Keya Neal (@keyaartistically) has been making big changes with the Texture vs. Race movement—now, she’s teamed up with the Professional Beauty Association (PBA) and a group of beauty brands to empower the Black hairdressing community with an educational event, RepHAIRations, on August 31. The goal? To gift free beauty education to the Black community, to help level the playing field, and ultimately to repair the beauty industry. She fills us in!
How did the idea for RepHAIRations come about?
It’s a racially sensitive time, and there was a huge burst of texture education—everyone felt the need to spotlight Black educators teaching texture. It was great seeing so many great Black artists being featured on major platforms. I was speaking with my good friend Sam Villa, and said: Let me ask, If all the white artists know how to do white hair, and the Black artists know how to do Black hair, and then the white artists learn how to do Black hair but the Black artists don’t learn how to do white hair—what do you think is going to happen?
It’s important to give equity and empowerment to the disadvantaged group of people, so we don’t create an economic challenge as a result. The Black community has been gravely overlooked and underserved when it comes to education. We have historically been underexposed and underrepresented in the beauty industry. Yes, straight hair education is everywhere, but if it’s not reaching a certain demographic, it’s a moot point. It’s like offering free ice cream to everyone, but if everyone didn’t get the memo, then not everyone gets free ice cream. Also, things like in-salon education, points, back bar products—Black stylists are not extended those privileges because of where we buy, what we buy and how we buy. Most distributors do not make their way into Black salons.
With this educational event, I want to level the playing field. I want us to empower and support the Black community to diversify their spaces and salons. The goal is to gift the Black community this education to develop a more multicultural salon for themselves and be competitive in the mainstream market. It’s great education for everybody.
The event focuses on healing the industry, in addition to education.
Healing comes from acknowledgment and from intentional actions. When someone goes into the salon and they’re told, ‘We don’t do your type of hair,’ that’s highly offensive. Our job is to serve people, uplift them, make them feel great about themselves—not to disqualify them. Right now, the industry is molding mud, and it’s going to take all hands on deck to create the industry we want going forward—the schools, stylists, salons, brands and media. We are forever changed. But changed to what? We also have to change the minds of the community. The consumers have taken cues from us regarding salon segregation. That’s why they think they have to ask, Do you do my kind of hair? We should be operating on a diversified and professional level. We have the most influence on people in large numbers, and I don’t think we realize our power to change the world. If we could end segregation in the salons, then we would stop fostering racism and separation.
How did you choose which brands to involve in RepHAIRations?
I started with brands I have a relationship with and handpicked each one. Wella Professionals is the title sponsor and PBA is a partner helping to distribute tickets and distribute funds to the charities. All of the brands have expressed their individual commitments as well. That was a prerequisite to participation. Are you doing the real work? We are proud to be aligned with these brands. We do not welcome performative actions. Some of the brands that will be bringing education are Wella Professionals, Clairol, Sebastian, Nioxin, Color Charm, Redken x Mizani, Schwarzkopf and Joico. We are also proud to have Alfaparf, Amika and Innersense as sponsors. I wanted brands to be able to say, ‘Here I am, flawed and all—I want to do better (acknowledge), I want to give back (reparations), I want to right a wrong (repair), and let everyone know what we’re going to make our company a more diverse place and to shift our culture to be more diverse and inclusive.’
How did the PBA get involved?
I was looking for an entryway into the PBA last year and found Leslie [Perry, education manager] and Paige [Peterson, education and training coordinator]. Leslie had a very hard conversation with me. I felt that the organization was way too exclusive, and there was no representation for people who look like me. The Black community, at large, doesn’t know what NAHA is. The PBA didn’t know how to advocate. They made room for me right away, and it’s been a constant conversation about how I can help. Now they’re pulling in other Black thought leaders to help lean into the texture education conversation. You will see much more from them in terms of being more inclusive and diverse—not just in performative ways, but at their core. We’re going to see a brand-new PBA, ISSE and NAHA come 2021.
What education can we expect from the event?
The education will be heavy on straight and wavy textures, with a lot of color, cutting, styling and business, and some texture. Stylists of all different nationalities, colors and races are pouring in. What it’s showing us is what it’s like when everyone speaks the same language: fabric.
What will the schedule look like, and how can we sign up?
It’s a live-streaming digital event, from 10am – 8pm EDT. Educators include Briana Cisneros, Naeemah LaFond, Jamal Edmonds, Sam Villa, Cassandra McGlaughlin, Diane Stevens, Misael Aponte, Omar Antonio, Oliver Adams and Leticia Everett. We may see a couple more surprise guests. Every person of color can sign up and apply for a scholarship to the event. Non-POC can buy a ticket through the PBA website. For every ticket purchased, there will be a gratis ticket granted to a BIPOC. If they know who they want to gift the ticket to, they can add their name to the list, or they can type POOL and we’ll assign it to the list of Black artists waiting to receive a scholarship. All the proceeds will be donated to Until Freedom, Catrice Jackson’s Harriet’s Dream and The Black Student Relief Fund. There’s also the option to donate both tickets for people who can’t attend.
What equipment do we need for the event?
None! It’s all look-and-learn, with the ability to ask questions and interact with the artists. There are a lot of giveaways and a lot of swag, too!