PITTSBURGH — A Pittsburgh woman with a passion for helping the community is using her personal tragedy to make a difference and it’s making us proud to be from Pittsburgh.
"Hair loss is a battle that many women you know, go through," said Latoya Johnson-Rainey.
That battle, Johnson-Rainey knows all too well. The Shadyside business owner experienced it when she was 18-years-old. She was in a car accident with her family while driving home from North Carolina. The crash killed her mother and left her seriously injured.
"A car stopped in front of us, we stopped," said Johnson-Rainey. "But the tractor trailer behind us, the truck behind us could not stop. It basically rolled over a car and it caught fire."
Johnson-Rainey was pulled from the car by a stranger and then taken to a nearby hospital, and placed on life-support. She eventually fell into a coma. She awoke days later and was transferred to a Pittsburgh hospital. She had multiple broken bones and severe burns and she spent months in the hospital recovering and reflecting.
"I'm dealing with this huge loss, this grief. She was my best friend and I was her only child,"said Johnson-Rainey. "It was very, very hard. So the one thing that I knew was, I wasn't gonna let her death be in vain."
It’s been 22 years since Latoya lost her mother who was a hairstylist. Everyday since then, she’s worked to make her mother proud. After working with her family’s hair business for more than a decade, she decided it was time open her own shop that could help other women. In 2013 she opened her wig business, A Hair Boutique Shadyside and works to empower women.
"It is devastating, you know, and so I really wanted a intimate private space where women can feel safe, be educated about hair alternatives, as well as find your perfect fit."
Latoya also mentors other young women, volunteers with non-profits and was even recognized on the Pennsylvania State House of Representatives floor as a leading woman in business in 2018. She received a proclamation from the city of Pittsburgh for volunteer work she did with HOPE for Tomorrow program. The program aims to help students be competitive in the global community despite various economic and societal risk factors.
"Everyone I do business with there's a personal relationship with, it's not doing business," said Johnson-Rainey. "It's really making our city better or communities better."
Johnson-Rainey says she wouldn’t be the business leader she is today, without the love and support the community gave her during her darkest days.
"Just realizing that the journey is beautiful," said Johnson-Rainey. "No matter where the ending destination is, it's still beautiful."
Latoya Johnson-Rainey is making us proud to be from Pittsburgh.