Beauty while Black

A few years ago, I was heading on vacation. As many people do before a trip, I made an appointment to get my hair done. At this point, I had been natural for a few years and decided that for this trip, I didn’t want braids I wanted a halo braid. After much research I made an appointment at DryBar, because it wouldn’t be very expensive, and it was close to the nail salon I was going to after. I knew they would be able to style my hair the way I wanted. I detangled my hair completely before coming into the salon and wore it an afro puff.

When I first walked into the salon in Tribeca, I did notice some stares at my hair, but being African-American it’s something you become used to. I was assigned to one stylist who looked absolutely petrified of my hair. I told her what I wanted, and she went to the back. A few minutes later she came back and said that I would be with another stylist; I said fine. My second stylist was incredibly nice, and my hair looked absolutely amazing. She told me that as soon as she saw me, she hoped that she would get me. My stylist was either black or Hispanic, but she was familiar with “other” types of hair.

In recent days, the #actingwhileblack hashtag has been trending as black actors and actresses share their stories about the lack of education with stylists and makeup artists when they’re on set. It’s for this very reason that I’ve never used any beauty services like Glamsquad. Most cosmetology schools still only train their students on how to do Caucasian hair, when there are many people who do not fit into this mold. I could understand not knowing how to do something as specific as braids or a weave, but I do think that if you are a stylist you should be trained on how to do everyone’s hair.

I know for me that my experience at DryBar left an impression on me.  It was not only an issue with the stylists, but the front desk staff too was looking at my hair like I had a rat’s nest on my head. To have anyone look at you in this way, is hurtful. Not teaching stylists or makeup artists how to work on non-white hair and skin continues to perpetuate the idea that everyone else is an “other”; that being white is the status quo. This might have worked 50 years ago, but as a society we are trending towards racial ambiguity.  It’s hurtful in ways that I don’t think everyone understands. It creates this barrier into treating non-white people as other, and no one should be made to feel that way.

When I moved to Miami to go to college, I was still relaxing my hair and had gone to a JcPenney location elsewhere in the state. So, when it was time to tame my roots, I called up the closet JcPenney and asked the receptionist who was a stylist that could handle relaxers and who would she recommend? The stylist she recommended was very nice and my hair looked amazing every time I went. There is a DryBar location right by my job and I have on many occasions peeked in to see if any of the stylists would know how to work my hair. I think I would go back, because my hair did end up looking good, but I would first walk in and ask some questions prior to booking my appointment. My hope is that one day any salon I walk into will have a stylist that won’t be scared of my hair. I’ve learned how to tame it, so should a professional.

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