Conversations around the lack of diversity in the beauty industry have reached a fever pitch over the past few weeks. The recent murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor (along with countless others) have put a national focus on racism and inequities faced by Black communities, which has extended into the world of beauty.
Hashtags like #pulluporshutup, Black-owned lists of brands and viral videos highlight the challenges many of our fave Black beauty professionals face on a continual basis. This includes everything from a lack of representation and resources to just not being invited to the room. It has also challenged brands, educators and stylists to do more than name-drop or schedule a social media post.
Right now is a time for “actionable change through education, marketing, recruitment and philanthropy,” says Monaè Everett (@monaeartistry), celebrity hairstylist and an American Board Certified Haircolorist. Her clients include India Moore, Lizzy Greene, Lilimar and Tia Mowry, to name a few.
For Everett, education starts with hairstylists simply learning how to style all textures—starting in cosmetology school and extending to classes like The Monaè Life Academy, where she breaks down key tips and tricks for styling hair for editorials.
It may seem like a no-brainer, but the fear of texture often leads to exclusion in campaigns and segregated learning environments.
Everett commends Keya Neal, founder of Kolour Kulture and the Texture vs. Race Movement, for her work to “normalize hair as a texture and not inherent to race.”
“Almost 70 percent of the world has hair that is considered to be textured. We can’t be afraid of it,” says Everett. “And learning how to style all textures—straight, wavy, curly and kinky—makes us all more valuable.”
Change also includes normalizing hiring Black lead hairstylists, educators and other beauty pros.
“Representation matters on both sides—who you see in front of the camera, as well as who is behind,” adds Everett. “The U.S. is about 14 percent Black. We need that number reflected in professional spaces. We also need to see more than the same names over and over again.”
Everett adds the lack of visibility isn’t due to lack of talent, but a lack of access.
“The only reason you don't see more Black leads is because, many times, we are not considered for the opportunity. If we don't know where the party is, we can't come,” she says. “If you don’t know who to invite, ask friends, check your DMs and hashtags. There are so many of us with the required skills that are ready to come to the table.”
The invitations shouldn’t be roped off, either, into a Black or textured hair section, says Everett. “It should be for the entire party.”
That includes fashion weeks, photoshoots and general market campaigns—and not just as assistants.
“It’s not okay for your artists who are unable to braid or style all hair textures to bring in Black artists as assistants and then take the credit for the work,” she advises those looking to ramp up recruitment efforts.
“But, if you do bring in Black assistants to do the things you are unable to do, don't make it a one-time thing where we are used for our skills set, paid less and never brought back. Show them what they need in their books to be able to go further in this industry, as a lead hairstylist.”
Everett also recommends checking out editorial hairstylist Naeemah LaFond’s recent 11-point list for brands to support Black hairstylists. It includes creating equal opportunities for advancement and acknowledging contributions.
Just know that equity isn’t a one-time easy fix and will involve ongoing conversations and efforts for lasting change.
“Even if brands are late to the party, don’t be afraid to be intentional and ask questions that may not be comfortable,” says Everett. “Hire consultants or establish a committee with empowered voices at the table to make sure they're hitting their marks. The main objective of growth is to change. So we can only hope that it's sincere growth and if it's not sincere, at least make it actionable.”
Stephenetta (isis) Harmon is a Black beauty editor, curator, and digital media and communications expert who builds platforms to celebrate the power, impact and business of Black beauty. She is founder of Sadiaa Black Beauty Guide, the premier directory dedicated to Black-owned hair and beauty businesses. Find her at stephenetta.com.