she did her hair, bringing the historical knowledge of black hair, which is so lacking, but also the artistry and level of criticism . She showed me what a commitment to craftsmanship was like, like she was still helping before going out on her own, because she [felt] she still had more to learn. Small pledges of humility, but also of his confidence, which testifies so much to his humanity. I feel truly lucky and privileged to have known her.

Telfar Clemens, designer: “We met as teenagers, just hanging out, and through his sister Afesha, who did my hair. When we were building a hair team, working on shows and stuff, I contacted Afesha and she was like, ‘I have a sister who does her hair professionally’, so from then on , LaTisha started doing my hair, and she started working on my team and doing everyone’s hair, and then she became my hairstylist. We’ve been all over the world together, that’s who I was with all this European time Telfar did, and for our New York Fashion Week gig, she [did] Everybody. For each show, we were basically inventing hairstyles together and there would be no difference between what I drew and what we did. [in the end]; it was exactly what I thought it would be. I just remember we had this period and – there are so many periods that I can’t pick a favorite because they’re all literally so important in where we went hair-wise. And of course, I have to have the hair before the models! Her mind was unmatched, like the most real person who will literally tell you how it is, not how someone else told her it had to be, you know? And that’s why we worked together and I appreciated everything she said because it was true like nobody put her up there’s no ulterior motive like wanting doing something because you want to do it was an authentic experience. We were like a family.

Photo: Alessandro Lucioni / Gorunway.com

Photo: Alessandro Lucioni / Gorunway.com

Photo: Alessandro Lucioni / Gorunway.com

Dawn Sterling, nail artist: “LaTisha was a perfectionist, she was a genius and she was very real and raw. Her son had a birthday party maybe a week before the vogue cover shoot and when I arrived with my daughter, she was bowling, plucking Serena’s wigs. She wasn’t able to talk that much, her voice was gone and she couldn’t really walk, but she had her bag, her tweezers, and she was ripping for her fucking life and I was just like, this girl is so iconic! She was so happy and looking forward to all of us – me, Raisa, Gab – being part of this moment with Serena, because we’re like family. She was a nurturer and a giver. She worked really hard on the day of the shoot, it was a really tough day, and she did the most amazing job and Serena was so patient and lovely with her. And she is beautiful. She’s the friend who wanted everyone around her to be the best they could be. She wanted everyone to win. She wanted everyone to be the best, and I loved her just for that.

Raisa Flowers, makeup artist: “We met on the set in 2018. She asked me to borrow my tweezers and lost it a few minutes later. She was in a hurry trying to do everyone’s hair but she also had to go to work, she was still working at Michelle’s hair salon in Brooklyn. But then she gave me the money for my tweezers and I was [taken aback]. We saw each other again on another shoot and we were together in the trailer and all of a sudden our birthdays came up in the conversation and our birthdays were a day apart. And that for me is super special, because when I find someone with my sign, I always stick with them because we have so many similarities. After that, we got really close. She started doing my hair and I was like, damn this person is really good like she needs to do bigger shoots, but she didn’t want to leave the shop because she’s very loyal and she doesn’t didn’t want to disappoint [owner]. When I got picked up for a shoot, I was like, ‘oh, do you have hair? You should check out this LaTisha dressing table. So we started working together a lot, and it would just be good humor. I saw how much she encouraged people and she wanted to put love and light in people’s lives. And she worked with people who really loved her and really pushed her to be this amazing star, like she worked with Ian Isiah and Jeremy O. Harris.

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