The day a bad relaxer product burned unsightly bald patches into Kym Williams' hair seemed to her at the time to be the end of the world.
But it actually turned out to be the beginning of a new life.
After the chemicals burned her hair and scalp seven years ago, Williams -- now the author of a new book, The Art of Wig Design -- went on a fruitless quest for a stylish, natural-looking wig to cover her suddenly patchy head.
"I was in a state of depression. It was horrible. My self-esteem was gone," says Williams, 38. "And I couldn't find a wig that looked natural anywhere. Wigs weren't in style."
So, Williams -- who had been a successful Washington hair stylist for 16 years -- designed her own.
From that frustrating experience was born a custom-wig-design business that is wildly successful today and serves such big names as actresses Angela Bassett and Nia Long and comedian Sommore.
"I've had requests from Jill Scott, Tina Turner, Eve," says Williams from her Howard County home. "And I'm also doing some movies now. I'm working on a movie by the director of Hustle and Flow."
Williams' success as CEO of Katour Line Designer Wig Collection -- a mail-order, Internet-based company that specializes in fashionable, human-hair wigs -- has a lot to do with her own philosophy about the once-stigmatized hair coverings.
"I think wigs are a fashion accessory," says Williams, who lives in Savage and has her offices in Laurel. "It's no longer just for older women. It's good for you when you have a hectic schedule. I know it works for most of my clients when they don't have time to go to the hair salon, and it's a great accessory to have when you're on the go."
At a book signing last month for Williams' book, which details the ins and outs of wig design, actress Angela Bassett sent her best wishes by e-mail -- twin newborn babies kept her from attending as she had planned.
Bassett, who has been Williams' client for nearly six years, said she was glad to finally see the celebration of Williams' "artistry and passion for making [women's] crowning glory something to hold our heads up high about."
"You are not only great at what you do," Bassett said, in the e-mail. "but stunning."
Indeed, Williams' flair for fabulous style is evident even in her own hair -- a big, bold, honey-brown wig that just screams "diva."
"I love big hair," she says, as she signed books at Busboys and Poets cafe in Washington, and kissed well-wishers and clients.
That declaration is interesting, because many of Williams' famous wigs are short and sassy numbers, such as zig-zaggy razor styles and pixie-cuts.
Celebrity makeup artist Roxanna Floyd -- whose clients include Queen Latifah, Mary J. Blige and Alfre Woodard -- wore one such short-and-sexy wig by Williams to the book signing, and couldn't stop gushing about the new author's talents.
"Angela Bassett introduced me to Kym," Floyd said. "And here she was, this young sister, and she had designed these wigs, had a full-fledged company and was selling them online. I was really impressed."
Floyd says she enjoys wearing wigs because "it's like making a beauty-parlor visit without having to physically be there." And she particularly loves Katour Line wigs because they look so natural, she says.
In fact, the motto of the company is "Don't tell. Keep 'em guessing."
Another selling point for Williams' wigs -- which all have fun names such as Tippi and Kayla -- is that clients can send orders back as many times as they like, free of charge, until they find the one they love. And after they make a purchase, Williams will periodically wash and reset the wig, to keep it looking freshly done.
"I make sure that my wigs are trendsetting and stylish for today's modern woman," Williams says.
Check out Kym Williams' designs at katourlinewigs.com.