When it comes to mission statements, the one professed by Kandis Janay Woods is pretty bad-ass: “I want to be beauty.”
Kandis turned 27 this week, and after a life spent in Madison, she’s moving to Atlanta in June. A stylist who specializes in hair extensions and makeup, she wants to start her own salon and maybe run a beauty school someday or launch a cosmetics line.
These aren’t new goals. They began, she says, when she was 10 years old, practicing on mannequin heads.
“My mom used to go to Goodwill and get them for me,” she says over coffee at Starbucks on East Washington. In her bedroom, Kandis — who goes by Kandi J — would cut and braid hair on the mannequins for hours.
One of her younger sisters, Ruby, would often thwart her efforts. The family’s bird, Pete, caught her in the act one day, squawking: “Ruby-Ruby-Ruby!”
Kandis found her sister with a pair of scissors and a fistful of mannequin hair.
“I cried for like a day or so,” she says. “It was like, the pain! That’s when I knew, this is what I want to do.”
By age 13, Kandis was styling her sisters’ hair. Soon after, she was taking appointments from neighbors, earning money from a makeshift salon in her basement.
After graduating a semester early from East High School in 2005, she studied cosmetology at Madison College and worked at a couple salons. She’s been at Great Clips for two years and is also a “beauty ambassador” at a makeup shop in West Towne Mall. She works every day, usually 45 to 60 hours a week. When we spoke, she hadn’t taken a day off in three months.
“I feel like people think cosmetology is just the easy way out. Like, you’re just sitting behind a chair for the rest of your life,” she says. “I think opposite. I want the most experiences as possible before opening up my own business. So I grind hard because of that.”
I ask why she’s leaving Madison. At first, she ticks off the usual suspects: the winters are long; a bigger city offers more opportunities, more adventure. She’s got jobs lined up in Atlanta at the companies she works for now, and she has relatives and friends there to ease the transition.
Later, she gives a darker reason. In June 2013, two men stormed into the North Thompson Drive residence of her best friend, Julia Majette, and fatally shot the 25-year-old in the head. Majette’s husband, Daunte T. Vance, was also shot and wounded. Their three children — Kandis’ godchildren — were 2, 5 and 6 when their mother was murdered.
The killers are at large. Kandis is bitter about the unsolved crime, and says it’s another reason she wants to leave town.
“I’m still in a trance where I need closure to know who killed my best friend.” She has little faith in the police. “They have no clue.”
Her godchildren now live with relatives. They call Kandis “GG Mama.” She loves them, and leaving them will be hard. But Kandis says Majette’s mother has encouraged her to move on. Helping those kids is part of her goal now, “to make sure they go to college and have a good life and know that they were loved,” she says.
To make that happen, “I have to be somebody, if not famous, then wealthy.”
Kandis Janay Woods
Dream: To start her own upscale salon