Meet Cecil Hayes, the face behind Wesley Snipes’ and Samuel L. Jackson’s extravagant home décor

Cecil Hayes/Photo credit: Cecil via facebook

Cecil Hayes paved her own way when there was none. Her reality from childhood was that the systemic challenges prevailing at the time were always against her – she attended high schools that were segregated, a college that was segregated, and had no choice but to live in a segregated neighborhood. She always wanted a better reality for herself, however, the color of her skin meant limited possibilities.

In the Fort Lauderdale community, Florida, where she grew up, these limitations did not matter, everyone looked out for one another. The stark difference came to the fore when she went to the big city. Though she studied art, she had to settle on a federal government program when she graduated from Florida AM University in Tallahassee. She did not like teaching, but that was the only window of opportunity for her in the 1960s. While teaching at the flyspeck town of Alma in southeastern Georgia, she considered pursuing alternatives in the art space.

She was looking for inspiration in a world dominated by whites who did not give her space to hone her experience, and students who were unwilling to accept her. It was at this point in her life she decided to channel her energy into interior design. Without a mentor, she relied on the good advice of her mother and aunt to break through in the white-dominated market – they told her “good taste has a correlation with one’s lifestyle.”

With that at the back of her mind, Cecil enrolled at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. Where she switched from teaching to pursue a full-time career in art. Though she knew a little about interior design, she decided to invest her time and passion in it. If for nothing, she learned that it meant playing around with colors and furniture.

When she graduated, like many African Americans, racism made it difficult for her to get a job in South Florida, especially being among the few blacks in that sector, according to architectural digest. She was later offered two jobs, and settled on the one that provided her an opportunity to learn. When she developed more love for the job, the company collapsed, leaving her a tough choice of what she should do with her career.

With no connections, contacts, or networks, Cecil decided to open her own company, and borrowed $6000 from the small business administration to kick-start her dream. In a white middle-class neighborhood, she was the only black business owner. Though uncomfortable, she pressed on, working long hours and giving passers-by an opportunity to step into a store and inquire about her offerings.

Her first work got the attention of the Miami Herald, which was published in 1976. Today, she no longer has to struggle to get clients, she has her own line of furniture, and is reputed for designing the homes of Samuel Jackson, Wesley Snipes, and other top celebrities.

Last Edited by:Annie-Flora Mills Updated: April 25, 2023


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