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Guided By Faith, Single-Mom Stylist, Author, Entrepreneur Finds Higher Calling For Voice

Matt Peiken | BPR News

Here’s how tight Nikki Lee’s family is: She convinced her mother and three adult children to move last fall from a lifetime in Cincinnati to the unknown of Asheville.

“One of my clients years ago had always told me that I’d connect well in Asheville because I seemed like the hippie type, and I am,” Lee recalled. “We just visited and we fell in love with the mountains.”

Like many who move to this area, Lee arrived without much of a plan. What she did have was her faith—her unwavering compass throughout her life. Around 2012, that compass pointed her to sell her thriving hair salon and devote herself to writing.

She has since self-published nine books of uplifting guidance, founded a support agency for single mothers in poverty and built a consulting business for entrepreneurs. She hosts a monthly podcast based on her writings and she has written a play drawn from the stories of two single black mothers and their adult sons.

That play, titled “Savagery,” gets a staged reading June 18 through Asheville’s Magnetic Theater as part of the first GRINDfest.

“When you’re walking in the purpose of God and you understand his voice, I trusted He was going to open the doors for me, and that’s what happened,” Lee said. 

Lee is 49 years old and people began paying her to do their hair all the way back in high school. Through 20 years running her salon, she came to understand the act of doing hair as a gateway to a higher calling.

“Your crown is a high-energy source and so when a stylist or barber touches the crown, the power of touch is healing,” she said. “As folks know, when you go to the salon, you sit in the chair and you tell everything, so we’re really natural therapists. And so within my salon, I realized people were coming to spill out all their negative emotions, and so I created a space of peace. So it was not just an appointment. It was a healing experience.”

But Lee said the public school system didn’t serve her children well, so she sold her salon, moved herself and her three children into her mother’s home and devoted herself to homeschooling.


“As a single mother, I was a strong Black woman running my business, and here there was an issue I was having with my children and their education,” Lee said. “I realized I needed to humble myself and get myself in position so I can help them on another level.”

Selling her business only focused Lee’s calling as a healer. After a year of what she calls resting, she said she heard the voice of God telling her to write a book. 

“I would have dreams and titles would come and they would start to evolve, and so I would write them down, and that’s how nine books evolved,” she said.

Her book, “Healing Cosmetology,” led to “Healing Beauty,” and other titles—“Eradicating Fear,” “Eradicating Emotional Paralysis” and “Wisdom of a Queen.” There’s also a book about how to write and publish your own book. “Savagery,” which spawned her play, is a book that also ties into Lee’s organization called Warrior Moms.

It began as a makeover photo shoot for mothers in poverty and grew into a workshop, podcast and a short video documentary. After the June 18 staged-reading through the Magnetic Theater, Lee has plans to evolve “Savagery” into a full stage production and perhaps a film.

“Overall, the story is about how slavery has a connection to our daily lives, how each individual’s upbringing is tied to slavery and how that pain continues to evolve on a generational curse kind of a path,” Lee said. “So that’s the focus of this play, to get people to talk about what’s going on on the inside, so we can heal and so we can grow and live a blissful life.”

Lee has extended family nearby and, since arriving in Asheville, she’s discovered enslaved family members five generations back connected to the historic Shook-Smathers House in Clyde and also to the Lenoir family behind Lenoir-Rhyne University.

“It’s like a puzzle and I’m just piecing it together,” Lee said. “Walking by faith, living this life of bliss and definitely not living based on what society says the path you should go.”


Matt Peiken was BPR’s first full-time arts journalist.
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