In The Chair With: Donato Smith

“In The Chair With” spotlights the incredible hairstylists in our community who are giving us major inspiration. Each week, they discuss their personal hair and career journeys, what they’ve learned from their clients, and their top hair care tips.”

Have you ever wondered who’s behind the crispiest line ups in Hollywood? It’s likely Atlanta-born barber Donato Smith, who works with the likes of Dwyane Wade, Kendrick Lamar, and more. And when it comes to what keeps the Bevel partner motivated? He credits the freedom his job provides him. “I get to express myself, be myself, and to live the way that I want to live,” he tells ESSENCE via Zoom. “Dressing how I want to dress, for example, doesn’t affect my job. If anything, it enhances my career.” Additionally, “I get to travel and I don’t feel restricted.”

Smith had long been immersed in the world of hair before reaching these milestones. “My mother was a barber and cosmetologist,” he shares. “My passion for hair really began later, when I started cutting hair myself, though. Our mother used to do me and my brother’s hair until she became ill.” It was then, in high school, that Smith began doing his own hair. From there, friends and family would often ask him for haircuts, too. “I would tell them it was just for me, though. I didn’t want to disappoint anyone.” But when his mother got married, “I started doing my step brother’s hair, too. I didn’t do it because of money or anything, it was just out of the kindness of my heart.”

And he never looked back. In 2014, Smith decided to enroll in Empire Beauty School. “I began recognizing the importance of getting my license so that I wouldn’t miss out on any opportunities,” he says. “Now, I’m grateful to be able to provide for my family and still feel free at the same time. That’s big for me.”

Below, Smith goes into detail about hair care tips, favorite products, and more.

In The Chair With: Donato Smith

His current favorite product:

Bevel is really my favorite in terms of tools, especially the All-In-One Clipper. It has really restored a confidence in me that I felt was kind of wavering due to other tools I’d used in the past. I also love their beard oils and balms. They give great shine and consistency. The oils are not overly oily. 

His favorite style to do:

A favorite style that I’m apt to at this very moment is a temp fade… especially a low temp fade with waves. It’s the cut that I do on Dwyane. That’s a very, very fun style to do because there’s a lot that goes into it. I used to just cut the hair down, put a line on it, and maybe add enhancements here and there. But now, when I go through that process, I’ll take a styling mousse, apply that to the hair, put a durag over it, and put ’em under the dryer. It’ll have the hair laying exactly how you need it to lay. 

His top hair health tip:

My top healthy hair tip is to clean your hair. There are a lot of people that don’t understand the importance of cleaning your hair. I like to make sure to shampoo each and every one of my clients. Granted, if you have preset braids or locks or anything, I may not be able to do that, but there is always some level of cleansing that can be done, even if I’m going to just provide someone with a hot towel. Clean hair is always the best foundation for healthy hair. 

A hair myth he wants to debunk:

I want to debunk the myth that there is a such thing as good hair and bad hair. You may have a more favorable texture that you like to deal with, or it’s easier for you to deal with, but there’s no good hair or bad hair. It’s just hair.

What he’s learned from his clients:

I’ve definitely learned how to be more patient and to give grace. I’ve learned to question my own emotions more. If I wake up feeling annoyed, for example, I make sure I try to not project that onto them… especially because we’re about to share energy and share space. 

In The Chair With: Donato Smith

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