“Taking Hair to Heart”

“Taking Hair to Heart”

The Women behind Turning Heads Hair Studio

Cecile Nijangwe and Jenna Hansen at the salon.

For mother-daughter duo Cecile Njangwe and Jenna Hansen, opening Turning Heads Hair Studio in Kennebunk was a dream come true. Cecile, 53, grew up spending Saturdays hanging out at her aunt’s salon and started cosmetology school two days after graduating from high school. “I always knew I was going to be a hair stylist. I love the industry,” she said. Jenna, 26, graduated from cosmetology school in 2015. “I’ve been behind the chair ever since,” she said. Jenna and Cecile worked together at local salons before going into business together.

Jenna, like her mother, was drawn to the profession at a young age. When she was a little girl, she enjoyed braiding her Barbie dolls’ hair, and she enjoyed spending time in the salon that her mother owned at the time. “She’s been my copilot for a long time,” said Cecile. Opening the business together has proven to be a good decision for the two women. “At the end of the day, we have each other’s backs,” said Jenna.

Jenna was about eight months old when Cecile opened her first salon. Likewise, Jenna’s daughter was about eight months old when Jenna and Cecile opened their salon. “It wasn’t on purpose. It just happened that way,” said Jenna. The two had been looking for a few months for a location for their salon, and then they saw a listing for an empty space. They found one at 180 Post Road and contacted the owner less than 45 minutes after it was posted online.

The pandemic delayed the opening of the salon, but it gave them time to thoughtfully prepare and design a welcoming space with the help of Cecile’s life partner, Norman Beaupre. And when Jenna and Cecile were able to open, they had a lot of happy customers who came in with “COVID hair” and walked out with a smile on their faces and a polished new look.

Both have a following of loyal clients, and business has been good. Turning Heads Hair Studio offers a full menu of hair and nail services, and Cecile plans to enter training to do lash services. Jenna and Cecile sell the jewelry made by the woman who had a shop in the space before them. They purchase a fresh bouquet of flowers weekly for the salon from a local florist who was one of Jenna’s first customers.

Tattoo on Jenna Hansen’s arm.

Jenna and Cecile are close, and they have more than the typical mother-daughter bond. The two have been through quite a journey together. It started when Jenna was just a toddler, not even two years old. It was Labor Day, and Cecile was watching her young daughter happily playing in a playground at a park. As the day progressed, Jenna started to get fussy and just didn’t look well. Concerned, Cecile took her to a doctor. Within minutes of seeing the doctor, he told Cecile to take her young daughter to the hospital. Jenna’s heart was beating at an alarmingly high rate, and she was transported by Life Flight to a hospital in Boston. Jenna was diagnosed with supraventricular tachycardia, a condition in which electrical impulses that control the heart rate don’t work properly, resulting in periods of abnormally rapid heartbeats.

“My heart condition was a giant question mark to all the doctors,” said Jenna.

“She’d go into a rhythm, and they couldn’t get her out of it,” said Cecile.

There were lengthy hospital visits, various medicine regimens, and in total, nine procedures. Jenna had a cardiac event recorder implant for six years which monitored her heart rate. She had to be careful about what she ate, and she couldn’t participate in activities in physical education class. During a procedure when she was about nine years old, doctors saw that a fiber in her heart that may have contributed to the problems with the electrical impulses had disappeared. It would be many years, when Jenna was 21, before she was cleared by the cardiologist. Today, she is still careful about her diet and maintains a healthy lifestyle, but she lives a normal life.

Jenna and Cecile are launching an initiative in October called “Taking Hair to Heart.” One dollar from every service purchased at the salon will be donated to the American Heart Association. “Basically, $1 for every client who walks through the door,” said Jenna.

The two women wanted to do something to help a cause that’s near and dear to them and to build community among their customers. Cecile said that in the future, they would like to expand their charitable efforts, including doing haircuts for children in long-term hospital stays or discounts and pampering packages for heart patients.

For more information on Turning Heads Hair Studio, go to https://www.facebook.com/turningheads207/

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Liz Gotthelf

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