The Ticat Tamer: Meet the Hamilton stylist doing the hair of Grey Cup-bound players this week

The Ticat Tamer: Meet the Hamilton stylist doing the hair of Grey Cup-bound players this week

by Sue Jones
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She grew up playing with her dolls’ hair, but now Lohifa Pogoson-Acker is designing the hair of some high-profile cats — the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, who will play against Winnipeg Blue Bombers in this weekend’s Grey Cup.

Lohifa Pogoson Acker

Lohifa Pogoson-Acker is a speciality hairstylist in Hamilton whose clientele includes some of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

She grew up playing with her dolls’ hair, but now Lohifa Pogoson-Acker is designing the manes of some high-profile cats — the Grey Cup-bound Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

“Oskee Wee Wee,” the 36-year-old Nigerian-Canadian yelled in her home hair studio, wearing a black sweater with a gold cardigan.

“All week I’m going to be wearing these colours. All week. I don’t care if I have to wear the same clothes all week, I want that energy going, that winning energy going.”

With the Grey Cup game against Winnipeg Blue Bombers this Sunday, she’s seen notable names walk through her front door this week, including Bralon Addison, Dave Watford, Don Jackson, Tim White, Papi White and Chris Frey Jr. — all players who will have final team practices and the CFL awards Friday evening before the big CFL game.  

Papi White

Papi White’s hair this week after seeing hairstylist Lohifa Pogoson-Acker and local barber Yoshi Al. (Submitted by Lohifa Pogoson-Acker)

Such a big week comes with the need for a special ‘do. 

“I like to consider myself a specialty stylist. What I do involves pattern styling, so we can do cornrows, we can do twists, some of them have dreadlocks … I style their locks, I interlock them or retwist them and do them with those,” she said.

While she may be busy styling high-profile clients, Pogoson-Acker has only been doing hair full time for two years.

Before that, she grew up in Nigeria and the U.K., where she styled hair of family, friends and fellow students in boarding school. She said she also worked in family salons and even ran her own out of her parent’s garage as a side hustle after they immigrated to Vancouver in 2000.

Her full-time work included international development and health-system strengthening overseas before landing in Hamilton in 2012 to work as a project coordinator at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton.

She said former Ticat Adrian Tracy approached Pogoson-Acker after hearing a glowing endorsement of her hairstyling.

She impressed Tracy, who later brought in then Ticat Nikita Whitlock.

Fast forward two years. Pogoson-Acker decided to try hairstyling full time out of her home on the Mountain, and said she’s worked with about 20 Ticats now, past and present.

After spending up to four hours styling their hair, she sends them to local barbers Yoshi Al and Jayy Way Fade, who cut the players’ hair.

‘Simply a joy to be around’

Ticat running back Don Jackson, also known as hip-hop artist Don Jayy, called Pogoson-Acker “extremely talented.”

“She absolutely kills it — not just my hair, but most of our guys,” he said, after getting a fresh style this week. 

He praised her work on his Instagram account, thanking her for “pulling a last-minute miracle.”

“She’s simply a joy to be around,” he told CBC Hamilton.

WATCH: Lohifa Pogoson-Acker talks about hair-styling Ticats

This woman is a hairstylist for Hamilton Tiger-Cat players

For the past two years, more than a dozen Ticats have trusted Lohifa Pogoson-Acker with their hair. 1:06

While Ticat players work in a high-pressure environment, Pogoson-Acker said she tries to help relieve their stress by not talking too much about football.

Sometimes, she plays some of Don Jayy’s music, and other times they’re cracking jokes and sharing life stories.

“We have fun over here … when you walk in, positive vibes only,” she said with a beaming smile.

“They come here looking a certain way and the leave here looking so much better, feeling so much better, just loving themselves so much more, feeling more confident and that’s my goal for anyone sitting in this chair.”

Lohifa Pogoson Acker

Pogoson-Acker holds her favourite ilarun — a wooden comb. She sharpens the comb with a razor blade and says she always tries to use it when styling. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

But Pogoson-Acker does have one more thing in common with her Ticat clients — the desire to win the Grey Cup.

She said she hopes her styling gives them a confidence, energy and beauty boost before Sunday’s final.

“They’ve worked so hard, they’re so inspired, they’re so, so ready to get out there and win,” she said.

“I see a brand-new energy in this city surrounding the Grey Cup … but I really want everyone to encourage these boys as much as they can.”

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

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