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Tragic Accident Leads Woman to Help Others

Latoya Johnson-Rainey was only 18 when she was badly burned in a traffic accident that also claimed her mother’s life. Her burns also took the hair from her head, adding even more misery to her loss.

“I was entering my first year of college and I had such a lack of confidence after losing my hair. Can you imagine dating with burnt hair?”

Johnson-Rainey said her mother had been a hair stylist for years, and knew how to make her clients look great. So Johnson-Rainey decided the best way to handle her own hair loss was to follow in her mother’s footsteps and help herself and others in similar situations.

“I began learning how to work with hair and textures until I found what it takes to make a person look and feel better about themselves … Since I knew what it feels like to lose your hair, it became my passion,” she commented.

Today, Johnson-Rainey is the owner-operator of the highly successful and award-winning salon — A Hair Boutique in the Shadyside area of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In addition to providing a salon experience, Johnson-Rainey and her staff specialize in making women suffering from hair loss feel comfortable and confident with a proper fitting wig or hair extensions. By appointment, a client is given individual attention in a private fitting room. Once a client is properly fitted and is satisfied with a wig, it takes three to five days to create the finished product.

“Hair loss can happen for a lot of reasons. Chemo, stress, divorce, age, blood pressure meds — a big cause of hair loss is from medications,” she noted. “It can be very emotional and we assure privacy when they come in.”

Because of her specialized attention to women with hair loss, especially due to cancer treatments and medications, Johnson-Rainey was approached by Benwood resident Virginia Gockstetter, representing the Welcome Neighbor organization. Gockstetter said she contacted Johnson-Rainey to see if she had any interest in bringing her services to the local area.

Gockstetter said when the Ohio Valley Medical Center in Wheeling closed last year, a lot of cancer patients lost similar services offered there. Johnson-Rainey said she understands that many clients cannot or do not want to travel to Pittsburgh for a wig.

“In realizing the need for this type of service, we as Welcome Neighbor connected with LaToya. I had contacted several local salons and there was little interest,” Gockstetter said.

The American Cancer Society provides used wigs for cancer patients who qualify financially, but Gockstetter said she was hoping to find “something a little more” as far as bringing upscale wig services to the local area.

Johnson-Rainey said she is looking into having a presence in the Wheeling area, and is pursuing a space to rent or lease where she could provide private consultations to those seeking her services and looking to purchase a wig.

She hopes to bring a “mobile” unit to the area on April 1, but is still seeking a defined location.

“Basically I’m looking for a welcoming space, clean, neat and private,” Johnson-Rainey said.

She also is mulling over three different models for local consultations:

∫ partnering with an established salon and ship products to that salon where any trimming or adjustments would be made;

∫ ship directly to the customers;

∫ or do local consultations every other week.

“We are still gauging the market. We have a huge online presence but it would be nice to be here,” Johnson-Rainey commented. “We believe that when you look better, you feel better and when you have genuine support you feel amazing.”

For more information, contact Johnson-Rainey at 412-688-9447, or at A Hair Boutique, 5510 Centre Ave., Pittsburgh. Gockstetter can be reached at 304-233-0072.

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