Debra Shigley’s head is in her business, literally and figuratively. This brilliant Harvard graduate and attorney developed a new hairstyling service app, Colour, specifically focused on natural, curly, textured hair. Not only is she helping women of color redefine their hair experiences and look and feel their best, she’s working to redefine outdated beauty standards. Besides her business and legal background, this wife and mom of five (you read that right) is a former beauty editor, author and contributor who is so committed to her work she attended beauty school while living abroad in Mexico City. Debra not only wants women to feel good, she’s focused on creating more convenient, empowering options for women of color and flipping the beauty industry on its head. We’re glad to introduce Debra Shigley as our newest FACE of Atlanta!
What makes Colour different from other beauty apps? What do you hope users will get out of the experience?
For the vast majority of our clients, who happen to be women of color and women with ultra curly hair, getting your hair done isn’t about pampering. It’s a chore on her to-do list. We love the end result, minus the BS to achieve it! Colour is different from other apps because it’s like a salon in the cloud. We enable our client to fast-forward to the great “salon hair” feeling, without ever having to step in a salon. It’s a complete experience, from checking out our hairstyle inspirations to chatting with our 24/7 customer service about haircare needs, to booking in three clicks, to having a Colour-certified stylist arrive at your house to do your hair. We don’t merely offer a directory of stylists in your area. A directory is only helpful to a certain point, but you’re always searching for a needle in a haystack. At the end of the day, the client needs the problem solved of actually doing her hair, on her own schedule, with a high level of technique and customer service. Colour connects all those dots, and the client’s life is literally changed forever.
Before you became a beauty entrepreneur, you were an attorney. Any beauty trends you think should be illegal?
Haha! I’m not really into the whole drawn-on eyebrows thing. Why are ladies on Instagram putting concealer above and below their brows? It’s never made sense to me! On a more serious note, in my world of ethnic hair, the overuse of weaves, wigs and extensions is problematic. We’re seeing about half of black women experience permanent hair loss, and many experts believe it’s correlated to dependence on weaves and extensions, which can cause traction alopecia. At Colour, we recommend no more than two months on, with at least two months off.
You’ve lived in Boston, Washington, D.C., Mexico City and now Atlanta. How does the South compare to your other residences? What’s your favorite part about living in East Lake?
The South is indeed much friendlier! I think Atlanta, in particular, has a great mix of professional/business opportunities, while also having a rich experience and reasonable cost of living for families. I love living in East Lake. My favorite part is the sense of community — I keep saying all we need is a “cheap and chic” nail salon and we’re set! This area was at one time one of the most blighted neighborhoods in the country. It’s great to be a member of this diverse community and part of a revitalization effort that has so much thoughtfulness and positivity behind it.
How can we support an environment where women finally accept themselves and embrace their natural beauty?
About 10 years ago I wrote a book called The Go-Getter Girl’s Guide, and one of the chapters is called “Natural Beauty is Bullsh*t,” and I still believe that’s true! We all live on a “spectrum” of what we consider to be “natural.” Every woman takes part in some level of beauty enhancements to look and feel her most confident. So I don’t think women ever need to swear off makeup or chop off all their hair to prove that they accept themselves. Beauty is fun! I do, however, think we should support an environment where one’s individuality is celebrated. The real ticket is believing and teaching young women and girls that what makes them different and unique is precisely what makes them beautiful. It’s better to stand out than to fit in.
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How do you define a “Go-Getter Girl”? How and why should each one of us become one?
A “Go-Getter Girl” is someone who goes after her dreams, plain and simple. She doesn’t sit around waiting for permission or the perfect time to take action. I think each of us should embrace our inner Go-Getter Girl because you get one shot in this life! You have so much more power than you realize, to create the life you want and make your dreams come true. Don’t be afraid of failure. There is no failure, just forward progress!
You’ve become a voice of empowerment for women of color, who don’t fit a “Eurocentric beauty standard.” What encouraging words can you share with women who don’t fit some generic mold?
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that it’s way better to stand out than to fit in. Embrace your individuality. Smile and exude a sense of confident mystery. Be the woman wearing red in a sea of black. And when it comes to hair, bigger is always better!
How do you manage your busy professional life with caring for five children?! (Seriously, we’re taking careful notes right now.)
It’s funny, the more kids I have, the less advice I have on this topic. But here are three basic realities of what makes it work:
- Supportive and modern hubby
- Easily accessible childcare help
- A positive, laissez-faire attitude. Our life is fun and chaotic, and my children will NEVER have an organic, Pinterest-perfect Bento box lunch — I’m 100 percent okay with that.
Where are your favorite local beauty spots to pamper yourself?
Obviously I use Colour for my haircare. I’ve gone to Midtown Nails for years. For Brazilian waxing, I like Sweet Samba. For my eyebrows, I like a cheap and chic place called Hair Images that is a secret beauty editor favorite. When you have lots of kids, solo workouts are a pampering experience, and it’s probably my most important self-care ritual. I religiously go to Pilates 1-2 times per week and yoga when I can.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
“Just start,” courtesy of my Harvard college roommate and bestie Jennifer Hyman, who’s the CEO of Rent the Runway.
Excluding faith, family and friends, what three things can you not live without?
iPhone, nightly baths to unwind and lip balm
A huge thank you to Debra Shigley for sharing her story and helping all women in their pursuits of good hair and self-acceptance.
And as always, a huge thanks to today’s photographer extraordinaire, CatMax Photography!