BY MARLO SCOTT, Columnist
ST. PETERSBURG – When you think of Angelia Fletcher-Mavros you think of someone who doesn’t do anything small. From the big hair that sits atop of her head, to the large-scaled fashion and hair shows she brought to the Coliseums, on down to directing an Easter play that was standing room only for all four showings.
The 1978 Dixie Hollins High School graduate was awarded a track and field scholarship; Fletcher-Mavros was ranked number four in the State of Florida and had her choice of 10 different schools to attend. She chose Yankton College in South Dakota to study public relations and marketing because it was the farthest from St. Petersburg.
She had siblings who attended Florida schools such as Florida A&M that had to suffer through the unannounced visit from their parents, so she knew to get as far away from Florida as possible.
While in college her care packages from home consisted of hair grease, relaxers, combs, brushes etc., which she promptly sold to students on campus who could not get those products in South Dakota.
“I became everybody’s hair stylist on campus,” said Fletcher-Mavros. “With no training at all except for what I had seen my mother do, I was creating haircuts and messing up people’s hair at the same time.
After attending Yankton College and the University of South Dakota, she went off into the corporate world to seek her fortune. However, she got a bad taste of what the world had to offer.
“I interviewed with Johnson & Johnson at least eight times,” she said “and that was when I was introduced to nepotism in corporate America. I learned that it depends on who you are related to whether or not you get the job.”
She toiled at Home Shopping Network and a local radio station to which she was highly over qualified for. “All of the cut throat behavior that I was exposed to was definitely not for me,” said Fletcher-Mavros.
So she decided to enroll in Mirror Lake/ Tomlinson Adult Education in their cosmetology program with the encouragement and support of her mom, Willie Mae Fletcher, who at the time owned a salon. Once in school, she started testing out of subjects with lightning speed.
“Taking tests was like nothing to me, being fresh out of college. In beauty school they gave you an option to challenge the state board and I did it with only six hundred hours under my belt,” she boasted.
While there, her instructor, Thomas Harding, recognized that she had a gift for design. He thought her type of talent should be on a movie set, so he set up an interview for her with Universal Studios.
When Hollywood didn’t call, she decided to work in her mother’s shop called Willie Mae’s Beauty Salon ran out of her mother’s home.
Her clientele quadrupled over the seven years she worked with her mother, so much so that she had to find a place of her own. So in 1991, Angelia’s Hair Safari, which was located on Central Avenue, opened its doors.
Even though Hollywood failed to call, she did receive one from the entertainment coordinator of the Florida Classic, which was held in Tampa during Thanksgiving weekends. They asked her to put together a fashion show for the entertainment portion of the yearly event.
There she wowed the crowds. Her fashion shows were theatrical events. For years she coordinated the show until the Classic moved from Tampa to Orlando. Since it would have cost so much to take her show on the road, she decided to move her drama filled theatrical fashion show to the downtown Hilton.
Fletcher-Mavros’ fashion shows lit St. Pete on fire. From Belgium tigers walking the runway to python snakes wrapped around models, it is no wonder she had to rent the Coliseum to hold her fans.
She figured you couldn’t have a wildlife themed show without a tiger, so she called the Wildlife Preserve and asked for one to sashay down the runway. Her request was granted.
“I have always reached for the top,” said Fletcher-Mavros, “so I gave the people a safari atmosphere. From the time you approached the entrance you were greeted by a python snake wrapped around a model’s neck.”
Her models wore the snakes as tops and jewelry such as bangles and necklaces. “My models were fearless, and I would like to thank them: Audrey “Pat” McGhee, Gene Isaac, Ann-Sherman White and Miya Adams.”
It was more than a fashion show because she had a unique blend of theater performance art and hair design. Not one to take all the credit, she gives thanks to her team for working so hard: Carla Baker, Donna Bean, Lauren and Annette, Frenchie Bradley, Cynthia Nixon and Shelia Tampa.
“This was my generation of stylist and this is what we did for each other. Loyalty, commitment, and dedication are what we brought to the table,” she said. “My mother’s generation had it too. They had the Orange Blossom Beauty Association that the founder of The Weekly Challenger, the late Mr. Cleveland Johnson, was a huge sponsor of.”
Fletcher-Mavros hosted five shows that cost her $28,000 dollars with ticket sales at $45 a pop. She did everything on a stage that could possibly be done at a hair show except bring an elephant on.
She always had a passion for hair care, but it amplified one day when a preacher from Lakeland came to her salon and brought an 11-year-old-girl who was experiencing hair loss and was getting picked on at school. And like that, Fletcher-Mavros decided to add a new arm to her business—hair replacement.
“I knew then that I wanted to do something to make a difference when it came to hair loss in the African-American community, so I set out to educate myself as much as possible,” she explained.
She went to California to study under the reputable Edward Katz. She has invested anywhere from $10-$15 thousand dollars in hair loss education. She is one of the first African-American hair replacement specialists.
