We scoured the country to find the most sizzling salons and innovative stylists to show us what they do best—create show-stopping hairstyles! If you’re a stylist or salon-owner who would like to share your photos, please send an email with your contact info and salon’s website link to BeautyEditors@essence.com.

Stylist: Maria Thompson
Salon: Twist & Curves
Location: West Hartford, CT
Makeup Artists: Brettnee Nelson and Gerrie Ferris

ESSENCE.com: How long have you been styling hair?
Thompson: I have been a braid, locs, twists, and natural hair specialist for 37 years and an educator for 15 years.

VIEW GALLERY: Salon Styles: In Love With Locs

Loading the player...

ESSENCE.com: What is the best part of your job as a stylist?
Thompson: I love educating stylists on natural hair and locs and helping consumers transition to natural hair.  In the salon, seeing the smile on my client’s face when I am finished and I turn them around to the mirror is a wonderful feeling. I also love giving a loc client a style they did not know their hair could achieve.

ESSENCE.com: What do you love most about styling natural hair?
Thompson: Working with the texture. You can braid it, twist it, loc it— the styling possibilities are endless.  I believe as more and more women go natural they are going to feel comfortable with their tresses and styling it in between salon visits. 

VIEW GALLERY: Salon Styles: In Love With Locs

ESSENCE.com: What is your number one piece of advice for someone who wants to grow locs?
Thompson: Seek out professional advice and a consultation with a stylist.  Have her walk you through the locking process, what to expect, do’s and don’ts, products to use and not to use and show you pictures of their work.

ESSENCE.com: Why do you think hair is so important to Black women?
Thompson: Hair is empowering, freeing, liberating, healthy, versatile; hair is a woman’s crown and glory.  When your hair looks good you feel great!