- Michael Loccisano/Getty
- Natural hair is receiving more visibility than ever, but it’s not always being cared for and styled properly.
- This is often caused by a lack of education and behind-the-scenes diversity.
- In recent years, multiple brands and professionals have been called out for styling natural hair in a “messy” way that seems to show they don’t know what they’re doing.
- Although giving natural-hair models more visibility is great, companies should not be continuously excused for not hiring a more diverse or knowledgeable staff to style their hair.
- Industry professionals should be willing to educate themselves on all hair textures, even those unlike their own.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Although natural hair is receiving more visibility than ever, it’s not always being cared for and styled properly, which is often caused by a lack of education and not enough behind-the-scenes diversity.
For years, the beauty and fashion industries have been missing the mark when it comes to styling natural hair
The past few years have seen brands, TV shows, runways, and campaigns include more diverse models, but this progress hasn’t all been smooth sailing.
For example, in September, major clothing retailer H&M was under fire when an ad featuring a young black model with “messy” hair began circulating.
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It’s essential that we have a conversation about this photograph from the @hm_kids campaign. Before I begin, I do not have the facts, nor have I seen any statement by #H&M or the team who worked on this. This post is just an assessment based on all my years of seeing situations like this happen time and time again. And its got to stop. This beautiful young girl’s #kinky hair appears to have had very little to no attention yet all of her counterparts have clearly sat in front of someone who was more then capable of styling other hair textures. My heart breaks imagining yet another girl from my community sitting in front of a mirror being ignored by the team around her, left to her own devices because someone didn’t know how to handle her texture. As if that’s not bad enough…. Prior to this campaign appearing this photograph will have been seen and APPROVED by countless ‘professionals'. Lets say conservatively 50 people. It’s breathtaking to me that not one person looked at this shot and had the same reaction that the internet seems to be feeling since the campaign broke. THAT IS AN ISSUE. We must do better. Our girls, our young women deserve better. Let this be a moment of learning. #Education is key #wehavetodobetter #vernonfrancois #Ignorance #blackgirlmagic #allhairisgoodhair
Many people were frustrated with how the girl’s hair seemed to be poorly styled. As hairstylist Vernon François pointed out on Instagram, “This beautiful young girl’s #kinky hair appears to have had very little to no attention yet all of her counterparts have clearly sat in front of someone who was more then capable of styling other hair textures.”
He added that his “heart breaks” when he thinks about how the girl could have been ignored on set, just “because someone didn’t know how to handle her texture.”
In response to the backlash, H&M gave Essence magazine a statement, saying that the company was aware of the comments on the model’s hair, but that the campaign was aiming for a “natural look,” stating, “We truly believe that all kids should be allowed to be kids. The school-aged kids who model for us come to the photo studio in the afternoon after school and we aim for a natural look which reflects that.”
This is not the first time professionals have been accused of missing the mark when working with models with natural hair.
Back in 2016, beauty expert Deepica Mutyala appeared on the “Today Show” to discuss one-minute summer hairstyles. During the segment, she attempted to showcase a messy bun on a black, natural-hair model.
The moment quickly went viral when it became clear that Mutyala was missing the mark, creating a messy style that seemed far from intentional.
Mutyala, who is also a woman of color, later apologized and promised to do better, explaining that she is an advocate for diversity. The model whose hair she styled, Malyia McNaughton, told The Cut that she understood the pressure Mutyala was under and was “grateful for the fact that she wanted to be inclusive” by featuring natural hair.
This viral instance was just another sign that even though many outlets are trying to be more diverse in the content they produce, there’s still a lack of education when it comes to teaching experts and stylists how to properly work with natural hair.
Natural hair shouldn’t be so ‘unique’ that professional stylists and designers don’t know how to do their jobs
- Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images for Diesel Black Gold
Unfortunately, seeing natural hair treated and styled improperly is nothing new.
As many brands try to include more people of color in campaigns, on runways, and in photoshoots, it becomes increasingly clear that there are industry professionals who are not properly trained. Many stylists seem to not be equipped to style different textures of hair, or even realize that natural hair comes in more forms than just loose curls.
“At 8:40 – 20 minutes before the show – a hairstylist finally approaches me,” Chew wrote about her experience. “She tells an assistant to ‘slick down my edges’ with water and gel, and the woman she talks to looks so lost. She pats my hair so lightly, I can feel her hesitation with every touch. Then she stops completely. The other stylist comes back over and has her hold my hair, while she wraps an elastic around it to form a puff … the style I’d arrived in.”
When showing up to a job or to a set, models shouldn’t need to worry whether or not the hired professionals can do their hair – and they shouldn’t have to deal with the embarrassment of working with someone who clearly doesn’t know how.
I am one of the many people of color who are walking representations of the same hair industry that big brands are capitalizing on and now trying to cater to. When moments like the above go viral, it feels like a reminder of how brands and professionals are excluding an entire community.
I continue to feel embarrassed and frustrated that a bit of knowledge and a more diverse staff could have potentially stopped those instances from happening in the first place.
Industry professionals should be willing and able to work on all hair textures
Yene Damtew, a professional hairstylist who works with stars like Michelle Obama, told Insider that one of the biggest issues is that industries and brands choose not to utilize and seek out stylists who are equipped with the experience and knowledge of how to work with those with natural hair.
Damtew explained that oftentimes stylists who understand how to properly style natural hair are not able to access job opportunities because they are in different locations or don’t have the necessary exposure.
And sometimes the simple fact is that brands actively decide to stick with their typical hairstylist no matter what, even if that professional is unfamiliar with styling different hair textures.
“Knowledge is power and this goes for our industry as a hairstylist,” Damtew told Insider. “When we gain our license, we can’t specify what texture of hair we work with, so it’s important to be well versed in all textures.”
In some cases when stylists aren’t knowledgeable about natural hair, other professionals like Damtew have had to step in to offer assistance.
“I always recall my first experience in a multi-cultural salon and a colleague attempted to de-tangle a biracial child’s hair with a rat-tail comb and barely any conditioner,” Damtew told Insider. “I had to step in and give her insight on how to comb through the hair, sharing basic techniques that were outside of her realm.”
And although it’s great that they are helping to educate others, they’re often not getting the recognition they deserve – and they are only capable of doing so much to change an industry that seems stuck in its ways.
Industry professionals should be willing to educate themselves on all hair textures, even those unlike their own, and they should learn that not every head of natural hair can be styled with the same products or tactics.
And those who are knowledgeable about natural hair deserve the chance to shine, especially as more and more brands work on diversifying the models they use.
Ultimately, the entire industry needs to do a better job hiring a more diverse or knowledgeable staff to work with natural-hair models
As these types of instances repeat themselves, I remember something I was told years ago: Black women are expected to handle all textures of hair and all shades of makeup, but this is not often reciprocated by other races.
To make this statement feel less true, it will take a lot of time and some major changes – and it all starts with education and inclusivity, both in front of the curtain and behind the scenes.