Product line promotes hair growth, personal healing

Cindy Tawiah

Cindy Tawiah

About 25 years ago, Cindy Tawiah, creator of Diva by Cindy, was 16 years old . . . and failing her chemistry class horribly.

"My father wanted me to become a doctor, so he picked my subjects for me—biology and chemistry," she says.

After failing another chemistry test, her teacher decided to make the subject more interesting for her.

"He taught me how to make nail polish and lipstick," Tawiah says. "I remember we had a big science fair and everybody came through. A man in the military came up and asked what was in my petri dish. My teacher proudly came by my side and said " 'this is Cynthia—our cosmetologist & chemist' and I immediately loved the sound of that."

Unfortunately, Tawiah's father didn't like that idea. Despite her new-found excitement for the cosmetics industry, Tawiah went on to become a nurse, staying in the medical field, as her father wanted.

"I always wanted to leave nursing from the day I started my training in 1989 - always knew I wanted to manufacture products - just stuck with it till I could find the strength to leave."

She was a registered nurse for 13 years before she acknowledged that even simple tasks as a nurse irritated her.

"I went into to work and a doctor approached me for the results of a patient's order," she says. "I felt irritated and that was my sign to draft my resignation letter and leave."

Thinking back to her high school days, she remembered how her worst subject became her biggest passion.

"My father's opinion no longer mattered because he was no longer the one paying my tuition," she says. "Once I decided to move on to what I loved, he realized it was what I wanted all along."

"My teacher had the ability to change my life and draw my destiny out of me," she says. In 2004, she opened ShadesofU, her very own salon. Tawiah didn't attend cosmetology school, but loved the nurturing atmosphere she was able to provide with her facility and services.

"I love the atmosphere God allowed me to create. It was a place where NFL players wives, politicians, surgeons and the elite came to, but it was also a place of healing and restoration for victims of domestic violence who felt a community rally around them around Thanksgiving and the holidays," she says.

ShadesofU was a stepping stone to Tawiah's ultimate goal, developing and distributing a line of hair care products.

"With Diva By Cindy, the first priority was to create a hair care line without alcohol and ingredients which would provide extreme detangling ability and stop shedding and breakage," she says. "This process of elimination is how I approached the research process."

With the help of a chemist, she developed a formula. The final product was the Diva by Cindy moisture system for dry hair and shedding and the stimulating system to promote hair growth. The next step was to find a facility that would produce it in large quantities.

That's where the difficulties started.

Cindy Tawiah

Diva by Cindy products

"A lot of people in chemistry are men. I had to keep hearing 'no, no, no,' encountering a lot of men in the industry," she says. "But how can a man who has not used hair products like this or who has not had hair issues know what's right?“

She also faced problems with distribution of her product line. "Here I have an exclusive line to get women’s hair longer and healthier. But the women were using Dr. Miracles and other brands and were stuck in their ways. I wanted to educate women on what certain chemicals do to the hair and scalp."

Diva by Cindy started three years ago and completely eliminates alcohol and infuses products with panthenol (provitamin B5) to promote hair growth. Diva focuses on preventing breakage, reducing shedding, and stimulating the scalp.

"Hair is dead—if you cut it, it won't hurt. So our intention is to promote circulation in the scalp so hair grows from the scalp."

She has been using the line on clients since the end of 2006. Her daughter and salon clients are proven models of the products' success.

"Everybody was walking around with shine and body in their hair," she says. "Eliminating alcohol and using moisturizing ingredients prevent that breakage that prevents hair from gaining length."

So which products in this line can we use on our curls, coils, waves and kinks? One of Tawiah's biggest goals was to put out a product with amazing detangling ability. She recommends the Leave-in Detangler. "It works especially with afro hair to moisturize and make the hair extremely manageable, not sticky, not goopy — and that is excellent."

The Stimulating Shampoo and deep conditioners contain peppermint and menthol to further stimulate the scalp. The Super Grow—is a soufflé-like butter applied on the scalp.

While Diva by Cindy promotes hair growth, Tawiah's other project promotes helping others in need.

"We were bringing in victims of domestic violence to do their hair for free. We wanted to uplift these women and pour back into their spirits," she says.

"I want every woman to realize that a Diva is not just a woman who is fabulous and desires excellence. She is a divine, virtuous and anointed a woman who wants to help other realize that same level of excellence as well," she says.

Tawiah would provide a free wash and styling, as well as provide food and a chance to talk and share what they’ve been through.

"We would light a white candle for each of them so she can blow it out and forgive the other party for the situation and experiences they've had to go through."

What started out as several women became a group of 20, then 40. And just because Tawiah sold her salon in 2009 to focus more on the Diva line and travel the trade show circuit, didn't mean the charity would stop. In order to reach even more people, Tawiah created Donate to a Diva.

This past December, with donations including Maybelline and her very own Diva line, Donate to a Diva put together packages of cosmetics and other goodies for 250 ladies, sending them to nine shelters in the D.C., Maryland, Virginia area. The nonprofit's goal is to serve women all across the country.

"I’ve been on the receiving end; I’ve been a battered woman," she said. "After you go through an experience, it’s your responsibility to help others when you’re now in a position to help them."

Diva by Cindy strives to "minister through hair care," providing support for women in tough situations and solutions for common hair problems.

What started as a difficult high school class has now led to Tawiah's calling in life, and she'd love to share it.

"I call it being my sisters' keeper. It’s my heart, it’s my passion. Women are my passion."