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Why Is It Still So Impossible to Find a Stylist Who Knows Textured Hair?

7 min read
“When you book hairdressers for shoots for girls with curly hair, please make sure they know how to do curly hair,” model Kamie Crawford dead-panned in an Instagram Stories video from a photoshoot. She said her curls, which were supposed to have a classic, voluminous look allowing her texture to take center stage, were instead…
Why Is It Still So Impossible to Find a Stylist Who Knows Textured Hair?

“When you book hairdressers for shoots for girls with curly hair, please make sure they know how to do curly hair,” model Kamie Crawford dead-panned in an Instagram Stories video from a photoshoot. She said her curls, which were supposed to have a classic, voluminous look allowing her texture to take center stage, were instead fashioned into a veritable bird’s nest of frizzy, undefined tangles. “The stylist did so much bullshit to my hair, I was laughing because it was so ridiculous,” Crawford wrote. “And then I got on set, and everyone was praising him for his ‘work.’ I was appalled. I got my check. I got the f*ck out.”Although artists are known to take creative liberties, and hair is no exception, even the untrained eye could see Crawford’s hair looked matted and damaged—a frequent outcome resulting from a lack of knowledge about how to work with tighter natural textures. Sure, everyone has likely had a bad style or cut in their lifetime, but for Black women, experiences like Crawford’s are all too familiar. Far too often, we’re left to deal with the dearth of education and salon service around natural hair.The inspiration for Crawford’s shoot. 
Kamie CrawfordThe result she got.
Kamie CrawfordThe hair industry in America is one of the countless institutions that’s deeply rooted in anti-Blackness—which makes having naturally curly or kinky hair, despite our pride in it, a continuously polarizing experience. Straight, silky, long hair has been idealized for decades, leading young Black girls to undergo chemical straightening processes or incessant heat styling to subdue our hair for school. That standard then continues into the working world that unfairly discriminates against us for wearing our curls and coils at the office. And if we do decide to wear our curls, coils, and kinks in all their glory? We might find ourselves in a situation like Crawford’s, where we’re left feeling demeaned and denigrated at the hands of a stylist.“It made me feel so ridiculous that I didn’t feel confident enough to do my job properly. I couldn’t stop thinking about the little girls who look like me and have hair like mine seeing those images blown up,” Crawford tells Glamour. “The only precaution I should have to take is to show up to set with my hair clean and ready to style—just like the non-Black models.”In 2020, as the natural hair movement continues to rise, it seems absurd that stories like this are still the norm, and yet until hair-school curriculums and classes become more diversified, the problem persists.“Stylists are educated in pretty much one hair type, because they don’t need to know more for their state exam—but when they get into the salon, it’s like they’re back in beauty school again,” says Aisha Gatlin, who founded the Beautiful Luxe School of Cosmetology in Ann Arbor, Michigan, a decade ago after being frustrated by the fact that hair-school curriculums weren’t adequately training stylists on natural hair. In fact, only 19 states require specific training for it. “I thought, Wouldn’t it be a great opportunity if there were schools that catered to textured hair or showed how to properly style and utilize certain tools for natural hair?” says Gatlin. “You can’t style everyone’s hair the same way.”Throughout the years, Gatlin has used the Milady cosmetology book, which has long been considered the primary source for cosmetology, esthetics, and nail technician courses. While it’s been updated over the years to include more resources—like a guide specifically for natural hair care and braiding that actually includes pictures of Black women with type 4 coils along with a chapter that clearly states that “textured hair is manageable”—Gatlin (and even the publisher itself) says there’s still room for improvement.“They really don’t go into detail about how to properly detangle, how to section the hair, and how to take care of the hair,” she says. Styling is of course an important facet, but without the foundation of what constitutes healthy hair for a range of textures, stylists aren’t equipped with the full scope of knowledge they need to help their clients.What happens then as more stylists graduate hair school and become educators themselves is that the cycle repeats itself. “There definitely needs to be more educators who are versed in all hair textures,” says Lacy Redway, celebrity hairstylist and Nexxus style and trends curator. Despite her working among the best stylists in Hollywood and high-fashion, Redway’s expertise with natural texture and braids is still a rarity. “The focus should not be about passing the state exam but truly leaving with the knowledge to manage all hair types,” she says. “A lot of stylists don’t feel that they got enough