Ms. Josie graduated from Manual High School, class of 1958. She attended High Fashion Beauty School for cosmetology on SW Jefferson Street in 1960, where she was the only black student in the entire class of 31 people. Ms. Josie received her License of Cosmetology in 1961.
After obtaining her cosmetology license, she established her profession renting with other well-known shop owners, Lil McNeary and Hazel McChristian. She became a business owner in 1968. Throughout the years, her business was located on MacArthur, Main Street, and for the last 30 years at 1014 Sheridan Rd. Her profession has allowed her to help support her children’s dreams in medicine, administration, cosmetology, and more.
Ms. Josie evolved with the changes in hair care- Press and curls, processes, relaxers, Jeri curls, and hair weaving. Many stores didn’t carry black hair products, so distributors would travel to Peoria from places like Chicago and Gary, Indiana, to bring them in. Sometimes the beauty operators waited all night for them to arrive. Later, N&R Beauty Supply opened on Brotherson Street, the first supply store in Peoria to carry mostly black products.
Attending a variety of classes kept Ms. Josie’s skills sharp. Her customers gave her the nickname “witch doctor” because she could mix hair colors that enhanced her already beautiful styles. Ms. Josie was also renowned for finger waves by the young and old. One client, Rosemary Clemmer, remarked that Ms. Josie’s “finger waves” had such flow they made her seasick.
In 1980, Josie learned the art of installing hair weaves in Chicago. She was well known for hand-tying her weave bundles and her stringed machine used for making the tracks. She spent late nights in the kitchen making sure the hair bundles were just right to satisfy her customers’ needs.
Generations of customers through the years have walked through Ms. Josie’s doors. When mother and daughter Mary and Florence Gilkesson moved to Peoria over 20 years ago, they were introduced to Josie’s salon. Florence said that Ms. Mary’s hair was always kept bright and white, and hers started with natural black hair and is now beautifully gray. Florence is a big fan and supporter, and says she’ll be there till the doors close and thanks Josie for her service and friendship.
Ms. Josie sponsored many young ladies who participated in the Alpha Chi Pi Omega Inc. Sorority and Fraternity of the Lambda Phi Chapter Debutante Ball, directed by Helen Walker and Lil McNeary, with the pinning of the pearls on the ones she sponsored.
Josie loved playing golf and was a Peoria Progressive Golf Club member. She also was an avid bowler. Brenda Jackson, a longtime beauty operator in Peoria, reflects on her parents playing golf with Mr. & Mrs. Kyle in the Progressive League. “When I chose cosmetology, Ms. Josie always had encouraging words and good tips on success for my career. Thank you, Mrs. Kyle,” said Jackson.
At over 80 years old, Ms. Josie is still working and is dedicated to giving her clients great service. Thank you, Josephine “Miss Josie” Kyle, for over 60 years of cosmetology service.