Tag Archives: Beyoncé

Touched by Tokyo

August 26, 2016 by
Photography by Alain Nana Kwango

If you don’t consider Omaha a beauty-style launching pad, think again. Homegrown talents Jaime King and Gabrielle Union tear it up on screen, in photo spreads, and for the red carpet. Designer Kate Walz has a Paris collection to her credit. But no one’s trending hotter than hairstylist-to-the-stars William Jackson, aka Tokyo Stylez.

This lithe young man with striking African-American and Native American features is courted for his dope skills with tresses.

“Hair is the new accessory now,” he says.

It all began in Omaha doing his family’s hair. It morphed into an enterprising hustle that became his calling and career. Based in Washington D.C., he’s a bicoastal creative with a celebrity client list: Lil’ Kim, Toni Braxton, Fantasia, Naomi Campbell, Rihanna, Gabrielle Union, and Kendall and Kylie Jenner.

“It’s all about building relationships and a trust that you can create their image—their look—and bring it to life for them,” he says.

Tokyo2He’s signed to make over a TV-publishing icon. He’s close to realizing a dream of doing hair for divas Beyonce, Madonna, and Cher. He appears on TLC’s Global Beauty Masters. He tours, giving tutorials. His “Touched by Tokyo” brand features a hair fragrance mist and custom wigs.

It’s all happening so fast. But he’s ready for it.

“Right now is my time, and I just have to capture it and take things to the next level,” he says in his sweet, soft voice.

He feels his versatile chops set him apart.

“I’m like a big creative ball wrapped in one. I have a little bit of everything. You want to take it to the street, I can take you there. If you want soft, chic, and classy, I can do that. If you want a little high fashion. I do that, too. I’m just out of this world. Anything you want, I’ll do. I plan to be the next Paul Mitchell,” he says without brag.

His dreams got fired at 9 when his mother, Jessica Haynes-Jackson, was incarcerated. Some bad choices led to being caught up in a drug ring. She got busted and served several months in prison. While confined, Tokyo and his siblings lived with their father. Before going in, she says, “I asked Tokyo to take care of sissy’s hair while mommy was away. He was delighted and gracefully accepted the challenge. I knew he could do at least one ponytail, and that was all I expected.”

Except he proved a prodigy, replicating what he saw his hairdresser grandma and his mom create—braids, twists, French rolls.

He says, “I picked it up really quick. That’s kind of where I got an idea I knew what I was doing.”

When his mother was released, he couldn’t wait to show her his handiwork.

Tokyo1“She had never seen it. She’d only heard my grandmother telling her, ‘He’s killing it.’ So to show her and to see the look on her face was a great feeling.”

“This was how we discovered his amazing talent that now the whole world enjoys,” Haynes-Jackson says.

By 15, he made a name for himself doing hair. Meanwhile, his mother earned two degrees, became a mental health counselor, and coached. She is his biggest fan and inspiration.

“She’s always supported me and loved everything I’ve done. She’s an awesome lady. She is very independent. She’s never really asked anyone for anything. She’s always found a way to make things happen. I definitely would say I’ve inherited my drive from her.”

“I think what I love most about Tokyo is his warm, gentle spirit,” his mom says. “He is the same person despite his celebrity status. I think what touched my heart the most is when he traveled with his ‘Glam Squad’ to give a teenage girl battling a rare cancer a surprise makeover for her prom. I am a very proud mom.”

Tokyo’s travels have gone international. Life in the fast lane means dropping everything to do high profile gigs with tight deadlines.

He got an early taste of being a coveted stylist in school.

“Everyone came to me to get their hair done—girls and boys. My mom’s friends and clients. Their daughters. I was in such high demand it was crazy. People would be passing me notes, ‘Hey, can you do my hair after school?’ It was always something. But I knew this was something I wanted to do.”

Tokyo3With “a very steady clientele, the money was coming in,” he says. An attempt at a dancing career led to taking Tokyo as his stage name.  Seeking a bigger market as a stylist, he moved to Atlanta where he rebranded as Tokyo Stylez and blew up on social media. Celeb clients followed. In D.C. he’s minutes from New York fashion central and a nonstop flight from L.A.’s entertainment capital.

He plans to have a business presence in Omaha.

“I definitely want something back at home where it came from. It would only be right to do so.”

Meanwhile, he changes perceptions of Omaha wherever he goes.

“People are like, ‘You have black people there?’ I get that every time.”

Visit touchedbytokyo.com for more information. Omaha Magazine.

The Entertainer

June 30, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Young Derek Ventura could usually be found spellbound in front of the radio. Mesmerized by crooner kings and R&B queens, music so enlivened him that he never really decided what to do with his life, he just always knew.

“Music was always my passion,” says Ventura. “My mom said that from age four I was fixated on the radio—singing along, dancing, banging on pots and pans.”

DerekVentura3Ventura, a self-proclaimed “creature of habit,” took his predilection for music into adulthood, working as a singer, songwriter, musician, and producer. He also dabbled in acting.

“I like to answer to ‘entertainer’,” he says. “You don’t hear that term much anymore—someone who does it all: sings, dances, plays an instrument, emcees.”

That young, music-hungry boy parked in front of the family radio in 1950s NYC never guessed he would tour with the same musical heroes whose recordings he so cherished.

Like a childhood daydream come true, Ventura went on to sing lead tenor with The Drifters (“Under the Boardwalk”) from 1972-1984, and with Frankie Lymon’s Teenagers (“Why Do Fools Fall In Love”) from 1984-1986.

The Drifters’ Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame profile says the group “could not have chosen a better name, as members drifted in and out of the band from the very beginning.” In fact, due to fierce in-fighting, the iconic ensemble had several splinter groups over the years, each featuring early members.   

Ventura slammed into The Drifters featuring Dock Green like a tidal wave. In the span of just two weeks, he was hired by them, amicably left his disco group Touch, and flew off on a European tour.

“Suddenly, I’m sharing stages worldwide with groups whose records I bought,” he says. “Here I am, in the dressing room with The Temptations, Little Anthony & the Imperials, The Shirelles. That’s engraved on my brain forever.”

After 12 years touring rigorously with The Drifters, Ventura came on with tourmates Frankie Lymon’s Teenagers. While he’d lived by the creed that there were always “more worlds to conquer,” he grew weary of perpetual touring.

DerekVentura2Life and love then took Ventura to Denver, where he formed a successful 12-piece orchestra. In 1998, history repeated when love landed Ventura in Omaha, where he transitioned from a 12-piece to one-man band, created popular Husker music, was a house entertainer at Gorat’s, and performed classics for seniors.

“My passion now is keeping music alive for my generation,” he says. “I can’t begin to tell you the reward in seeing seniors light up at hearing their favorite songs, singing along, or even crying if it’s a sentimental number. To me, that’s priceless, because everyone needs to be touched by music. Everyone. I see myself as a conduit.”

Ventura embraced modern music technology but never abandoned the classics. He laments the loss of certain genres on local stations due to corporate radio’s homogenization. Though he strives to “give a voice” to golden oldies, Ventura names Beyoncé and Ne-Yo among his favorite artists, alongside Johnny Mathis and Smokey Robinson, both artists around whom he’s currently creating tribute acts.

“There aren’t too many of us in this life who get to live their dream and make a living at it, even still as they approach their twilight years,” he says. “That’s heaven to me. The passion now is as strong as when I was a kid.”