Hairstylist and activist Chante Herries uses her hairdressing skills to fight drug abuse in her community.

Growing up, Chante was affected by the scourge of drugs in her home and community. ‘I come from a drug-infested household,’ she says. ‘My siblings were addicted to drugs.’ Chante (36) is the breadwinner at home, taking care of her father, sister and her child. On top of those responsibilities and her siblings’ battles with addiction, she is a transgender woman who faced frequent abuse from some members of the community.

‘I used to be bullied, robbed and had stones thrown at me, but I survived,’ she smiles. ‘There are so many times you want to go home and cry, but you have to be strong.’ Her personal hardships made her realise that in spite of her problems, she has to be strong for those who are worse off than her.

Quote: “ I always tell myself that I am strong enough, and good enough.”


Chante decided to be proactive and make a difference in her community in Parkwood, Cape Town, as she derives joy and fulfilment from empowering those around her, especially helping those affected by drugs. ‘It was sad to see all these women going through so many difficulties, and I felt I had to help somehow,’ she recalls.

She came up with the idea of taking women in rehabilitation centres under her wing and helping them to develop skills in hairdressing as part of their recovery programme. The seeds of Heavenly Hands were born in 2018.

‘I had to start in my community, where there is a lot of drug abuse, violence and gangsterism,’ she
says. She approached rehabilitation centres and safe houses in the community and told them about
her plans, and the programme began operations last year.

‘A lot of the ladies lived on the streets and have been abused,’ explains Chante, ‘so we first have to help them pick up the pieces of their broken lives before they can face the world again.’ She devotes two days a week to giving lessons on basic skills in hairdressing, in theory and practical sessions. When she’s not teaching, she runs her own hair salon, Heavenly Hair Studio in Parkwood, which opened its doors seven years ago in a Wendy house and has just kept growing.  

Chante was named the Dark and Lovely Golden Scissors Cape Town Regional Winner in 2016. Here she is styling one of the models for the Grand Finale showcase.


‘We don’t do typical practical lessons, with models coming into the salon,’ says Chante. ‘We go into the community and give back by styling women’s hair in old-age homes and at organisations such
as the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children.’

The Heavenly Hands programme started with 15 ladies, and four are currently employed in various hair salons, while others have signed up for advanced classes. ‘I’ve told the ladies that I can’t promise that they will get a job, but I will try my utmost to help them,’ says Chante.
The Heavenly Hands programme runs for six months of the year and can only accept an intake of 12 to 15 ladies at a time because of limited resources – but lack of funds is not Chante’s only challenge. She has been threatened by drug dealers and told the programme won’t last, and that she shouldn’t be talking about what she is doing for her community when she comes from a drug house. ‘But I’ve always been open about my background,’ says Chante, ‘and my response will always be that I will fight to the bitter end. I won’t stop until my community becomes better and all this gangsterism and drug abuse stops, but we will have to work together as a community to make things better.’

The programme currently relies on donations of hairstyling products and tools from the public as well as supplies from Chante’s salon. She hopes to move to a bigger building before too long, so that she can sign up more ladies at a time. ‘I want them to build a range of different skills so that they are employable,’ she says.

For more information about Heavenly Hands or to donate, contact clintonherries44@gmail.com   

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, contact:

South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence
+2711 892 3829 or 076 535 1701



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