For Girls, from Girls: Jazeeba Magnificence Salon

Jazeeba salon, Maria Newsom/Bklyner

MIDWOOD—The mixed-use structure which defines the stretch of Foster Avenue from MacDonald to Ocean Avenues, pairs storefronts beneath, with residences above, and hums with people from Azerbaijan to Zambia. There’s a Bengali bakery, a Central Asian specialty market, a Dominican comfort retailer, Mexican bodegas, a Pakistani barber and Pakistani-owned Carvel franchise, a Polish florist and an Uzbek cobbler (and I’ve bypassed the companies within the Newkirk Plaza.)

Two eating places that shuttered final yr, Beharry, a vacation spot for West Indian roti, and Mamma Lucia’s, a longstanding spaghetti joint, stay factors of pilgrimage on Foster, since Westwood and the Rusty Nail, respectively,  have slid proper into place, serving up specialties like Huevos Divorciados and vegetarian pulled “pork” (jackfruit) sliders. And perhaps my favourite: a Chinese language hand laundry, the place the nonagenarian who opens her gate at 7:30 a.m., nonetheless presses, folds and wraps shirts in brown paper packages tied up with string…  So whereas in all probability not a match for Flushing’s variety, nonetheless, block for block, Foster Avenue surprises with quite a lot of surprising services and products supplied by retailers from round our spinning fidget.

Stroll-Ins Are Welcome

Courtesy of Samina Akbar

Sandwiched between an condo constructing and 4 row homes, 920 Foster, simply west of Coney Island Avenue, is certainly one of these mixed-used constructs, with tenants from Mexico on the higher flooring, and Jazeeba Magnificence Salon occupying what could have as soon as been the parlor ground of a two-family residence.

I used to be first drawn in by a poster within the window promoting a $6 eyebrow particular. (The particular has lengthy expired, however at present’s charge for eyebrow threading continues to be so cheap at $7. And for each 5 eyebrow periods you pay for, you get the sixth free!) I drop in. A lady, of about 9, swivels in a chair behind the entrance desk.

“What’s your identify sweetheart?” I ask.

“Jasmine,” the woman replies.

“Jazeeba,” her mom explains, is the teenager’s given identify, in Arabic, and therefore the identify of the salon. The proprietor, Naeema Kausar, has three different daughters: Uzma, Hiba, and Allia, after which there’s Noman, a son smack within the heart. Mrs. Kausar is from Islamabad and has been in the US for 15 years. Lately, she moved from an condo on Coney Island Avenue to a home on Staten Island, pursuing the American Dream of homeownership, Brooklyn type.

She kindly agreed to this interview.

Girls Solely 

“What made you determine to begin a enterprise?” I ask. “That’s an enormous deal, to get the cash collectively, discover the placement, rent staff…”

“Really it was my husband Nadeem’s dream,” she smiles. “This was not my dream.”

“Actually? Have you ever all the time been good at this?”

“Sure, in 2012 I went to highschool for my cosmetology license.” No minor transfer, with 5 youngsters beneath fifteen at residence. “Then for 2 years, I labored in three completely different salons for follow.”

“And that’s when your husband mentioned it is best to have your individual enterprise?” I ask.

“Sure, often the Pakistani salons are run by ladies,” Naeema explains.

“As a result of males don’t reduce ladies’s hair?” I ask.

( If my hairdresser Stephen ever retires, I’ll simply must shave my head.)

“However really, in my nation now,” Naeema continues, “some males reduce ladies’s hair. Within the final ten years, within the huge cities, they’ve the unisex salons now…”

“However not in right here. It’s all feminine,” I word.

“Sure, as a result of ladies prefer it this fashion. They really feel snug.”

I get it; I prefer it this fashion too. It feels relaxed, as ladies let their hair down into the deep shampooing sink of this cozy two-room salon, whose storefront window and partitions are plastered in posters of fashions with kohl-lined eyes, elaborately engineered hairstyles, and henna leaves touring up slender arms.

“You possibly can’t see into your store. Is that for privateness?” I ask.

“Sure, most put on the hijab exterior, however contained in the salon, heads are uncovered.”

“In unisex salons,” explains Uzma, “ladies can’t get hair companies and waxing, with out dropping their modesty.”

Courtesy of Samina Akbar

The Providers

Whereas the daughters assist out across the store, answering telephones or sweeping up, particularly at busy occasions like Chaand Raat, or “The Night time of the Moon,” the feast ending Ramadan and kicking off Eid al-Fitr, Naema has just one full-time worker, Samina Akbar, a beautiful younger girl from Lahore. In New York since 2015, Samina attended a government-run magnificence college in Pakistan the place, as she describes it, “They discovered me every little thing.”

And so they did educate her every little thing. I belief Samina with my eyebrows. “Simply pure, not skinny,” I inform her, settling into certainly one of solely three beautician chairs. My phrases are pointless, she remembers. Samina holds a thread taut over my forehead and works so rapidly the ache is negligible, lassoing particular person hairs in a loop of thread, then rapidly tightening to pluck.

