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For Hairdressers, Derby Kicks Off The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

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Sporting tattoos and long blue and green hair, Wendy Jean is cutting a client’s bangs in Kaleidoscope Hair Salon on Bardstown Road. Her customer is from out of town. So is Jean.

This week, Jean is working from about 8 a.m. until 10 at night. When she’s done with her shift, she’ll head to the back of the salon and sleep on a comfy couch. Then she’ll wake up tomorrow and start her shift again.

Much attention is given to hats for Derby. But for many women, what’s under the hat is equally as important as their headwear. During Derby week, Jean sees about 25 clients in a day.

“I made yesterday what I usually make in a week,” she says.

For hairstylists like Jean, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. So wonderful, that when Jean made plans to move away from Louisville last month, she decided she’d fly back to town this week just to do hair. She returns to Colorado on Saturday.

“Probably the slowest time on departing flights for Louisville, I’m sure,” she says.

For many of Jean’s clients, a new Derby day-hairdo is a must-have — albeit temporary — accessory. But for some of the women getting their hair braided a few miles away, they’re seeking a hairstyle to last through Derby — and lots of other milestone events that happen in May like proms and graduations.

It’s only the third day in business in the new location for Kine Hair Braiding on Heather Lane. On the outside, it’s a nondescript brick building with narrow windows that sits in the middle of a parking lot. But inside lies plush animal print furniture, leather seats and several women from Senegal and Guinea braiding hair.

The salon is unfinished. Owner Kine Gueye would like to put some final touches — like TV screens — on the walls. The shop has a grand opening in a few weeks. But Gueye says she just couldn’t miss Derby week, the beginning of a busy time for her salon.

Some popular styles include Senegalese twists and box braids.

“Because it’s easy,” Gueye says. “You don’t have to go back fixing and fixing … just wake up and go. You don’t have to worry about your hair.”

The styles last long, too.

“I like to let mine last about three months,” says customer Daionna Thomas.

Thomas is getting long black Senegalese Twists with streaks of red. Her Derby weekend starts off with a party Friday night.

“It’s more of a formal, dressed up, buffet,” she says. "Drinks all night — fun relax environment for the adults.”

Several yards away, Arym Olden is getting long cornrows. She’s going to the same Friday night party as Thomas. But the 23-year-old U of L student also needs her hair done for another important event.

“Well because my graduation is the week after next, so I got it done for graduation,” Olden says.

So Olden’s hairstyle needs to fit under both a Derby hat…and a graduation cap.

Roxanne Scott covers education for WFPL News.

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