Sun | Oct 2, 2022

A Jamaican love affair

Published:Tuesday | August 8, 2017 | 12:00 AMNatalia Oh ï Contributor
As a teenager Nelsi Melo fell in love with the island on her first visit.
As an adult Melo returned to Jamaica and has made it her home.

Nelsi Melo remembers her first visit to Jamaica as a 17-year-old. Melo, along with 11 other Dominican dancers, were invited to perform their national dance merengue, at a cultural exchange programme sponsored by the Embassy of the Dominican Republic.

Her five-day visit to Jamaica ignited a deep love for the island. Early on, she noticed the similarities between the two islands - the shared love for food boasting a shared gastronomic culture with menus focusing on meat, rice, and beans; the love of music; and the transcending stress relief through dancing - Melo felt at home. Years later as an adult, Melo would revisit Jamaica, and like she fell in love before, she would fall in love again, this time with a Jamaican by the name of Jomo King, who is now her husband and father of their infant son, Arinze.

Living in Jamaica for the past five years, Melo owns and operates Quisqueya Salon, located on Braemar Ave. A beautiful, pleasant and soft-spoken woman, she greets each client at her charming salon with a smile and warmth in her eyes. She operates Quisqueya with the help of three other trained hair stylists who go by the number one rule good customer service is the only way. She tells Outlook, "I love the support I get from my clients who eagerly tell their friends about Quisqueya. I love that they want to see me grow and I love the sisterhood that women entrepreneurs have in Jamaica, helping each other".


Why did you decide on your current profession?


As a Dominican woman, hair is very much a big part of our culture, and growing up, I have always loved styling hair. Although I studied accounting in college, it was not my passion. My cousin operates a successful hair salon in Switzerland and she encouraged me to get into the hair business and I realised I loved it. I completed courses in New York and the Dominican Republic to learn proper hair care - colouring and styling techniques. When I moved to Jamaica, I realised that some Jamaican women prefer a good haircut, which was different from Dominican women who prefer long, straight hair. Because of this, I needed to improve on my cutting techniques so I enrolled in the HEART Academy and I am impressed and grateful for how much I learnt there.


With the current trend going back to women embracing their natural curls, why do you think women all over the world, still seek out an authentic Dominican blow out?


Women realise that with a Dominican blow out, they can have the best of both worlds. They can wear their hair curly one day or get it straight another day with our signature blowouts, without using harsh chemicals. At Quisqueya, we are known for our speed, so busy working women come to us during their lunch breaks and love that they can walk out feeling great without spending the whole day at a salon.


What are the best hair tips you give your clients?


- An overall balanced diet rich with green leafy vegetables, fruits and protein is key for a healthy scalp and hair. A good tip is to take a multivitamin to make sure you are getting all the nutrients, specifically biotin, omega 3, zinc, and vitamin C.

- Get a hair treatment every two weeks. We have special signature hair treatments which are very good for hair breakage, thinning and to help stimulate growth.

- Try to eliminate or lessen the use of hair chemicals.

- Avoid tight hair ties and don't braid hair too tightly.


What is your most special childhood memory?


Growing up with five siblings, we were your typical Hispanic family - very big on family and get-togethers. We were in a close-knit family, where the extended family of aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins would visit each other's homes and every meal together became a celebration. I remember a lot of dancing and laughter as a child looking on - those memories are very special to me.


What do you do for fun?


I enjoy taking vacations on the north coast with my family. Most people say I am all about Arinze, right now - I love him with all my heart and would spend all my time playing games and watching cartoons with him if I could get away with it. When I'm not doing that, I enjoy working at the salon, meeting new clients and learning more about Jamaica. I enjoy cooking, having friends over and sharing a good glass of red wine and of course dancing.


What is the best advice you have ever received from someone?


I was taught by my father and grandmother to always remain humble. That is how I live my life, with humility. Nobody is better than anyone else, and we should treat others with respect.


Instagram @quisqueya_salon

1 E Breamar Ave

Kingston 10



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STYLING: Natalia Oh


PHOTOGRAPHY: Rick-Ashley Foster