Black Hair Stylists Are Calling For Radical Change Within The Beauty Industry

Naeemah Lafond's viral call to action has illuminated a storied push for change.

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If the last few weeks have illuminated anything for non-Black folks, it’s that racism is everywhere — embedded into every system, structure, and industry we interact with on a daily basis. This truth rings particularly true for the beauty business, and even more so when it comes to hair. Whether it’s the fact that major hair care brands still aren't accommodating textured hair, models are dealing with stylists unfamiliar with their hair type behind the scenes, or curly and textured hair education is still not included as part of basic cosmetology training across the country (and beyond), it's clear that there is much work to be done.

The former point trickles down to every part of the industry, and directly affects not only Black clients, but also the Black hair stylists who continue to prove that twice as much needs to be done twice as well to get ahead. The issue sparked the creation of a petition started in early June by Danielle Green — founder of Nevada-based Radically Curly, a salon specializing in natural curl patterns and textured hair — calling for the institution of mandatory curly and textured hair curriculum in all cosmetology schools.

“The beauty industry has failed our community of stylists. Historically, cosmetology schools have been segregated, causing a gap in education which has led us to division in our industry over texture versus race,” Green shared in the petition. "My goal is to unite the industry, our schools, manufactures, and distributors to provide more textured and curly hair education with diversity, inclusion and representation as a confident resource of knowledge, skill and technique." The petition is currently less than 10,000 signatures away from its 75,000 goal.

The launch of the petition came just days after Naeemah Lafond, hair stylist and amika Global Artistic Director, shared a now-viral post to Instagram, illuminating the issues in the industry without any pleasantries or frills — considerations Black folks are routinely expected to make when detailing the ways in which they’ve continuously been made to feel lesser than. The post, shared to Lafond’s personal Instagram account on June 2, outlined how brands and industry decision makers could better, more intentionally support Black hair stylists.

“I think that outside of what is being done in your personal lives to advocate for change and injustice towards Black people, there also needs to be an internal look at your professional spaces and the changes that need to be made there,” Lafond shared in the caption. “I believe that the first step lies in recognizing the disproportionate lack of access that Black people have to opportunities in this industry, which lead to systemic and economic inequalities.” She went on to list 11 things the industry can do in the immediate term — from normalizing Black hair leads on set, to hiring Black educators and calling for stylists to add natural hair and texture education to their repertoire. "The response has actually been overwhelmingly positive from both hair stylists and decision makers alike," Lafond told NYLON over email.

While the dust has settled on her post, it’s still sending shockwaves through the beauty world as it continues to be circulated by those in and adjacent to the industry — those who resonated deeply with her call to action and firm stance on the systemic issues so deeply rooted in the industry.

Ahead, NYLON spoke with Lafond about her decision to speak out, intentional inclusivity, and the way forward.

Your post was extremely thorough, and really hit on every point in which brands and gatekeepers fail Black hair stylists, specifically. Was there a fear of alienation or backlash before posting?

Staying quiet doesn't serve my future or the future of my colleagues in any way, so speaking up was really my only option. As the global artistic director of a brand and someone who has a large platform, I felt that it was my duty to speak up about something that so many are privately experiencing. I honestly think that many gatekeepers in the industry actually want to do better. I wanted to provide clear cut ways in which change can be implemented, and also a safe space for a conversation to be had in hopes that at least a few people would pay attention.

You addressed and called for salon owners and non-Black stylists to prioritize natural hair/texture education. Why do you think non-Black stylists who have chosen to just not learn about Black hair have been able to go so far in the industry?

We can't put the full responsibility on the artist. I think that non-Black stylists who have chosen not to learn how to do Black hair are supported by an industry that allows it to happen. We can't ask people who are trying to get ahead and advance their careers to turn down great opportunities.

When Black stylists don't know how to do something, they are rightfully considered unqualified for the job; but when non-Black artists don't have experience in a certain skill set, they tend to land the job anyway. We've heard Black actresses and models speaking out about the frustrations of working with hair stylists inexperienced with working with texture, but it somehow continues to be an issue. How hair stylists can do better is by going out of their way to take classes and learn how to work with Black hair so that they can be better equipped to do their jobs — no matter who sits in their chair. How decision makers can do better is by insisting that stylists come with the level of expertise required to do their jobs well.

What does intentional inclusivity look like to you? What ways have you experienced or witnessed the very opposite play out?

The racial inequalities are so embedded and systemic that in order to dismantle the old ways of doing things we have to be very intentional about how we move forward. I have been fortunate enough to key a number of shows during the past few New York Fashion Week seasons, but every time I do, I'm reminded of how rare it is for me to hold the position I do in that space. Models who work a full list of shows every season have said to me on many occasions that I am the first Black key hair stylist that they have ever worked with. I want that to change.

What advice would you give to young Black stylists trying to navigate this uneven playing field today?

I would tell young Black stylists that they should remain vigilant. Change is definitely on the horizon. When you know better, you do better. Now that we are being vocal and outlining the ways in which we feel advancement can be made, we should have some faith in the beauty, fashion, and film/TV industries and allow them an opportunity to make positive changes. Things won't be different overnight, but we are definitely going to experience a shift. I'm optimistic about it.

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