Larry Sims has made his mark in the entertainment industry. His unparalleled drive and talent have set him apart as one of the most sought after hairstylists in Hollywood. It all began when his creativity led him to become a professional dancer and choreographer in Chicago 15 years ago. During his dance career, he worked with some of the biggest stars in the industry, such as Missy Elliot and Sean “P. Diddy” Combs. However, he soon realized he had a second passion: this was all things hair.
He took this passion and propelled forward by creating his own list of celebrity clients, including Queen Latifah, David and Victoria Beckham, Christina Milian, Gabrielle Union, and Mary J Blige. Through unwavering commitment and unprecedented skill, he’s now known as “The Mane Man.” Sims has also worked his way to becoming an entrepreneur, with worldwide recognition through his Larry Sims brand and the recent release of a hair product line, Flawless by Gabrielle Union, of which he is the co-founder.
Tricia Love: Tell us a bit about your journey. How did you become a trailblazing hairstylist?
Larry Sims: I started out in entertainment as a dancer. I was a dancer for over a decade and loved it. I was a closet hairstylist though. At a young age, I had to choose one or the other. It was either to be going to college, dancing professionally, or pursuing a career as a hairstylist. I got offered a tour and went to Africa out of high school. After taking that opportunity, dance took over. When I was about 27, I decided to become a hairstylist. While dancing professionally, I met a lot of glam people when I danced in Missy Elliot videos, Dreamgirls, and Stomp the Yard. I was mesmerized. I got my cosmetology license and came back to L.A. I met Jessica Paster who introduced me to Ken Paves. He gave me a shot. One day he couldn’t work with Victoria Beckham because he was doing Jennifer Lopez and sent me. That changed my life.
Tricia Love: How does it feel to represent African Americans in the hair industry with all the racial injustice that is coming to light?
Larry Sims: It feels amazing. I feel like I have a responsibility. I don’t want to take for granted the position I’m in with the success I have had in my career. For every hairstyle that I’ve been able to create with people like Lupita, Gabrielle Union, Tracee Ellis Ross, we have conversations about how this will inspire young girls. That always leads the conversation and the execution. It has to be a collaborative endeavor with whoever I’m working with, but we lead with inspiring our young sisters. I love being able to serve the culture with the products we put out. Gabrielle Union is very vocal about how pro-Black she is. She asked me to be the co-founder of her hair product line, Flawless by Gabrielle Union. We both agree that anything we sell has to be quality. We want to be aligned with good companies. We want to stand with organizations that stand up for the rights of Black people. We have to be responsible in our messaging.
Tricia Love: That’s phenomenal. Can you tell us a bit more about the hair product line? Are any of your ingredients natural?
Larry Sims: There are no sulfates, no parabens or silicones. We have bacuri butters, rice oil complex, biotin, and keratin. We have a beautiful ingredient story. All the products are geared to 3A to 4C hair on the texture chart. Gabrielle launched this line a few years ago prior to my involvement in it. She wanted to re-establish ownership and she wanted to be in control of the narrative in terms of the ingredient store. They asked me to be a part of this amazing endeavor. We met with our chemists and traveled around like mad scientists coming up with our ingredients. We are really excited about it. The product is called Flawless. The name is the same, the packaging is just different. It’s also majority Black-owned.
“It’s so important for all of us to love and respect each other.”Larry Sims – Celebrity Hair Stylist & Co-Founder of Flawless by Gabrielle Union
Tricia Love: Can you share your three favorite looks that highlight what it means to be an African American woman?
Larry Sims: I worked with Lupita when she had just done “12 Years A Slave.” We had this textured close shaved flat top and we put a Fred Leighton headband to finish it off. We wanted to keep her texture in alignment with her African background. The second is Sanaa Lathan with “Nappily Ever After.” She was so committed to telling the story of a Black woman’s hair. If you aren’t familiar, for African American women, the type of hair they wear can determine if they attract a successful man. In the movie she was in, she realized that she was engaged to someone who didn’t see her for who she was. She had to shave her whole head off. I held her hand when she shaved her actual head for the cameras. It was really awesome moment. The third and final look is what we created with Gabrielle on “America’s Got Talent.” We wanted to make sure that we could go with the middle part, messy beach way that is Gabrielle’s go-to look. We decided to use that as a stage and platform in the viewership as a voice for us. We hadn’t seen it on that platform before Mel B.
Tricia Love: I love that. How do you feel about three Black beauty queens winning Miss USA, Miss America, and Miss Universe? I thought since you’re an expert in the field, that might mean something to you.
Larry Sims: It’s groundbreaking to me. I am a huge fan of Vanessa Williams and I have followed her. I remember being a kid and feeling the excitement in the community when she won back in 1983 and 1984, and I’m so glad that people are just seeing the reflection of different shades of beauty. Men are celebrating that beauty. They’re celebrating natural textures; they’re celebrating women that aren’t wearing wigs; and that’s phenomenal to see, especially during this time when a lot of Black and Brown people are getting torn down in today’s society.
Tricia Love: Do you feel that people may be discouraged because of what’s come to light?
Larry Sims: I think that a lot of the young kids didn’t have to live through the social injustices that our parents and grandparents had to go through. We’re used to fighting up to a certain age. This new fight is interesting because it’s not just us; it’s so many other different cultures that are supporting the movement. What I love about what is happening right now is that there is power in numbers. Silence is something that is obviously not going to fly. We know we are seeing results in terms of using our voices. I want us to encourage each other to continue to use our voices and support each other. I’ve seen videos of White kids going toe to toe with their parents about what is right versus wrong. You have to challenge these old ideologies. We have platforms
and we have to use it wisely to encourage the youth to continue to fight.
Tricia Love: What are your thoughts on showing a bit more compassion towards people who aren’t racist but need to open their minds a bit?
Larry Sims: When you think about what our parents and grandparents fought for, it really is simple, and I don’t think people really understand that if you haven’t lived the experience and walked in our shoes. We want to be treated equally. We’re not trying to ask for people to put us ahead of the game. We’re not trying to be positioned to be higher. We work hard. We don’t have a problem with putting in the work. When you really think about it, we’re not treated equally when we get caught by the cops. It’s just not happening. We don’t necessarily get equal opportunities in the workspace. Let’s not even talk about women because that’s a whole other conversation. We don’t get to be represented in the boardrooms when people are making decisions for us, and I think that those things are important. Our narratives need to be in magazines and publications. I think that our voices need to be heard. We need to be represented and our opinions matter. The problem is it’s 2020, and we still have so much more fighting to do.
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