February Jefferson Award winner Latima Dukes

February Jefferson Award.jpg

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WACH)-- For most of her life, Latima Dukes has focused on helping people look and feel good.

Dukes’ career as a stylist and barber started as a teenager. Following her mother’s advice, Dukes started attending trade school while she was a sophomore at Richland Northeast High School, earned her cosmetology license in 1998 and eventually became a master barber. It’s not the path she ever imagined following.

“I did not like hair. I did not like Barbie dolls. I was a tomboy,” Dukes said. “(When) you realize what your passion is, it doesn’t feel like work.”

During the early days, Dukes would offer free haircuts for individuals who could not afford them and children who were heading back to school. She currently provides low-cost services for the Department of Mental Health and Department of Juvenile Justice.

“I do kids that don’t have a good background, so when I give them a haircut and then the attitude changes – not only do the (corrections officers) love it -- but you know it makes them feel different about why they’re there and going forward with their future,” Dukes said. “It gives me a platform to do more of what I want to do -- which is make other people feel different, feel better and feel better about their life.”

Overcoming challenges is not new to Dukes. She is the single mother of three boys – including a 16-year-old and 8-year-old twins.

“One of (the twins) is autistic. We deal with it every day,” Dukes told WACH.

About 18 months ago, Dukes suffered a brain aneurysm that kept her hospitalized for months.

She said seeing how her services make others feel better motivates her to continue.

“They might not look forward to anything else that day, but they look forward to getting their hair done,” Dukes said.

She said it doesn’t have to take much deliberation to find a way make a difference in the community.

“Treat other people like you wanted to be treated and it will fall back on you,” Dukes said. “It will open your eyes to what you need to be sharing with other folks.”

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