experience on all hair types in beauty school. Outsource and bring in an expert if you need it.”That’s one of the reasons why Black stylists who have made it to the upper echelons of the industry—like Tippi Shorter, global artistic director for Mizani—are now using their platforms to help educate those who felt their training was lacking. With the Texpert Collective, Shorter and her cofounder, Kauilani Goodwyn, broadcast their classes, events, and tutorials to their community on social media where they find the need and appetite exists—people want the information, but it isn’t accessible everywhere. One of their most recent Instagram Live posts on coloring natural curls brought in thousands of views, and they’re seeing people of all backgrounds tuning in.The problem is that this puts the onus on stylists themselves—and not state licensing boards—to learn inclusive styling. And this creates another issue: Hairstylists who get “traditional” (read Eurocentric) training at cosmetology schools are more likely to work for a salon where their skills are deemed a fit. The same goes for professionals who learn how to work with Afro-textured hair. What this essentially leads to then is racialized salons, says Yene Damtew, owner of Aesthetics salon in Arlington, Virginia, and stylist to former first lady Michelle Obama. “Society has told us how to view the beauty industry,” she says. “And there’s been this idea that you do not create interracial hair salons.”Think about it: Even in sprawling cities like New York or Los Angeles, salon clientele is predominantly mono-racial, and the stylists follow suit. It could be why stories like Damalyn Ellslager-Matthews’s—who, after bringing her biracial children into a local salon, was told they do not cut Black people’s hair—keep going viral. The hair chain has since fired the employee and stated that racism would not be tolerated. But Ellslager-Matthews says the damage has already been done. “It’s heartbreaking to see how much that one thing someone said to them, and that one experience, shaped and changed everything,” she tells Glamour.But Damtew thinks a bigger change is on the horizon. She points to the existence of salons like DevaChan, which is focused on curls and texture, no matter your ethnic background. “Beauty today means understanding there are a lot more biracial children being born,” she says. “You have to learn [how to work with their hair] because your grandchild, your child, your niece, or your nephew may have different hair than you. It’s not until it becomes personal that people become curious or pay it any attention.”Following this summer’s Black Lives Matter protests—and demands within the fashion and beauty industries to better support Black communities—brands are also stepping in to help break down other barriers that hold stylists back from even getting into cosmetology school in the first place. Tresemmé, for example, just announced the creation of a $100,000 annual tuition fund that would help offset the costs of beauty school for aspiring Black stylists. It’s currently accepting applications and will award 10 women with a $10,000 scholarship each.Like any higher education these days, a cosmetology certification doesn’t come cheap: The Academy NYC, for instance, clocks in at $14,500 for tuition, and Gatlin’s Beautiful Luxe School of Cosmetology costs $15,000 for 1,500 hours of coursework and training. Tresemmé also intends to expose these burgeoning stylists to notable names in the industry—like Ursula Stephen, celebrity hairstylist and Unilever partner—as well as provide opportunities for career advancement to help them get their feet in the door. “I didn’t pay for beauty school; I was fortunate to find a vocational high school, and this is where I studied cosmetology,” says Stephen. “I believe the Tresemmé Future Stylists Fund would be a similar type of blessing to those stylists that share the same love and passion for the industry that I do.”Until the scholarship announcement, the brand has been using its platform to spread awareness about the lack of training for natural hairstyling, including a quote from Radically Curly founder Danielle Green. Her Change.org petition for all cosmetology schools to include textured hair in the curriculum went viral earlier this summer and currently has more than 77,000 signatures and counting. “My hope is that textured hair is taught in the first intro phase of cosmetology school,” Green tells Glamour. “Once a student gets texture in the beginning, everything else will be easier to build on such as cutting, coloring, and styling.”It’s clear there’s much work to do for anyone—a model like Crawford or children like Ellslager-Matthews’s five- and seven-year-olds—to sit in a stylist’s chair and have full faith that their hair is in good hands. But the way forward is honestly simple. All it requires is a world in which the beauty industry accepts and acknowledges that all hair has texture and that the tightest kinds are just as worthy of respect and study as those that are straighter. That shouldn’t be much to ask.Faith Cummings is a copywriter, editor, and journalist who lives in New York City. Follow her on Instagram @iam_faithc.Read More

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