Hollywood Dreamin': Elizabeth Olajide's Journey from Nursing School Dropout to Top Beauty Artist

Olajide transformed her passion for hair into a successful career, overcoming family expectations and industry challenges to become a sought-after beauty artist in Hollywood.

Elizabeth Olajide is a prominent beauty artist whose hair and makeup work spans print editorial, TV and film, Broadway, and even salons, but her journey to becoming a groundbreaking entrepreneur was anything but straightforward. “Not that I was completely sheltered,” she says, “but I'm Nigerian (American). We don't necessarily kick our kids out when they're 18 or 19. If you have no reason to move out, like college or getting married or whatever, they’re not kicking you out.”

She found her gumption—and path—on her own. Growing up in Sylmar, Calif., on the outskirts of LA, Olajide harnessed her natural interests and talents. Like many immigrant parents, hers expected her to pursue a prestigious career as a doctor or lawyer. However, she despised nursing school and struggled to stay afloat in her classes. What she truly enjoyed was hair—specifically braiding, reminiscent of family gatherings where relatives would do each other's hair. Despite some resistance from her mother, Olajide decided to make hair her career. She attended classes day and night for over a year via LA’s challenging public transportation system and finally obtained her cosmetology license from Santa Monica College. She didn’t stop there; she got licensed in New York as well and spent countless hours mastering cornrowing through YouTube.

Hollywood Dreamin': Meet Dionna Owens, The Hairstylist Behind Hollywood’s Most Natural-Looking Wigs

Olajide's hard work and talent paid off when she was admitted into the unions for TV and film hairstylists. In 2021, she was braiding hair on NBC’s This Is Us, a significant milestone in her career. Her success continued with productions like Wild ‘n Out, Issa Rae’s Lovebirds, HBO’s Bookie, and Abbott Elementary, solidifying her place in the industry.

Industry statistics highlight the challenges Black women face in Hollywood beauty unions. Despite the growing visibility and demand for diverse beauty standards, Black women remain underrepresented. According to a 2022 report, Black women make up less than 10% of the membership in major Hollywood beauty unions, underscoring the significance of Olajide’s achievements in this competitive field.

While she’s now in demand and doing what she loves on Hollywood sets, Olajide reminds everyone that it’s still a demanding job. “People think it’s rosy. And there are some good aspects of it, but sometimes it's crunch time. One of the worst things you want to hear in any department is ‘We're waiting for hair or makeup.’” The recent writers’ strike highlighted the unpredictability of the business, requiring her to be prepared for anything, including periods of no work through no fault of her own. Still, she’s thriving at the highest level, and for the once maybe-sheltered Nigerian American girl from the Valley, it’s only up from here. “I want to expand.”

Latest News

Subscribe for BET Updates

Provide your email address to receive our newsletter.

By clicking Subscribe, you confirm that you have read and agree to our Terms of Use and acknowledge our Privacy Policy. You also agree to receive marketing communications, updates, special offers (including partner offers) and other information from BET and the Paramount family of companies. You understand that you can unsubscribe at any time.