Naznin is a stylist at GOAT. As a kid, she found joy in working with hair. She would set up shop at her parents’ house, and style the hair of her mother and her friends. After years of working in marketing, she decided to pursue hair full-time and has been working as a hairstylist since.
She takes us around her neighborhood in Beltline and chats with us about what led her to style hair, why she loves Calgary, and why natural hair needs to be celebrated.
GOAT: Do you remember the moment you realized hair was something close to your heart?
NAZNIN: I remember it being a time when my mom and I would get the opportunity to chat since she was very busy. She worked full-time, raised two children, and volunteered at the mosque. But there were times when she would sit in the bathroom, and I would do her hair and we would discuss life and all the things that come with growing up. It was our time to bond and create a closer relationship.
GOAT: How important is it for you to build a personal connection with your clients?
NAZNIN: I think the best stylists know that a great client experience isn’t just about having the right technique or using the highest-quality products; it’s also about creating a genuine connection. That connection adds a unique element to the service so it doesn't feel transactional.
It feels more like a fun time with a friend. So now we've built this wicked relationship and you look amazing when you leave. You have this confidence and happiness that when they come back, it’s going to be another great time.
GOAT: There's a certain level of trust needed when someone sits in your chair. When it comes to working with new clients, what is your go-to way of breaking the ice with them?
NAZNIN: We start off with some small talk, you know. Are you at work? Are you in school? Once we kind of move beyond the small talk stuff it's like, tell me about what you do for fun. Because I bet you it's probably similar to what I do for fun!
GOAT: What are some of the things you look out for when it comes to bringing out the potential in somebody's haircut?
NAZNIN: It’s the words that you say when describing your hair that help me decide on what I have to do to make you happy with your hair when you leave. Are you low maintenance? Will you use products when you go home? How do you style your hair every day? Do you style your hair every day? What can we give you today that's gonna be something that you can do at home that looks good on you and makes you feel good?
I also think it’s important to understand their hair texture right away, so cutting and styling with whatever texture they have to help enhance their natural beauty. It may not be this crazy transformation, it could just be a few adjustments that literally make you feel amazing when you leave.
I also think that a lot of the time, clients just need a little bit of guidance. So it's asking the right questions and helping them to get to that conclusion.
GOAT: You're a proponent of celebrating who the person is without changing their look too much and ensuring that they still feel like themselves. What encouraged you to put the customer's preferences first?
NAZNIN: So getting a haircut was always horrible for me growing up. The stylist always made me feel like my hair wasn’t special. It was annoying to cut because it was curly. I always left unhappy and less than the person next to me.
I would never want anyone to feel that way. You want to feel like the best version of yourself when you leave. And so putting them first, that is a huge value to me, because that's what I would want. I would want to leave feeling amazing about myself and my hair.
Switching careers has helped me gain a sense of self and has helped me discover my own sense of self that I didn’t even know was possible. That feeling of discovering that and loving myself for who I am, especially physically, which has been a struggle growing up with such strict and specific beauty standards, is a priceless feeling.
Helping my clients also feel that is something I always want to do. Celebrating what they have in my chair is super important and a big part of my process. If I can be my true self, why can't the client?
GOAT: What are some things that spark your own personal joy?
NAZNIN: I'm a simple person. I like to hang out with my friends, with my family, hang out with [my dog] Nacho, I like going to eat at new restaurants. That's the kind of stuff that brings me joy – experiencing new things in the city. And I've developed over the last couple of years this love for Calgary that I've never had before. Exploring new areas in the city makes me really happy.
GOAT: What makes this neighborhood so special to you?
NAZNIN: It's community. The businesses that have been here, have been here forever. You're walking around, you see the same people. I don't even know who you are, but I know your dog, and your dog knows my dog.
Even going into Kalamata to meet the same guy that always dishes out my feta. He's like, do you want the same amount? Yes, I always want the same amount!
There is so much diversity in this neighborhood too, it feels like home. I've not really felt that anywhere else that I've lived.
GOAT: How would you encourage somebody to start embracing their natural hair?
NAZNIN: Education's a huge part of it. Helping that person be comfortable in their own skin. Help that person feel good about their hair, celebrating what kind of texture they have, instead of trying to change it.
GOAT: What makes natural hair worth celebrating?
NAZNIN: It's got personality, you know what I mean? My parents are East Indians, from Africa. My grandfather’s black and he had super tight curly hair. My mom, my brother, and I have curly hair. Growing up my mom hated her hair, she has hated it her whole life which made me so incredibly sad.
I was always having to straighten or blow dry her hair because that’s what was seen as beautiful. She was very influenced by Bollywood actresses who only ever had long, straight hair. And so as soon as I would do my hair curly, she would always be like, no, I like it straight.
Finally, at the age of 73, my mother wears her hair curly all the time now. She gets an incredible amount of compliments on it because it is beautiful and should be celebrated! Everyone's hair on everyone's head is so unique. It's who you are as a person. It should be celebrated. Working with such unique textures and styles helps me truly express my creative vision, and helps the client feel good in their own skin - it’s immensely rewarding. Natural hair is a form of self-expression, we should all embrace the beauty of different cultures.