How does one navigate after being told they’d never become what they’d always seen for themselves? How, after years of healing and acceptance, does one navigate after becoming that very thing they were told they would never be? Janel Sealy Smith, owner of Cocoa Mane Salon in Brooklyn, became a mom twice over, though she was told she would not. And that motherhood, along with her skills and talents in the world of black hair, have joined to bolster her outlook to new heights. “Deterrence is not failure, it’s just rerouting on the GPS,” she proclaims proudly and easily, sitting in the soft glow of her mother’s sunlit front room. In one hand, she is holding her son, Josiah, and in her other, she holds a phone with which she is mediating a FaceTime Chat between her husband and son as they sing Wheels on the Bus. She’s also pregnant with her second, a daughter due soon. We spent the day with Janel in her family’s home, along with the blog MaterMea.com to get a feel for her life and to see how she juggles motherhood and entrepreneurship, and how she learned to prioritize when directions were suddenly rerouted.


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