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Oscar James: Lord of the Hair

Monday, November 4, 2013
Oscar James is surrounded by the finalists of the Face of T&T competition at the Hyatt Regency. The American stylist was in T&T for a few hours to lead the competition’s pre-judging panel. PHOTO: BRIAN NG FATT

Ever wondered who’s responsible for the fabulous hairstyles worn by Hollywood A-listers ike Beyonce, Mary J Blige and Queen Latifah? They all call upon one man, the Emmy Award-winning stylist Oscar James. 


James, whose career as a licenced cosmetologist spans more than 20 years, boasts a star-studded client list that includes Vanessa Williams, Iman, Halle Berry, Nia Long, Patti La Belle, Ashanti, Star Jones and Tyra Banks. 


On October 25, James flew in from New Jersey for a few hours to lead the panel for the prejudging of the Face of T&T competition. It was his first visit to the country and he told the T&T Guardian he absolutely enjoyed the short time he spent here and he’ll definitely return. James came on the invitation of Face of T&T creative director Kirk Thomas.


Born in Florence, South Carolina, James developed a love for hair art from an early age. He told the online magazine, “I’ve been doing hair since I was a child. I like to say I didn’t choose it. It chose me.”


His passion drove him to pursue hairdressing as a career. He enrolled in beauty school while still attending high school. In 1983, he got his high school diploma as well as a cosmetology license and put his dream of becoming a hair stylist in motion.


As fate would have it, a decision to move to New York City in 1987, opened doors for the man known in the industry as the “hair lord.”


While working at Luxe Den Salon and Spa in Manhattan, he met popular make-up artist Sam Fine who was instrumental in landing him his first runway gig, something that would change the course of his career. Soon enough, he was working with some of the biggest female stars in Hollywood.


Oscar James has been hailed as one of the top hairstylists in the world by fashion magazines like Vogue, Essence and Cosmopolitan, and his work has also graced their covers.


The 48-year-old says the highlight of his career was styling Halle Berry's hair for the 2002 Academy Awards, when she made history by becoming the first African-American woman to win an Oscar for a leading role, for her part in Monster's Ball.


In an interview with, James said he draws his inspiration for hairstyles from “fashion, television, magazines, his mother, friends and the universe.” 


He also said his focus is on the health of hair, a great cut and the integrity of the hair. 


“Hair is a great accessory. A great bob is never out of style. I think the most timeless styles are what I focus on. I like to look at a woman and I like her to look pampered and timeless." 


James is responsible for the more sophisticated look that Trini-born hip hop star Nicki Minaj has been rocking lately. He said the 30-year-old reached out to him as she wanted to tone down her edgy look. 


Minaj felt she needed something different as she launched a clothing line and entered the world of merchandising.


"I gave her the dark roots and kept the blonde hair, (with blonde) being her signature style," he said.


James currently resides in West Newark, New Jersey, and owns and operates several salons in Florence, South Carolina and New York City.



About Oscar James

Want to know more about Oscar James?

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