“Is threading one thing women be taught at residence, or are they skilled within the salon?” I direct my query into the floor-to-ceiling mirror.

“It’s not onerous, it’s simply approach.” Samina dismisses modestly. “You be taught approach, and after that it’s simply follow.” As any girl who’s ever had a nasty forehead expertise is aware of although, it’s not that simple to get the arch proper. Samina palms me a mirror and I love my symmetrical brows: two excellent peaked roofs.

Courtesy of Samina Akbar

The Purchasers

“Who’re your purchasers?” I ask Naeema, questioning who else advantages from this expertise.

“Everyone. It’s combined. Largely Pakistani, but in addition Uzbeki, Bengali, and Jewish, too.”  I don’t know why I used to be stunned to listen to Orthodox ladies frequent Jazeeba; it’s Midwood after-all, we combine.

“Goes to the salon in Pakistan one thing ladies do repeatedly?” I ask.

“A couple of times per week. Right here too.” she replies.

“What does it imply to your purchasers, to return right here? What do ladies discuss?” I ask.

“Household, schooling. Not an excessive amount of dangerous issues. Simply optimistic, no adverse. And we don’t speak badly about folks.” Naeema stresses this final level.

“So that you’re not a therapist Naeema?” I joke. “You’re not giving folks recommendation on their love life for instance?”

“No, however I do give assist to ladies.” she provides.

By this she means she networks. Naeema is aware of folks. She connects newer immigrants to important companies that assist ease the transition from previous to new.


As-salamu alaykum, a girl with henna tattoos up each arms, nonetheless recent from the Eid al-Fitr vacation two days earlier, glides in with function and opens dialog. All I pick in English from the Urdu crossfire that follows is: “seventy-five.” Then, after extra vigorous banter, Naeema, I collect, makes her remaining supply: “sixty-five for every.” “Shukriya,” the girl nods and leaves, shutting the door with power.

“Did she comply with sixty-five?” I ask.

“She did.” Naeema laughs. “At present three sisters-in-law are having a wedding social gathering,” she explains, so they need social gathering make-up and hairstyling. And so they desire a low cost. We’re doing it for sixty-five {dollars} per individual.”

It’s a practice spanning millennia, to have an all-female prenuptial gathering—a mehndi social gathering— for the sweetness rituals of mehndi, make-up and looping locks of hair into elaborate updos. It may well take three hours or extra for Naeema and Samina to make the household of the bride wedding-ready. The Nikkah, or authorized Islamic marriage, might be achieved forward of time, at a mosque, with solely the instant household current, however for the Baraat, or the marriage day, hosted by the bride’s household, each households are out in full power, placing their finest satin-slippered ft ahead.

Courtesy of Samina Akbar

The Artwork of Mehndi

“Does each little woman be taught Mehndi?” I ask.

“A few of them, not all,” solutions Naeema. “The little women that prefer it, do. After highschool although, most ladies need to discover ways to do Mehndi.”

“And the place did you be taught?” I ask Samina.

“At residence, on my palms, and on my ft. I used to be about 18 and my mom’s sisters and my cousins would come over. We might follow on one another. Then they began coming to me for holidays, for weddings.”

“The younger Samina should have been good,” I noticed.

“She was,” interjects Uzma. “However you already know, mehndi isn’t solely flowers. Some are very summary.”

“How do your purchasers determine on a design?” I ask.

“We have now a binder,” Naeema palms me a binder and I flip to a web page of cross-hatch basket weave bands, etched over delicate knuckles. “They will select from right here, however now many individuals have the photographs they need on their telephones.”

“It’s simply no matter you need it to be!” provides Uzma.

Samina enlarges a picture of a pink henna design beginning on the pinky toe, and wending its method, like a ribbon, to the large toe, earlier than curling throughout the highest of the foot then tucking beneath the heel.

“Maroon mehndi is conventional for weddings,” she explains.

“I’d heard you disguise the identify of your lover someplace within the design,” I say.

“That is extra of an Indian custom,” Uzma corrects, “however it’s getting widespread in Pakistan as nicely.”

“Did you set your groom’s identify someplace Samina?” I ask.

“Within the heart of my hand.” A small smile lifts the corners of her mouth, and I visualize the opening of Samina’s painted palm in direction of her new husband—Usman—embedded alongside her life line…

What’s Subsequent?

Naeema is trying to carry on a nail artist, which might be a superb addition to Foster Avenue, since sandal season appears to stretch longer yearly…

The place do you see this enterprise in three years?” I ask.

“I need to broaden to a second location,” she replies, “perhaps down in direction of Avenue J or as much as Cortelyou.”

And wouldn’t that be nice for us gals with unruly eyebrows and uninteresting fingertips, reaching for a contact of mehndi magic and recent manicures? Inshallah.

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