Born to parents from Taiwan and the Ivory Coast, international hairstylist Wendy Yang has accomplished much over the past several years. Her career in hairstyling was jump-started when she was awarded a bronze medal for her hairstyling skills at the 2015 World Skills competition. Hosted that year in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, the worldwide event was created to bring together young professionals to compete against others in various vocational skills categories. After winning this award, her love for hairdressing would further be solidified and she would soon travel around countries like Thailand and Japan to learn about the different hairstyling techniques popular there.
“Going to different countries I learned a lot about different hair textures and the various products that people use in many countries,” says Yang. “The most interesting thing that I’ve learned about are the different [wedding] taboos surrounding hairdressing throughout each of the countries I’ve traveled to.”
Some of those taboos she mentioned include one surrounding Japanese culture and the traditional hair accessory known as the “Kanzashi.” She explains that when women get married in Japanese culture, they must make sure to not let this hairpiece fall or else it will bring the family bad luck. Yang further expresses this is why it is important to ask and learn about specific rituals or cultural practices before working with clients internationally.
Her travels around the world have also made her perceptive to new and emerging hair trends globally. Currently some of the hair trends she’s seen pop up for 2022 include wave textured styles along with more naturally styled looks. “These types of hairstyles may seem easy to achieve, but it is actually quite hard to create natural waves,” she says. “So, it’s very important to use less product on the client’s hair that you are styling, and it’s also nice to add in a loose braid design at some point in your final look.”
Now, she serves as a teacher at Taiwan’s Hairdressing Industry Certification Center, where she hopes she can foster the next generation of young, ambitious hairdressers. She is also a freelance hairstylist to help brides achieve their dream look on their special day. “A large part of what makes me work so hard and continue in hairdressing is essentially due to my students,” she says. “I have these young students that come back to me and tell me how much I have inspired them and that they want to be a hairdresser just like me.”
The hairstylist uses her multicultural background and worldwide training to create hair designs uniquely her own. Many of her hair designs skew towards the quirky and outlandish side, something one can imagine a more refined Effie Trinket might enjoy. “I always strive to create something that people have never seen before,” says Wang about her creative process. “I think being brave is very important also because you have to not be scared to make mistakes or be judged.”
Growing up mixed-race in the largely homogeneous country of Taiwan wasn’t exactly easy for Wang as she remembers growing up oftentimes being singled out for being darker skinned and “foreign-looking.” Though in more recent years, being mixed-race has impacted how she is able to connect with older clients, who often hold a bias against her and doubt her abilities. “It’s hard when you know that you are good at your job, she says. “But when people see you for the first time and you haven’t even touched their hair, they’re already questioning if you’re really good at it.” Despite this, she still remains encouraged that sharing her multicultural experience will create a better understanding of cultural differences and empower others to fight for their aspiration even in the face of prejudice.
With the recent opening of her new hair salon, she is hopeful she can continue to build a name for herself in her home country of Taiwan and beyond. All the while shining a spotlight on the Taiwanese and African hairdressing industry, which has inspired her throughout her life. “I hope one day people around the world can see the beauty of the Taiwanese hairdressing industry, along with the African hairdressing industry,” shares the stylist.