‘I plaited hair for £1 before moving to London at 22 now I have styled celebrities and opened my own salon’

Leaving your country for pastures new is daunting in any situation. Leaving and going to a place where you can’t speak the language is an even more fearful task.

People move to London for a whole host of reasons, be it to experience a big, metropolitan city for the first time, for a job, or even for survival when they are forced to flee their own home. In Dalanda Diang’s case, she journeyed from Guinea in West Africa to the capital at 22, with the hopes of fulfilling her dreams.

Dalanda, now 37, has gone through a host of experiences since moving to London 15 years ago, from working hours on end in small shops to styling celebrities, opening her own salon and even having two young daughters, aged nine and six. But during that time she kept striving for her goals.

She told MyLondon: “It was definitely scary to come to London at first for sure. I couldn’t speak a word of English, not even hi. I just told myself if you want something you’ve got to go for it, so I jumped at the chance to come.

READ MORE:’I quit my high-flying London job and 6 figure salary to start up my own nail care business – it was terrifying but the best decision’

Dalanda Diang came from Guinea aged 22 and since then she has gone on to raise two daughters and start her own business

“I always thought I’d go to a French-speaking country as that is the native language of Guinea. I was excited to come in the end and learn something about myself.”

Dalanda’s passion has always been hair. In Guinea, she would do people’s hair for the equivalent of £1 here. When she came to London, she carried on with her trade. She worked in a hair shop in Camberwell which saw her braiding hair for hours on end. As she couldn’t speak any English, communication was few and far between.

Dalanda gives clients one-one attention by appointments only. She has been in demand and that's the reason she was able to open up her own salon

The mum working at her salon

After working in Camberwell, she attended a college to learn English and to also get her qualification in Hairdressing. Once she achieved this, she was able to move up the ladder in the hair business. After a while, Yolanda went from braiding hair for hours on end to working in some of the nicest central London salons.

She worked on celebrities, models, all types of people who wanted one thing – Their hair had to be exactly right. That is how Dalanda got to hone her skills and improve her English. Through this time, she took on another challenge. She gave birth to her two daughters who she now ensures are seeing what she has done.

“Raising two daughters as a single mum as well as working is tough,” she said. “I’m trying to balance working and raising them but they are my life. I would do anything for them. They are my motivation in everything I do.”

Just before the pandemic hit Dalanda decided it was time to go it alone. She quit her high-end salon role and worked from home slowly building up her client base through online reviews and word of mouth referrals. She took the risk to venture out alone, but then Covid came.

Hairdressers were hit hard. As their work involved close contact, they were simply unable to work. All that did for Dalanda, in the end, was delay the dream she had already had planned since coming to London.

She left a high-end salon to pursue her dreams of owning her own salon one day

She left a high-end salon to pursue her dreams of owning her own salon one day

“My dream was always to work for myself and open my own London salon catering for women who had to have exceptional hair that reflected their lifestyles and aspirations. The pandemic meant I had to put that dream on hold for a while, but as we hairdressers were allowed to work again, I noticed more and more women coming to me, recommended by friends and who wanted a certain look.

“Over the last six months, demand has been such for my ‘West London Look’ that I’m now able to open a salon in Fulham on an appointment-only basis catering to busy women that require one-to-one salon attention”, she added.

Dalanda opened her salon earlier this month and provides expert care. Instead of providing the hectic, fast-paced nature of your standard hairdressers, Dalanda focuses on giving clients the attention they deserve.

She said: “My service is one on one because I want to give my time and want ladies to feel that when they come I give them my time and make sure they’re happy – they might forget what you’ve told them and what you’ve discussed but they’ll never forget how you make them feel.

“People come from all over London so it can’t just be the service. It must be how they feel when they come and I want that to always be there, even if we expand and grow.

“It makes me happy to see the salon and get good reviews or customers coming in based on referrals. My six-year-old said to me that she was really proud of me and it has been tough, but hearing that, makes it all worth it.”

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I’m Ayokunle (Ayo to most) and I’m a Community Reporter at MyLondon covering community stories around London and positive human stories. I started in October 2021 and since then I’ve covered a range of topics spanning all of London.

Three stories in the last month that I’m particularly proud of are:

I was born and raised in Hackney and I came back from living in Sydney, Australia in 2020 which was a positive but stressful experience (Due to Covid). I do enjoy London but my knowledge of it for someone who has lived here his entire life is pretty shameful – that is why this job is ideal.

You can contact me at [email protected]

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https://www.mylondon.news/news/west-london-news/i-plaited-hair-1-before-23423943

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