Nicole Grajewski is a hairstylist and business owner planted in St. Petersburg, Florida. Rollie Locs is a brand she created through the branches of the dreadlock community. Her roots in art and hair began in Orlando at UCF as a studio art major, yet have flourished into a love for locks that currently reaches over 40,000 people. She may make her living behind the chair, but there’s much more going on within the locks that frame her auspicious endeavors.
Her start-up: While Grajewski was in college, she also worked as a receptionist at a local hair salon. As she observed the stylists, her interest in becoming one herself solidified. As for the dreadlock side of doing hair, her admiration began even earlier.
“I found them aesthetically pleasing ever since I was young. I thought ‘dreadlocks make people look sexy,’ so I wanted to wear them. Once I started to wear them I noticed more and more people reaching out to me wanting to wear them as well,” said Grajewski.
I found Nicole a little over a year ago when I asked her to maintenance my own dreadlocks. The is what one of my more recent maintenance sessions looked like.
The before is on the left.
Nicole explained the locking process as a journey that one chooses to take.
“The locking process is a journey, that people take totally knowing it’s a commitment and knowing that it’s going to take time and that it’s going to take patience,” said Grajewski. “So people go in knowing that it takes time for dreadlocks to flourish and be perfect. So it’s usually people who want connection to their hair; people that are willing to go through all that, because it’s not easy like you think.”
One of her favorite parts to creating and maintaining dreadlocks is the transformation itself.
“My favorite thing about doing dreads is starting from soft hair to creating a full head of dreadlocks and seeing people’s reactions. And then pretty much I can only picture that person with dreads ever again,” said Grajewski.
Her most memorable client is Willam, a drag queen that was on Ru Paul’s drag race.
“I was always a really big fan before she (Willam) reached out to me to make her wigs. I even got to go to her house/studio in Hollywood and I couldn’t believe that that was really happening,” said Grajewski. “She found me through Instagram, which was crazy. Totally reached out to me organically and asked me to make her some dreadlock extensions. I delivered them to her there (in Hollywood) and she sewed them into a wig she already had.”
She has made Willam 2 synthetic dreadlock wigs, and is currently working on another one as well.
“I feel like if a drag queen approves then you’ve made it,” said Grajewski.
Since Grajewski is a pretty big deal as Rollies2thesky on Instagram, the popular photo centralized social media app. Currently she has over 40,000 followers. I absolutely had to ask her if she bought her following.
“No I definitely haven’t bought any followers or likes, I feel like that would be pointless. Basically when I first started my business, I was making the synthetic extensions, and shipping them. I was working from my house,” said Grajewski. “I reached out to a lot of people that had a lot of followers and asked if I could mail them dreads and if they would wear them and shout me out.”
The up and up of her business has been growing ever since. Despite the growth, she truly emphasized the client to stylist connection and how important it is to form that trust.
“I feel like the person that’s letting me touch their dreads really trusts me, and I want that. I feel like there has to be a bond.” Fortunately she hasn’t had any situations where she wasn’t able to form that bond.
The biggest obstacle in beginning her business was gaining her parents’ approval.
“I was going to UCF and I was only doing that to please my parents. I knew that I wanted to stop going there and go to cosmetology school. They were supporting me financially at that time in my life so I had to do whatever they wanted me to do,” said Grajewski.
Over the course of four years, she began cultivating synthetic dreadlocks and saving the money she made. From that, she was able to fund her cosmetology schooling all on her own. To further prove her passion wasn’t just a hobby to her parents, she worked as a hair stylist for two years as well. Now her parents see how successful and financially independent Grajewski has become and are quite impressed by the range of clientele she reaches and services. Nicole commented on her mom especially being impressed.
“Now she (Nicole’s mom) sees that I can tell her about my really cool clients. Like she watches the lightning, and I did J.T. Brown’s hair, who now plays for Anaheim, but he was with the lightening. She thought that was the coolest thing ever. She supports me now.”
During the interview, I brought up the topic of cultural appropriation. With social media at our fingertips and cultures merging and collaborating, it does seem important to show credit and respect as well. Unfortunately, she has experienced a small amount of negative feedback.
“I feel like it really tests me online because of the way people come at me isn’t with educated opinions. It’s usually people attacking the photo or attacking the person that has dreads,” said Grajewski. “I definitely respect that African Americans wear dreadlocks so proudly and have for a really long time. But also I think that it’s just a really trending hairstyle and white people can have them because our hair does knot. I think that’s the main issue, people think that our hair doesn’t actually knot on its own.
