Tiana Bell was inspired by her mother's battle with breast cancer
ormer pre-med student Tiana Bell never expected to open a salon at age 22. But what began as a labor of love for her mom is now the Allen Michael Experience.
Since March, Bell’s 1,400-square-foot Southfield salon has offered extensions, weaves, custom wigs, lashes and traditional hair care – mostly to clients battling cancer. Like her own mother. Tiffani Bell was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer in 2014 and, after starting chemotherapy, decided to shave off her hair.
It was then that the younger Bell, an avid wig-wearer, tapped into her hobby and started making wigs for her mom, from short cropped to long flowing.
“She was kind of like my test dummy,” laughs Bell, who’d taught herself the art by watching YouTube videos. “It really just kind of blossomed.” Soon, friends and family were placing orders. “People couldn’t believe it was wigs,” she says.
Fortunately, her mom has now been cancer-free for two years. And it was two years ago that Bell decided that she wanted her own hair store. While she was Michigan State studying to be a doctor, she’d made extra money selling hair extensions. Now, she’s fully flipped from pre-med to her passion and is hand-sewing wigs for others coping with cancer or alopecia.
“I try to do wigs for the everyday woman,” says Bell. She can turn virgin hair into short pixies, simple cuts with bangs, long curly locks and more, all in any custom color. Her lace wigs even give hair a natural look at the hairline (complete with baby hair, if you’d like) or when it’s parted anywhere. Prices start at about $300.
“These wigs kind of give them their confidence back,” says Bell, who consults with all her clients, though their worries and, at times, tears. “I try to make sure that everyone feels that they’re spending their money on something that lasts – and that it’s something personable.”
She even named her business after her younger brother, who has autism. A picture of the siblings greets everyone entering the salon.
Bell commits part of her proceeds to cancer research and autism awareness. She’s planning to go back to school may expand her business by opening a barbershop named after her other two younger brothers.