There’s nothing like the excitement a performer gets when preparing for a job, especially with the professional beauty artists focusing their attention on making you look just right. At least, that is what’s supposed to happen.
As a woman of colour with natural hair, the experience is very different. And it is a problem for actors across all forms of entertainment. For a film or television job, I always take a deep breath before going into hair and make-up. I need to take a moment, prepare to stay calm and try not to get offended.
That’s because almost every time I walk into the hair and make-up trailer, I see a look of horror on the stylists’ faces when they see my natural curls.
I learned many years ago that I must always bring a small selection of wigs with me to set, my own styling products and be prepared to style my own hair.
Once, I had to stop a stylist before she brushed my hair. Simply from the brush she chose, it was clear she had no clue what to do. She admitted it. After my make-up was completed, I was left to my own devices to style my own hair with my own supplies.
Meanwhile, my white counterparts roll into a hair and make-up trailer with bedhead, only to leave looking immaculate for their role after being offered multiple hairstyling options.
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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
I am not alone. Last month, model Olivia Anakwe called for each team working on a fashion show to have someone competent at doing afro texture hair care – “or just a black hairstylist!” – after another bad experience. Many responded on social media with their experiences of the industry’s failure to provide stylists who could deal with black hair.
Yvette Nicole Brown, who starred in Community, tweeted that most black actresses come to a new set with their hair done or bring wigs and clip-ins with them. “It’s either that or take a chance that you look crazy on screen.”
Most black actresses come to a new set w/ their hair done (me) or bring their wigs & clip-ins w/them. It’s either that or take a chance that you will look crazy on screen. Many of us also bring our own foundation. One too many times seeing no shade that matches you will learn ya! https://t.co/mGAzpuoKtb
— yvette nicole brown (@YNB) March 11, 2019
Susan Wokoma, who has had a 15-year stage and screen career, wrote: “The amount of time I’ve seen white co-stars get their hair cut and coloured and other intricate things on a truck – yet I have to spend my weekend or day off traipsing around looking to get my own hair done…”
It is highly disrespectful to be hired for an acting job but also have to offer services as a hair stylist. I did not go to cosmetology school. I am not trained in this field. Yet, consistently I am required to do someone else’s job when I should be focusing on my own work.
This is not just my experience: I’ve heard it again and again. Some actors have even paid out of their own pockets to secure a hair stylist. This shouldn’t be the case.
This is the price of doing business. When you hire a performer, your job is to provide all of the tools necessary to let them do the job they were hired for.
You need to hire a diverse group of stylists, make-up artists, wardrobe, and others who have the knowledge, experience and the capability of looking after the whole cast.
Alana Maria is an American actor who has worked in the West End, on film and television as well as voice-overs