Remembering LaTisha Chong, the Beloved Hair Stylist Behind Serena Williams’s Iconic Cover

Paloma Elsesser, model: “LaTisha had a sharpness for detail and perfectionism and a laser focus for how to get things done. She was one of the first people who I felt a level of protection from when I was on set with her. She really saw me without me having to express my needs, she could pick up on when I was feeling afraid, or when I needed that little extra support and she knew what song to put on to gas me up. And that’s just the ways in which she touched every single person’s life. She loved so fully and thoroughly. When I had the opportunity to shoot my first American Vogue single girl story—and what does that mean? Who are the people that I want around me who are committed to creating a legacy and images that last forever? I knew LaTisha needed to be on it. We had worked together a bunch at that point, and she was a breath of fresh air of artistry in the way she did hair, bringing in the historical Black hair knowledge, which is so lacking, but also the artistry and the level of criticism. She showed me what a commitment to craft was, like she was still assisting before she went out on her own, because she [felt] she still had more to learn. Little tokens of humility, but also her confidence, that is such a testament to her humanity. I feel truly lucky and privileged to have known her.”

Telfar Clemens, designer: “We met as teenagers basically, just hanging out, and through her sister Afesha, who used to do my hair. When we were building a hair team, working on shows and stuff, I reached out to Afesha and she was like, ‘I have a sister that does hair professionally,’ so from then on LaTisha started doing my hair, and she started working in my team and doing everybody else’s hair and then she became my hair director. We went all over the world together, that’s who was with me for this entire European stint that Telfar did, and for our New York Fashion Week concert she [did] everybody. For each show we would basically come up with hairstyles together and there would be no difference between what I drew and what we did [in the end]; it was exactly what I thought it would be. I just remember us having this period and—there’s so many periods that I can’t pick a favorite because all of them are literally so important in where we went hair-wise. And of course I got to have the hair before the models would! Her spirit was unmatched, like the most real person who will literally tell you how it is, not how someone else has told her it has to be, you know? And that’s why we worked together and I valued whatever she said because it was true, like nobody’s putting her up for it, there’s no ulterior motive of like, wanting to do something because you wanna do it, it was a genuine experience. We were like family.”

Photo: Alessandro Lucioni /

Photo: Alessandro Lucioni /

Photo: Alessandro Lucioni /

Dawn Sterling, nail artist: “LaTisha was a perfectionist, she was a genius and she was very real and raw. Her son had a birthday party maybe a week before Vogue cover shoot and when I got there with my daughter she was at the bowling alley, plucking the wigs for Serena. She was not able to talk that much, her voice was gone, and she couldn’t really walk, but she had her bag, her tweezers, and she was plucking for dear fucking life and I was just like, this girl is so iconic ! She was so happy and looking forward for all of us — me, Raisa, Gab — like just being part of this moment with Serena, because we are like a family. She was a nurturer and a giver. She worked really hard on the day of the shoot, it was a very challenging day, and she did the most amazing job and Serena was so patient and lovely with her. And she looks beautiful. She’s the friend that wanted everyone around her to be the best that they could be. She wanted everyone to win. She wanted everybody to be the best, and I just loved her for that.”

Raisa Flowers, makeup artist: “We met on set in 2018. She asked to borrow my tweezers and then lost them a few minutes later. She was in a hurry trying to get everyone’s hair done but she also had to go to work, she was still working in Michelle’s hair salon in Brooklyn. But then she gave me the money for my tweezers and I was [taken aback]. We met again on another shoot and we were in the trailer together and all of a sudden our birthdays came up in conversation and our birthdays were a day apart. And that to me is super special, ’cause when I find someone with my sign, I always kind of glue to them because we have so many similarities. After that, we got really close. She started doing my hair and I was like, damn this person’s really good like she needs to be doing bigger shoots, but she didn’t want to leave the shop because she’s very loyal and she didn’t want to disappoint the [owner]. When I would get hit up for a shoot, I would be like, ‘oh, do you guys have hair? You should check out this hair stylist LaTisha.’ So we started to work together a lot, and it would just be high spirits. I saw how much she encouraged people and she wanted to put love and light into people’s lives. And she worked with people who really loved her and really pushed her to be this amazing star, like she was working with Ian Isiah and Jeremy O. Harris.

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