We had the good fortune of connecting with Kaeley Chapel and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kaeley, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
I have always been drawn to the more creative aspects of life, whether it is music, writing, crafting, or visual art. My mom taught me how to crochet, knit, and sew as a kid and I’ve been singing and playing music since I can remember. I went through phases of creative writing and drawing as well. I come from a very educated family, and college was always touted as the natural next step. I think I was 12 before I learned not everyone went to college. In high school, I went through a rebellious teen phase involving dark clothes and heavy makeup, and this led to my interest in body modification. When I graduated, I was very lost and directionless, and my first 2 attempts at college were a miserable failure. After working in food service for a while, I started looking for something else. It has always been important to me that a job doesn’t tell me how to look and what color my hair can be, so this led to me to look for a creative, lucrative career where I wouldn’t have to compromise my self-expression and body modification journey. I had always had an interest in hair, but I had never considered a career in it because college was such an expectation. Eventually, I decided to go for it and got my hairstylist license in 2011. I found I had a natural knack for clipper cuts and short haircuts, which led to me getting my barber license in 2018. After working as a clipper cut specialist for a few years, I discovered my true passion: dreadlocks. I was instantly hooked and made it my main focus. Doing dreadlocks has allowed me so many opportunities that I hadn’t even imagined, and I am extremely grateful to be able to do something I love and connect with others on their own journeys.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
When I was a teenager, I suddenly became rabidly obsessed with dreadlocks. I have no idea what person or picture I saw, but almost out of nowhere, I had to find out everything I could about them. Back in 2003, there was very little information on the internet and most of it was questionable at best. I decided I wasn’t ready to take on that challenge, so they were shoved to the back of my mind. Several years later, I learned about the existence of temporary dreadlocks. I mulled it over, went back and forth on it, and finally got my first wool set in 2017. My barber clients quickly became used to seeing me with dreadlocks, and would even look forward to seeing my next set or what my new colors were going to be. After I started offering temporary dreadlocks as a service, it wasn’t very long before I was getting requests for permanent ones. I had no clue how to start or maintain dreadlocks, so I did tons of research (so much more information now!). This was where I learned about the crochet method. I read, I practiced, I had my first clients, and I was addicted. Somewhere in there, I had my own permanent dreadlocks started. From there, it built naturally. I am constantly learning more, seeking out continuing education, and honing my techniques. My clients love the passion I have for what I do, and my obsessive quest for more knowledge means that I’m well-educated on the various aspects of the dreadlock journey. I am also told that I’m very gentle, which is great for my tender-headed clients. In 2019, I was approached to do hair for Denver Fashion Week, and I was over the moon to find that some of the models had dreadlocks. High fashion and dreadlocks are not a common combination, and I made it my new mission to make room for dreadlocks in areas where they are not often seen. So far, I have worked on lawyers, business owners, runway models, doctors, government officials, academics, and musicians. My goal isn’t so much to make dreadlocks mainstream, as it is to make them less of a novelty. I always tell my clients who are just starting out that the most common questions you will get are “Can you wash them?” and “Do you have to shave your head if you don’t want them anymore?”. I am constantly debunking these myths, and many others in the same vein. Yes, you can wash your hair and no, you don’t have to shave your head. My clients get a crash course in everything I have learned so far while they’re in my chair, so that, not only are they well-equipped to care for their hair, but so they can go out in the world and be armed with the knowledge to combat the myths they will inevitably encounter. Even in the salon and barber world, there is a lot of prejudice and misinformation surrounding dreadlocks. When I educate about dreadlocks, the fact that I was a hair professional before I became a loctician helps add some credibility to my statements. Dreadlocks require different care than loose hair, but at the end of the day, they are hair and I don’t think there should be as much of a separation between the beauty world and the dreadlock world. I use my stylist and barber skills as much as I use my dreadlock skills, often in the same appointment. The separation of dreadlocks within the beauty and barber world is a microcosm of their separation from general society, and it’s totally unnecessary. It is my hope to break down these barriers between worlds and forge a coexistence. I’m not any less of a professional because I specialize in dreadlocks, and my clients aren’t outcasts on the fringes of society. We exist in all areas of life and in all kinds of careers and jobs. Our hair may look different from what is “normal”, but it is a form of self-expression, just like everyone else’s.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I would start in the downtown area and 16th Street Mall. That area will always have a piece of my heart. Sakura Square is tons of fun. Then, we’d go to either the Museum of Natural History or the Art Museum. For food, I love pizza, and Slice Works is up there at the top of my list. I would normally say Leela for coffee and late night snacks, but since that went under, the Gypsy House Cafe is a close second. If the weather is nice, Wash Park is a favorite from my childhood. For nightlife, I accidentally discovered Hamburger Mary’s, and that’s always a blast. For a nightcap, my favorite is Roosevelt.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Right off the bat, I have to shout out my parents because my life right now would look very different if not for their undying support. It took me a long time to find my path due to various circumstances, but I finally found it and I know they are very proud of me and are probably pretty relieved to find I’m not actually a failure. As for professional influences, my mentor Crissa Rajczy has been absolutely pivotal in my career. I have learned so much from her about dreadlocks, business practices, and life in general. If I become half the woman she is, I can die happy. Georgia Tournai has been my friend forever. She has taught me so much about how to run a business, and got me into doing runway shows, something I never thought I’d do. She has been instrumental in pushing me to try new things and put myself out there in ways I hadn’t considered. Finally, I have to shout out Pinky Salyer. His dreadlocks fascinated me and rekindled my interest in them, which had been on the backburner since high school. He is a big part of the reason I started doing them professionally. He knew I was feeling unmotivated with barbering and haircutting, and he encouraged me to start my career in dreadlocks. I don’t remember the exact moment that sparked it, but I know I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing without him.
Thomas Wubshots Beatriz Perea Emilee Lindley Kim Desmond