Everybody has assistance with their dreadlocks.”
Grajewski listed how all races maintain their dreadlocks in some way; whether they are organizing sections or twisting their roots.
“If anything I would say it’s a compliment to different cultures. I think it originated from many different cultures, not just Jamaica,” said Grajewski.
When I asked what it was like being her own boss, she blurted out how it was one of the absolute best parts of what she does.
“I can do hair while I’m traveling, I can create my own hours. I don’t have to be by a book; nothing is corporate.
I don’t have to follow rules, I can be my truest self. People that come to see me accept that,” said Grajewski.
Her only drawback was that being only one of her, restricts her from reaching more people in her audience online and in person. For her, traveling is one of the bigger parts of her work. The process basically goes like this:
“If there’s a city I want to go to, all I have to do is go on instagram and say “hey I’m gonna be in this place on these dates” and I get an overwhelming amount of people that want to have their hair done by me. I get a vacation and work out of it. Work to me is always fun,” said Grajewski.
The synthetic dreadlocks that she makes are another interesting aspect of her work. The hair she uses comes from a website http://ikickshins.net/ and once the dreadlocks are made from the synthetic pieces, they are dreaded forever. Although the pieces cannot change in color and are much courser, they are perfect for someone who only wants to have dreads temporarily.
The dreadlock community is a plethora of different beings. Grajewski described it as a community of open minded positive people.
“Usually people with dreadlocks are living an alternative lifestyle. Dreadlocks come with a stigma. Dreadlocks come with a stereotype,” said Grajewski. “So if someone is willing to live their life knowing they are pushing the boundaries, they going to be more accepting of other people doing different things too.
I live a no judgement life towards pretty much anything. It’s cool to meet those likeminded people.”
Her idea for the name Rollie Locs originated from a Biggie Smalls song. The lyrical inspiration was to “put your rollies to the sky.” A younger and more naive Nicole thought it meant to put a blunt to the sky, so she made her instagram name Rollies2thesky. She later found out the reference was to Rolex watches.
Her laughter during the interview explained that she accepted her mistake and decided to own it.
“Then I started wearing dreads and doing them and people would be like start thinking that was my name. So I remember one night I was sitting at a bar with this guy named DJ Nigel in Orlando and he said ‘You gotta name it Rollies locks, I can see it! I can just see it!’ And that was the moment,” said Grajewski.
That moment would lead her to creating a business uniquely her own with a goal of one day owning her own space for the dreadlock community to come together.
“I live in St. Pete Florida and there’s a lot of dread heads here. There’s a really cool scene. I would ultimately like to create a space where I can do hair but I can also bring my community together,” said Grajewski.
Her upcoming work includes flying out to Las Angeles to personally deliver yet another wig to the drag queen Willam and she will also be doing another top secret celebrity’s dreads while she is there.
Grajewski wouldn’t disclose who the celebrity was with me because she didn’t want to jinx the opportunity.
Nearing the end of the interview, I asked Grajewski to share something with me about herself that nobody else really knew. I thought this might be interesting because she already leads such an unconventional career and lifestyle. She get’s to travel and party with some of the best and has such a large following. Her answer actually surprised me.
“I’m a really big dork. I guess people think because I have a lot of instagram followers that I care about social media that I’m some like fame crazed person but I’m not that at all. I’m actually like kind of shy, super awkward and I really don’t like talking about myself to be honest,” said Grajewski.
Her humble tone was highly refreshing. Although she’s been doing hair and dreadlocks for years now, her own actual dreads have been locking for about 10 months. They will be one year old in August.
As a fresh graduate and beginning freelancer, I asked for some advice. I too aspire to achieve the ability to work for myself one day.
“My advice is just to take that risk and if you feel it inside yourself that it’s gonna be a success like there’s a need, desire or demand for it, then just do it. Don’t hold back, give it your all,” said Grajewski.
In a moment of reflection she also added what she would have told her younger self.
“I would tell myself, ride the wave of life, follow your intuitions, and to not be so hard on yourself,” said Grajewski.
That’s all I’ve got folks, you saw it here first. Nicole Grajewski, the future of dreadlocks and what life is like when you take a chance on yourself. Ride the wave of life. That’s surely what I’ll be doing from here on out.
Thanks for taking the time to check out this feature on Nicole Grajewski.
If you’d like to view more of her work, or get into contact with her, I’ve posted her social media links below. She responds quite promptly and always has an incredibly positive attitude.