Why Hollywood needs to care about black hair

Leona | 09 March 2019
Actress Yvette Nicole Brown with natural hair in pompadour updo.

Black actors take to social media using the hashtag #actingwhileblack to implore Hollywood to hire stylists that know how to style their hair.

It is often reported that the beauty industry is more diverse than ever, but according to one trending discussion on Twitter, it hasn’t come far enough.

Hollywood actors Yvette Nicole Brown, Natasha Rothwell, Gabrielle Union and Malcolm Barett are just some of the names that have taken to Twitter to talk about the lack of hairstylists that they encounter on film sets that know how to style their natural hair and what it signifies about diversity and inequality, especially in the workplace.

Several black actors reported that they often have to style their own hair or bring their own wigs and clip-ins to set due to the hairstylists having no experience with ‘ethnic’ hair types. “It’s either that or take a chance that you will look crazy on screen”, said American actor and host Yvette Nicole Brown.

Natasha Rothwell, writer and star of HBO show Insecure added, “PSA: If you cast a POC (person of colour)— you also have to hire someone who knows how to do ethnic hair. Not someone who’s “comfortable with it” but someone who actually knows how to style ethnic hair types.”

This issue has financial implications for actors too. Malcolm Barett star of NBC show Timeless recognised that “most black actors get their hair cut or styled outside of set, often at their own expense.” Adding the reason for this is “because Hollywood hairstylists are one size fit all and that ‘all’ does not include black hair.”

View this post on Instagram

This message is to spread awareness & hopefully reach anyone in the hair field to expand their range of skills. Black models are still asking for just one hairstylist on every team no matter where your team is from to care for afro hair. I was asked to get out of an empty chair followed by having hairstylists blatantly turning their backs to me when I would walk up to them, to get my hair done. If I am asked to wear my natural hair to a show, the team should prepare the style just as they practice the look and demo for non-afro hair. I arrived backstage where they planned to do cornrows, but not one person on the team knew how to do them without admitting so. After one lady attempted and pulled my edges relentlessly, I stood up to find a model who could possibly do it. After asking two models and then the lead/only nail stylist, she was then taken away from her job to do my hair. This is not okay. This will never be okay. This needs to change. No matter how small your team is, make sure you have one person that is competent at doing afro texture hair care OR just hire a black hairstylist! Black hairstylists are required to know how to do everyone’s hair, why does the same not apply to others? It does not matter if you don’t specialize in afro hair, as a continuous learner in your field you should be open to what you have yet to accomplish; take a class. I was ignored, I was forgotten, and I felt that. Unfortunately I’m not alone, black models with afro texture hair continuously face these similar unfair and disheartening circumstances. It’s 2019, it’s time to do better. || #NaturalHair #ModelsofColor #BlackHairCare #HairCare #Message #Hair #Hairstyling #Backstage #BTS #AfroTexturedHair #Afro #POC #Braids #Message #Spreadtheword #Speak #Awareness #Growth #WorkingTogether #BlackGirlMagic #Melanin

A post shared by Olivia Anakwe (@olivia_anakwe) on

This isn’t the first time hairstylists have been called out for their inability to work with black hair. Model Olivia Anakwe recently took to Instagram with a post saying she had been ignored by hairstylists when she arrived backstage for a fashion show as none of the team was able to style her afro-textured hair.

With black hairstylists required to know how to style all hair types, the discussion is now focusing on why Hollywood doesn’t book them for more jobs considering they have a wider skill set. Or at a minimum, why all hairstylists aren’t required to learn how to work with other hair types and textures.

While it seems the beauty industry still has a way to go when it comes to inclusivity, the lifted ban on natural hair discrimination which came into effect recently in New York City is at least one (small) step in the right direction.

 

 

Read more