Tinisha Meeks has had her hands in a lot of hair. The stylist, who has her own salon in California, has worked on shows like Scandal, K.C. Undercover, America’s Next Top Model, and Black-ish. Most recently, she followed Yara Shahidi from the Black-ish household to the Grown-ish campus.
Grown-ish occupies a unique space on television right now. It follows Shahidi’s character, Zoey Johnson, during her first year of college, and explores tricky topics like Adderall use, the complications of being a black college athlete, being bisexual, and losing your virginity. It’s reminiscent of '80s sitcom A Different World, but definitely a reflection of modern times—and really, really, great hairstyles.
On Black-ish, Zoey was always the coolest member of her family, so Meeks wanted to bring that same vibe to Grown-ish. “I tried to go according to character, so, for Yara, she's very trendy and is supposed to be really fashion-forward, so I tried to keep her looks more innovative,” Meeks says. She tells us that Shahidi doesn’t straighten or use heat on her hair in real life, so a bulk of the styles on the show don’t either. She wears a bone-straight wig in one of the episodes, but, for the most part, you’ll see Zoey with her hair styled in natural curls, braided, or—our personal favorite—in an occasional high ponytail. You’ll also see her with her hair tied up in scarves before going to bed, a nightly ritual for most black women that is rarely shown on television. It’s a minor part of the show and it’s something that, Meeks says, she had to fight for. “The show really teaches what young adult life is like in college, and they don't just go ahead and lay down, because they have to pay for the hair, or they took a long time to do the hair and they don't have the time to redo it every morning,” Meeks says. “So we show it being tied down because that's what really happens.”
Meeks pulls inspiration from “fashion shows, hair shows, Instagram, Facebook, wherever people have hairstyles,” but the collective look you see on the small screen is very much a team effort. Shahidi signs off on styles for every scene, and Meeks often receives direction from show creator, Kenya Barris, as to what the expected look for an episode is. Since the clothes and the hair are so interwoven, she’ll also consult with other departments. “Sometimes I consult with fashion because we want them to coincide—hair, makeup, fashion—so we all collaborate together to make sure that everything looks great on screen.”
Ask the average black girl, and they’ll tell you the number of hair changes Zoey’s character undergoes in any given episode isn’t exactly a realistic depiction of how we approach hair—especially while in college. Natural hair can be a lot to contend with under the best of circumstances, and it’s especially hard if you’re in a new environment with little time on your hands. Meeks understands this and tells us that the styles she’s created never take more than 45 minutes to replicate (and you can learn how to do them yourself here and here). “The easiest so far is the two braided look with one down the middle,” she tells us, referring to the hairstyle seen in episode six. “I’ve seen a lot of people recreate that one.” Her universal advice for taking care of curly hair in general: “Always keep your hair moisturized, always keep your hair conditioned, and make sure you tie it up at night. If you do those things, you won’t have as much breakage and your hair will love you back.”
More than anything, the looks seen on Grown-ish provide much-appreciated natural hair inspiration for those both in and out of college. And, with another season on the way, we anticipate building up a Rolodex of screenshots to bring to our salon for years to come.
Ahead, check out some of our favorite looks from the show and the products Meeks likes to use on Shahidi’s hair.