Her sister Afesha Chong revealed that she died on July 19, 2022, after a prolonged battle with breast cancer.
One of Chong's last creations was styling Williams on the cover of Vogue’s September 2022 issue, in which Williams announced her plans to retire from tennis.
A native of Trinidad and Tobago, Chong's family immigrated to America when she was 6 years old. Her passion for hair styling sparked as a child, watching her mother work in at a hair salon in Flatbush, Brooklyn. Growing up, Chong continued to spend her free time at the salon, sweeping the floors and observing the beauticians at work. Eventually, she began to style hair alongside her mother.
Before launching her career as a professional hairstylist, Chong served in the U.S. Air Force rising to the rank of Senior Airman. In 2014, Chong received received an honorable medical discharge after being diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer and Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She didn't let the illness stop her and went on to graduate from Charleston Southern University in 2017 with a degree in biology.
Upon returning to New York after graduation, Chong began working as a professional hairstylist using the tricks of the trade she learned from her mother. She gained a list of celebrity clientele including Serena Williams, Tracee Ellis Ross, Ziwe and designer Telfar Clemens. In 2020, Chong was named one of the "Top 50 New Wave Creatives" by the British Fashion Council.
When Clemens appeared on the cover of Time magazine's March 2021 issue as one of that year’s “Next 100,” he trusted Chong to style his signature braids.
“Every milestone I’ve had, she’s been there,” Clemens said of Chong. “She did everyone’s hair, not just the models. When my mom and my aunt showed up, she would do them too. She did it because it was going to make everyone feel better.”
As the news of Chong’s passing spread, more tributes poured in from her beauty and fashion industry peers.
An Instagram post from Ross’ hair care brand Pattern read, “In memory of LaTisha Chong, we say farewell as she is laid to rest today. PATTERN salutes her hair artistry,” the post read. “We are so grateful for the contribution she made to our hair story.”
In an interview with the New York Times, Vogue Editor Gabriella Karefa-Johnson, who produced Williams’s September cover shoot, described Chong as an integral part of “the new Black Vanguard”.
“She was one of the tradesmen behind the fashion imagery—the editors, photographers, stylists and makeup artists —who are expanding the visual landscape to include the people who have always been at the forefront of style ... with a lot of us from the diaspora investigating and interrogating our Blackness in a very white industry like fashion,” said Karefa-Johnson.
Chong is survived by her parents Darlene and Garrick, sisters Afesha and Tenisha, and her 12-year-old son Malachi.
We at EBONY extend our prayers and deepest condolences to the family and friends of LaTisha Chong.