She grew up playing with the hair on her dolls but now Lohifa Pogoson-Acker is designing the hair of some high-profile ‘cats — the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
“Oskee Wee Wee!” the 36-year-old Nigerian yelled in her home hair studio, wearing a black sweater with a gold cardigan.
“All week I’m going to be wearing these colours. All week. I don’t care if I have to wear the same clothes all week, I want that energy going, that winning energy going.”
With the Grey Cup game fast approaching, she’s seen notable names walk through her front door this week including Bralon Addison, Dave Watford, Don Jackson, Tim White, Papi White and Chris Frey Jr. — all players who will hit the field Sunday and have days of events before then, including final team practices and the CFL awards Friday evening.
With such a big week, comes the need for the special ‘do.
“I like to consider myself a specialty stylist. What I do involves pattern styling, so we can do cornrows, we can do twists, some of them have dreadlocks … I style their locks, I interlock them or re-twist them and do them with those,” she said.
While she may be busy styling high-profile clients, Pogoson-Acker has only been doing hair full-time for the past two years.
Before that, she grew up in Nigeria and the UK, where she styled hair of family, friends and fellow students in boarding school. She said she also worked in family salons and even ran her own out of her parent’s garage as a side hustle after they immigrated to Vancouver in 2000.
Her full-time work included international development and health-system strengthening overseas before landing in Hamilton in 2012 to work as a project manager at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton.
Then, she said former Ticat Adrian Tracy approached Pogoson-Acker after hearing a glowing endorsement of her hairstyling.
She impressed Tracy, who later brought in then-Ticat Nikita Whitlock.
Fast forward two years, Pogoson-Acker decided to try hair-styling full-time out of her home on the Mountain and says she’s worked with about 20 Ticats now, past and present.
After spending up to four hours styling their hair, she sends them to local barbers Yoshi Al and Jayy Way Fade, who cut the players’ hair.
‘Simply a joy to be around’
Ticat Running Back Don Jackson, also known as hip-hop artist Don Jayy, called Pogoson-Acker “extremely talented.”
“She absolutely kills it. Not just my hair but most of our guys,” he said, after getting a fresh style this week.
He praised her work on his Instagram account, thanking her for “pulling a last minute miracle.”
“She’s simply a joy to be around,” he told CBC Hamilton.
WATCH: Lohifa Pogoson-Acker talks about hair-styling Ticats
While Ticat players work in a high-pressure environment, Pogoson-Acker said she tries to help relieve their stress by not talking too much about football.
Sometimes, she’s playing some of Don Jayy’s music and other times they’re cracking jokes and sharing life stories.
“We have fun over here … when you walk in, positive vibes only,” she said with a big, beaming smile.
“They come here looking a certain way and the leave here looking so much better, feeling so much better, just loving themselves so much more, feeling more confident and that’s my goal for anyone sitting in this chair.”
But Pogoson-Acker does have one more thing in common with her Ticat clients — the desire to win the Grey Cup.
She said she hopes her styling gives them a confidence, energy and beauty boost before the big game on Sunday.
“They’ve worked so hard, they’re so inspired, they’re so, so ready to get out there and win,” she said.
“I see a brand-new energy in this city surrounding the Grey Cup … but I really want everyone to encourage these boys as much as they can.”
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.