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Sola Spotlight: Vannora Hawkins image

Growing up, Vannora Hawkins always knew she was destined to be a hairstylist; but she didn’t know that her styling business would also become a source of strength during a battle with cancer. As a teen, Vannora would help her mother who ran a styling business in their home in Northern Virginia. “I was always her assistant for updos and bridal styles,” Vannora remembers. “I got so much experience with these styles that I even did my own hair for prom!”

In 2001 Vannora completed her cosmetology training in Alexandria, VA where in addition to updos she developed a passion for color. At the age of 25, while working as a stylist, Vannora began to start having severe signs of illness, which became a challenge since she was always working on her feet. When Vannora sought medical help, the doctors initially misdiagnosed her symptoms because of her young age, but eventually found that she had stage 4 colon cancer.

Through the initial chemotherapy treatment, Vannora continued to work, but then had a severe allergic reaction causing her to become very ill and lose all of her hair. She stopped working for about six months during this time. “It was very difficult for me to work as a stylist because I didn’t want to shock my clients when I lost my hair. I didn’t tell them what was going on or want them to pity me,” Vannora confesses.

Eventually Vannora was well enough to return to the salon, this time donning a bobbed wig, which became her signature style. “More and more my clients began to comment on how perfect my hair was and I had to be honest that it was actually a wig,” she explains, “which forced me to tell them the news about my cancer.” Much to her surprise, instead of the pity she was expecting to receive, Vannora’s clients gave her referrals for persons like her who were also struggling with chemo-related hair loss.

Vannora took this opportunity to teach these clients about how to nourish their scalp to encourage growth and work with the new texture of their post-chemo regrowth. This therapeutic connection with these new clients gave Vannora the strength and positivity she needed to get through her own battle with cancer. It has been 9 years since Vannora has been cancer-free, but she still remains active in advocacy and fundraising through the Colon Club Foundation and Chris4Life/Scope It Out 5K run. Vannora joined Sola Sola Studios in Alexandria, VA in early 2014. She was drawn to the opportunity and flexibility it offered for her lifestyle. “It’s the best thing I’ve ever done. I’m a busy mom with two kids and a husband. I can come and go as I please and I don’t have to miss practices. This has definitely been the perfect fit for my lifestyle.”

In the future, Vannora hopes to expand her business to incorporate wellness into her salon practice. “I really want to focus on health and beauty because I love helping people inside and out,” exclaims Vannora. “Sola has been a really important part of my journey because even though the salon professionals there don’t necessarily work together, we’ve become a family that supports each others dreams and visions.” For more info about Vannora, please visit http://www.solasalonstudios.com/stylist/vannora_hawkins/. Click here for more info about Sola Salon Studios Alexandria.