By Haley Wilson
The Birmingham Times
When Darrius Peace arrived on the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) campus in 1998, he made an observation that gave him a chance to take matters into his own hands. Literally.
“I realized that none of the girls in my college could braid,” he said. “I would walk around UAB’s campus with my hair done all the time, and people would always ask me, ‘Who’s doing your hair?’ I would tell them, ‘I do my own hair.’ … They would then ask ‘Well, can you do my hair?’ And I would say, ‘Absolutely—for a fee.’”
It’s been more than 20 years since that humble beginning for Peace, who now co-owns the luxury salon Hayah Beauty, with his wife, Meagan, where they redefine the natural hair care game with his Hayah Beauty styling method and salon experience.
“I offer a more updated and refined showcase of locks and twists. But, of course, I do everything to hair,” Peace said. “There’s no hair that I can’t do. There’s no texture that I can’t do. I can do. … Coily, curly, locked, straight, wavy, … people of any race, any ethnicity, … they can all get rocked out at Hayah Beauty.”
His salon features dryers with inspirational words like “sensational,” “exquisite,” “showstopping,” “powerful,” and “sexy.”
The goal is to uplift “every customer that comes through that door,” Peace said.
“I want people to walk into my salon feeling good about themselves. That’s really what a salon is supposed to do, and that’s what I feel makes my brand different. … It goes beyond hair.”
That means providing top-quality service, Peace added. “I want [clients] to have a beautiful hairstyle because that’s what brought them into the salon in the first place, … [as well as] a dynamic experience that is unlike any other experience that they’ve had anywhere else. As long as they leave feeling good and feeling edified, empowered, and celebrated in the long run, then that means our mission has been accomplished.”
From the Roots
Peace, 42, traces his love of styling back to Alabama’s Gulf Coast in the city of Mobile, where he grew up. “Mobile is a very humid city,” he said. “So, I kind of had to teach myself how to deal with my hair because I had a lot of it and, of course, it would poof up or frizz. … Growing up, that experience really taught me how to take care of my hair.”
While Peace was a student at John L. LeFlore High School, he started cutting hair “because I was too ashamed to even attempt to style hair.”
“When I was younger, my mom made it very clear that boys don’t do hair. … So, I didn’t want to be perceived as soft or feminine or weak or anything like that. She made it very clear that hairstyling was some type of deflection of manhood.”
Peace had to “suppress” his true desire to style hair. Then, when he was in middle school his mother gave him “the worst haircut ever.”
“[From] that point forward, I told myself, ‘I’ll just learn how to cut my own hair,’” he laughed. “As I started cutting my own hair, I honestly got really good at it. Then I started cutting hair for other people.”
After graduating from high school, Peace moved to Birmingham to attend UAB, where he majored in Spanish.
“I went to UAB and beauty school simultaneously,” he said. “When I got to college, there was no YouTube or anything like that. Most of the time, if someone wants to learn how to do something, especially with their hair, they will refer to YouTube as a reference now. … [I couldn’t turn to] YouTube, none of the girls I knew could braid hair, and I wanted braids.”
“When I grew [my hair], I started experimenting with twisting it around with my fingers with what today is recognized as finger coiling. But I really wanted braids. A lot of my Kappa Alpha Psi [Fraternity, Inc.], brothers would also represent my style because I had proficiency in barbering from cutting my own hair. … I had no idea that all of my trial-and-error sessions back in the day would be the start of something great.”
While at UAB in 2002, Peace met his wife, and creative director and brand manager at Hayah, Meagan, who was studying studio art with a concentration in graphic design. The two Mobile natives “instantly” fell in love. “We became friends, and our friendship turned into a romance,” Peace said.
While they were dating and soon after tying the knot in 2004, the idea for Hayah Beauty sparked when Meagan couldn’t find a job. Soon, a baby and a business were born.
Hayah, the name of the couple’s firstborn, is a Hebrew word that means “I am, I was, and I will be,” Peace said. “Throw in ‘Beauty,’ and you are, you were, and will always be beautiful.” The couple has five children: Hayah, Chayah, Zhayah, Nhayah, and Mhayah.
Meagan started Hayah Beauty as a cosmetics line in 2007 after having trouble finding a job.
“Meagan decided, ‘You know what? I’m not playing these games in the streets. What I’m going to do is hire myself. Yeah, I’m gonna create a brand that I want to see.’ That was the birth of Hayah Beauty,” Darrius said. “[Hayah Beauty] started as a cosmetics company for women of color. We offered mineral makeup created for women with richer and deeper skin tones. … Years later, we decided to integrate my skill set of hair along with the skill set of makeup art, and that’s where Hayah Beauty came in.”
With the new location—2025 1st Ave. N.—Peace and his team of 10 offer a broad range of styles and services, including curly sets, twists, locs, straightening, cutting and coloring, special occasion updos, and sew-in extensions.
“My favorite style would be the Hayah Beauty Peace Twist because it’s such a meditative style to execute,” Peace said. “I don’t have to think when I’m doing these twists. I don’t have to worry about it because we don’t use any tools outside of our hands, and it doesn’t require a lot of thought. … [It’s about] connecting with that person and with their hair and allowing the beauty to just manifest.”
For Peace, it’s all about providing high-quality service: “I want [clients] to get … a beautiful hairstyle that is long-lasting . . . Customer service and customer care are our top priorities here, in addition to creating dynamic hairstyles.”
Another aspect of the Hayah Beauty experience is “luxury,” which is more than just a word to Peace.
“It means we have an elevated standard of customer service, customer care, and customer satisfaction. Luxury doesn’t have anything to do with how much money a person makes. It doesn’t have anything to do with being able to afford to come here every week or anything. It doesn’t mean bougie. … It just means that our standards are elevated. I don’t care about what your degree may be. You can have a PhD or a GED, it doesn’t matter.”
Peace is also the author of “My Hair Ain’t Nappy,” published in 2012, which he describes as “an engaging commentary that offers professional expertise on how to mentally and physically transition to wearing our natural, afro-textured tresses.”
“I don’t say the word ‘nappy’ when describing Black hair,” said Peace. “For me, personally, that is a bad word that signals that Black hair is ugly or unmanageable—and that couldn’t be farther from the truth.”
Hayah Beauty is located at 2025 1st Ave. N., Birmingham, AL 35203. For more information, call 205-703-8022 or visit https://www.hayahbeauty.com/.