As a young girl growing up in the Northwest, D.C., Wanda Henderson, 62, always had a passion for doing hair and learning the beauty behind it. No matter what she was doing, she was constantly thinking about ways to become better at doing hair.  She simply knew she would become a beautician one day.

Henderson is the oldest of four girls, and she was grew up in LeDroit Park with her single mother. She was always the one to help her sisters get ready, which was what sparked her passion for being a hair stylist. Henderson eventually enrolled in beauty school from 1982-1983 at The National Institute of Cosmetology in D.C. and had a daughter, who was just a toddler at the time. After she graduated, she started working as a hairstylist from home and slowly building her clientele. But Henderson’s dreams and goals did not stop here.

In 2003, she opened up her first beauty salon in D.C. on U Street and 12th. With business booming, the shop on U st could no longer hold all her clients. She needed something bigger and better, so she moved not too far to 7th and T Streets.

Henderson thought it would be a good idea to move to the new building because of its historic background in the area. Just blocks away from Howard University and the Shaw- Howard metro stop, she knew it would be a great fit for more business. However, she says she didn’t always have it easy owning a business in the Shaw-Howard neighborhood, “Dealing with gentrification when I first opened up was a struggle, the developer’s approach to basically force tenants out by raising the rent was a lot on a single business owner,” said Henderson.

“Wanda’s on 7th” has become more popular than ever with a few celebrities added to the client list, such as former first lady Michelle Obama. Henderson continues to think of ways to expand her business in the D.C. community, which does not leave much time for anything else. “ There’s no balance between my work life and personal life, hair is my life.” Although, Henderson does spend her weekends with her family, which now includes five grandsons.

Henderson has inspired many who have crossed paths with her in life. Kendall Cooper, a hairstylist at the salon, said “her work ethic is beyond this world. She’s kind and caring while still being stern with you. I’ve learned a lot from Wanda.” She has set out goals to achieve in her everyday life that will help others as well. “ I would love to open a beauty school to help other aspiring hairstylists. I want to be the best in the city,” said Henderson, who someday hopes to own a salon in the Anacostia neighborhood. “ Seeing her succeed helps me, because what you give out is what you’ll get. She gives out great support,” said Donna Sissoko, longtime friend she met in beauty school.

Henderson has no plans on retiring and keeps going strong with her career and business, “ I feel wonderful being a woman in a leadership role, finding new strengths, being a leader and a great role model is what I thrive for.”

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