Styling the City's Personality, One Woman at a Time"I love making people's days. I love making people beautiful."
Sherita Williams first came to Atlanta from her hometown of St. Louis in 1987 as a high school student, traveling here for a hair-styling contest. And the city made an outsize impression on her: It was clean, it was pretty, but, more to the point, she says, “It was so busy! So many black people here, and they were all moving and shaking it!” She immediately knew she’d found “a place I wanted to grow, a place I wanted to live.” She vowed to return.
And soon she did, matriculating as a freshman at Clark Atlanta University, “a small college that gave you a big-college feel” thanks to being clustered near other universities. She studied broadcasting and marketing, but by her junior year had taken a part-time job styling hair to earn some spending money. A couple of years later, after graduating, she launched her own salon. It’s been two decades since, and she’s never looked back. Not only is her business thriving, with a roster of high-profile local clients and a staff of seven, but Williams takes regular turns as a judge in styling competitions and works as a national trainer for Paul Mitchell.
Her salon, Genesis Hair Art, is now situated in the nearby suburb of College Park — she moved it from its original location mid-city — but Williams says one thing hasn’t changed: “I love making people’s day. I love making people beautiful.” Not to mention being an integral part of her community and customers’ lives. “I outlive the marriages, I outlive the kids,” she laughs. “You can have two or three divorces, and we’re still here. The kids go off, go to college, have babies, but we’re still here.”
She likes being “a big fish in a small pond” in College Park, yet Atlanta retains a powerful allure, pulling her in time and again. She says driving into the city always puts a big smile on her face, and she remains enraptured by the busyness of it all: people out on the sidewalks, traffic headed this way and that, the constant bustle. “When you look at each car next to you, everybody is moving their heads.”
The city is large enough to keep anyone entertained and engaged, she says, but not so large that it’s lost that personal touch she’s always cherished. She says Atlanta has a “little Chicago feel” yet still holds on to its identity of being very Southern. “Everybody speaks to you here, and everybody’s cordial.” And the city has a way of bringing icons down to human scale. Turner Field may sit on Hank Aaron Drive, but Williams says she still bumps into the living and breathing heroes they’re named after. “We see Hank Aaron walking down the street, and Ted Turner might pull up to the Publix in his VW bug.”
What’s more, the city’s growing global diversity has subtly reshaped it, adding texture and depth. Williams is also encouraged that more companies are moving their headquarters here. “There are just so many opportunities,” she says. And this multinational, multicultural wave comes with certain personal advantages. “There are a lot more cultural cuisines than we had years ago — Indian, Moroccan, vegetarian,” she says. “I love that.”
“Some places you visit once and you don’t need to go back,” says Williams. But Atlanta’s not one of those cities, she insists. Every visit will open new doors and expose new horizons. "It's definitely a city [to] repeat."
Check out Sherita's Atlanta.