The fashion world remembers celebrity hairstylist LaTisha Chong

Chong styled Serena Williams' tresses for the September 2022 issue of Vogue.

When New York Fashion Week makes its return on Sept. 9, one of its greatest talents will unfortunately be absent. LaTisha Chong, the celebrity hairstylist responsible for a countless array of stunning looks for Tracee Ellis Ross, Yara Shahidi, Ziwe, Adut Akech, Paloma Elsesser, Bella Hadid and many more, died July 19 of metastatic breast cancer. Chong was 32.

LaTisha Chong Obituary
Screenshots: Condé Nast; Hearst Magazines

Born in Trinidad and Tobago before emigrating to the United States as a child, Chong reportedly hailed from a family of gifted hairstylists but served in the U.S. Air Force before turning to hairstyling as a profession. Having organically honed her craft, she quickly became an in-demand stylist for fashion’s elite, including becoming the first-ever hair designer for longtime friend Telfar Clemens’ eponymous label.

Vogue magazine paid tribute to the Trinidadian-born talent in its September issue, for which Chong styled the breezy, “beachy locks” of cover star Serena Williams. Widely billed as Williams’ “farewell” to tennis, the issue would prove to be Chong’s final cover as well. Posting the cover to Chong’s Instagram page, one of her sisters thanked her Vogue collaborators for supporting Chong in “her final act of greatness.” She also explained the global hairstylist’s dedication to Black hair and attention to detail that was the hallmark of Chong’s work to the very end, writing: “She gave this one her all.”

ASCENSION. The underlying theme in Vogue. September issue. While I will never be able to put words together as eloquently as her, my sister will be so proud of this moment. She was excited about this cover, not because it was Vogue, but because of the figure of greatness that will be gracing its cover. Serena Williams.

Latisha strategized for weeks about the execution, and the overall look and feel for Serena’s cover, because ultimately she did not want to disappoint our community. I can’t tell you how many times she would sit there disheartened by the lack of knowledge on the manipulation and maintenance of black hair.

It can be soft, it can be feminine, it’s deserving of care and love, and to think otherwise is just ignorant and lazy.

Credit: Instagram

As news of Chong’s death spread through the fashion industry, Vogue, a brand which frequently showcased the stylist’s genius, asked several of her cohorts and close friends and family to share memories and tributes.

“[LaTisha] was one of the first people who I felt a level of protection from when I was on set with her,” said Paloma Elsesser, who worked with Chong frequently, including for her January 2021 cover of Vogue. “She really saw me without me having to express my needs, she could pick up on when I was feeling afraid, or when I needed that little extra support and she knew what song to put on to gas me up. And that’s just the ways in which she touched every single person’s life. She loved so fully and thoroughly…I feel truly lucky and privileged to have known her.”

“Her spirit was unmatched, like the most real person who will literally tell you how it is, not how someone else has told her it has to be, you know?” Clemens recalled, adding, “And that’s why we worked together and I valued whatever she said because it was true…it was a genuine experience. We were like family.”

Speaking with Women’s Wear Daily in late August, Tracee Ellis Ross spoke of her admiration for Chong, who so impressed her during their September 2021 cover shoot for Harper’s Bazaar that she entrusted the stylist with both her look for that fall’s Met Gala and a subsequent global campaign for her hair care line, Pattern. “LaTisha had a real love of natural textured hair and that is what brought our work together,” said Ross. “I am so grateful for the contribution she made to my own hair story and the hair story I’m telling through Pattern.”

Chong’s surviving loved ones include her 12-year-old son Malachi, parents Darlene and Garrick, and sisters Afesha and Tenisha. She is also beloved and remembered by countless friends and colleagues, including acclaimed makeup artist Raisa Flowers, who wrote the following in tribute to her “best friend” and frequent collaborator:

“She made it her duty to pour light into people she came across. There is nobody like her when it comes to personality, talent and her beauty … I am going to miss so many things about her. What a selfless beautiful person that I got to call my friend.”

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