“I have heard that I have a reputation for being expensive, but I’m worth it. When you come to get a service done by me, I guarantee my work and stand behind my product 100 percent. I use high quality hair, adhesives and hair care products,” she quipped.
Many people walking around town are sporting hair replacement pieces by Fletcher-Mavros and you would never know it. In fact, many entertainers have her to thank for their flawless looks when she became a beauty consultant at the Home Shopping Network that is broadcasted all over the world.
“I loved that I have worked with a host of celebrities such as Shari Belafonte, Diahann Carroll, Gladys Knight, Donald Trump and so many others.”
She was also called in to help style Grammy Award winning-singer Chrisette Michele’s hair, which was a lace front wig. A lot of people believe that lace front wigs are new, but she has personally worked with them for a couple of decades now. They were originally used for chemotherapy patients and Hollywood entertainers.
“Out of all the celebrities I enjoyed Diahann Carroll the most. I had a very special relationship with her and became like a family member. At that particular time she was hotter than ever portraying the ruthless Dominique Deveraux on the soap opera ‘Dynasty.’ A lot of the celebrities had an air about them, but not her,” she said.
As Fletcher-Mavros went further and further with her hair replacement education, she noticed that she was always the only African American in class. So she decided to put together a curriculum and opened up an opportunity to educate her colleagues so they wouldn’t have to send their clients to her.
“A hair replacement specialist is on the same lines as being a Trichologist, which is a dermatologist that deals with the scientific study of the health of hair and scalp. All of the chapters in the school cosmetology books that most stylists skim over are actually very important,” she said.
Especially today with the excessive styles of sew-ins, braiding and u-part caps, a hairstylist needs to know that after you remove these fairly long-term styles, the hair in not the same. If the hair is not treated and allowed to breath, the client is at risk of getting alopecia.
“For example, look at Stevie Wonder; his hair line is behind his ears. That is the result of the hair being styled the same way over and over again,” she warned. What you are seeing is not hereditary; it is called traction alopecia.
She explained that even the tension in Sisterlocks can weaken the hair. Making sure not to lay blame on any particular hairstyle or hairstylist, Fletcher-Mavros wants the public to know that the strength of the hair is key to these styles. Too much tension on the hair follicle can cause hair loss.
“For example I have a client that had been wearing extension braids for years and I have had to work on restoring and rebuilding her hair for at least three years now. We are just now seeing progress on her edges,” she explained.
Fletcher-Mavros realizes that many women are wearing these styles for convenience, but she warns that they are dangerous and very damaging. She believes that some of the healthiest hairstyles are the Afro, traditional locks and the two-strand twist, but all are safe when the hair is given a break in between.
There are two sides to Fletcher-Mavos’ business: Angelia’s Hair Safari and Angelia’s Hair Alterations, which offers hair replacement. Depending on the need, she creates custom pieces, skin nets, etc. They are designed to only cover balding and thinning areas not all over the head especially if there is healthy hair in place.
She has designed her own line of extensions that comes on a weft called a Flex Weft, which was designed for people who are experiencing balding all over or in areas.
She attributes a lot of hair loss to bonding glue. “It is very dangerous! If you carefully read the label, this product has formaldehyde in it and shouldn’t be used for more than a week at a time,” she preached. “These products always create alopecia! My compassion is driven by the lack of education for male and female patterned baldness, and I am committed to raising awareness.”
Not just excessive hairstyling will cause alopecia, she warns that even the food we eat can onset these conditions because the food nowadays are full of additives, preservatives and toxins.
“Our ancestors ate from the fields and the food was much healthier; believe it or not, this all effects our hair and skin reproduction,” she said.
Fortunately, you can find almost anything that you want to know about your hair on the internet. At the touch of a button, you can find information to help you be more aware of what’s going on in your body.
When Fletcher-Mavros is not doing hair and directing plays, she enjoys cooking for her family and friends.
“I can do some things with chicken that will have you running out the door hollering and begging for more,” laughed Fletcher-Mavros.
She also enjoys almost anything that Broadway has to offer. She is also the proud wife of her loving and supportive husband, John Mavros, and mother to a lovely young lady, Alexa. To her, family is everything. She treasures the memories of growing up in a loving family that included six sisters and one brother.
In the near future, Fletcher-Mavros will be debuting her next play “I’m Taking This Train Home.” If it is anything like her last play, make sure you get to the venue at least a half hour early because people had to be turned away from her last play, “The Passion.”
“No matter what, I always allow the creative side from the Father to flow into me because whatever it is that I’m doing is not work, it’s my passion. In today’s society stress plays a major role in our lives; it affects our hair, skin and attitude. We all need to learn to walk as Christ and be more pleasant to each other,” she finished.
If you are experiencing hair loss or just want a stylist that has healthy hair on their agenda, please call Angelia’s Hair Safari/Alterations at 727-403-8111. The shop is now housed at 406 11th Ave. N., St. Petersburg. For more information, visit her on the web at angeliashairalterations.com.
Take advantage of 25 percent off any hair weave or hair replacement service through July 1, 2014.