When you love doing textured hair, you want to spread the love. We interviewed five women who are inspiring hairdressers to expand their skills and embrace the beauty of texture.
TV and Movie Stylist + Mentor
If you have dreams of working on the set of a TV show or multi-million-dollar movie set, Camille Friend is someone you should take notes from.
She has an impressive resume, serving as the head of the hair department on large productions like Black Panther—which she was working on when we interviewed her for this article—as well as Charlie’s Angels and Captain America: Civil War. And as a third-generation hairstylist, her experience growing up in a salon, attending beauty school and working for different companies as she navigated her career taught her alot about different textures of hair.
“I’ve been blessed enough to work on $100-million movies, and one of my keys to success is that I can do any texture of hair,” she says. “Any person can sit in my chair and I can do their hair—and do it well.”
And while her skill set is wide, Friend is particularly known for her wig work—cutting, coloring, and styling—and she found that wherever she was working, in different states or across the world, she was always educating other stylists. This gave her the idea back in 2015 to launch Hair Scholars, a program designed to provide up-and-coming artists the mentorship, guidance, and skills they need for film and TV opportunities. Hair Scholars offers not only master classes on wig work and texture, but now even business classes, like one on how to become a department head for film and TV.
“Especially where we are right now as a society, in the salon or in the shop, it’s a must that you know how to do every texture of hair, from a 4A to a 2B to a 3C to a 4C,” Friend says. “That should be a requirement, and we should raise our standards in the industry. As a good stylist you have to be very versatile. You have to know how to cut, style, and put on a wig properly. You need to know how to color. You need to know about hair textures. You need to know how to cut a man’s hair. The more well-rounded you are, the more of an asset you’ll be to a department.”
Friend says that not only should texture education be mandatory at beauty school, but all salons should be multicultural in terms of all stylists knowing how to work on any head of hair that walks in the door.
“Many stylists are willing to learn all textures, but what drives me crazy are the ones who think that they know, but really don’t know, and are willing to destroy someone’s hair over their lack of knowledge,” Friend says. “It’s okay if you don’t know, but there are so many classes and resources out there, don’t let that be the issue. Go somewhere and learn.”
Emmy Winner, Brand and Texture Ambassador
Kiyah Wright is a two-time Daytime Emmy award-winning hairstylist with 28 years of celebrity hairstyling under her belt. But when you ask her about it, she says she’s just recently realizing what an accomplishment winning two Emmys really is.
“Being in the music industry, I couldn’t really talk about behind-the-scenes stuff because of exclusivity, so when a lot of people were shouting about their accomplishments from the rooftops, I just kept going,” Wright says. “I came up during the ‘Puffy years’—the Bad Boy era—when Puffy put on us the ‘we won’t stop, what’s next’ mindset. So that’s always been my mentality.”
And her resume surely speaks for itself. Beyond her dominance in the celebrity hairstyling world, she was an ambassador for Procter & Gamble for 13 years—both for Clairol Professional and Head & Shoulders Royal Oils—where she created a presence for textured hair.
“Stylists have the most value in terms of products,” Wright says, “and brands are paying a lot of attention to the texture haircare space right now. When I was in school, I learned to do straight and wavy hair. Brands are just now releasing tools for our hair that go up to 450 degrees. I believe that we should have chapters in the book, and every stylist should have 101 knowledge of how to style textured hair, especially what products to use. Products make a huge difference.”
Taking all of her knowledge, both of the textured hair care space and business principles, Wright wrote the book From Beauty to Business, set to be released in May 2022 and available for preorder now. It teaches stylists how to run a successful beauty business, covering everything from investing to managing multiple streams of income.
Wright has also created a two-year mentorship program. She hires up-and-coming stylists to work for her, teaching them all the intricacies of working with celebrity clients—everything from how to show up to what to bring in your kit, including product. These mentees sign a contract and an NDA because, as Wright explains, “the second day on the job they could be at a celebrity’s house.”
Advocate and Tool Developer
As amika’s Global Artistic Director, Naeemah LaFond gets to combine her love of hairstyling with her passion for education. But she’s also a voice in another way: She’s been publicly outspoken about the lack of diversity and inclusivity in the industry and has called on other industry professionals to make space for those who don’t have any.
In the summer of 2021, LaFond worked with Pinterest to develop and roll out the hair pattern search tool, created with Black, Brown and Latinx Pinners in mind, that empowers users to search for hair inspiration across hair types. Through computer vision-powered object detection, hair pattern search enables Pinners to refine hair searches by six different hair patterns: protective, coily, curly, wavy, straight, and shaved/bald.
“This new tool will mark a much-needed milestone for racial equity in the world of coding,” LaFond says in a Pinterest press release. “Just the simple idea that I don’t have to work twice as hard to find a hairstyle because of my hair type is a game changer.”
LaFond told us that working on this project was awesome. “The team showed a genuine respect for what I brought to the table,” she says. “It was great to see the results of my contributions come to life.”
LaFond lists changes in the beauty industry since George Floyd’s murder and driven by the Black Lives Matter movement’s momentum: more diverse educational platforms, the appointment of well-deserving Black artists to director/executive positions, more diversity among the assisting teams backstage at New York Fashion Week, the diversification of lead roles in education, and the way brands are more intentional about how they market their products and who they cater to. Still, she adds, there is much more work to be done.
“In the past year we’ve made a significant dent by identifying the walls and roadblocks that many artists have to face, but we must use the next few years to break down those walls and ensure that our industry lives up to its fullest potential and that all stylists have an equal opportunity for equity and a seat at the table,” says LaFond, whose work can be viewd on The Wall Group. “I hope that our industry can progress into a space where all hairdressers are held to the same regard and one where we can equally strive to live out our best careers.”
Texture Expert and Activist
Monaé Everett has a longstanding and wide-ranging career in the beauty industry as a stylist and texture expert, working for global brands like Wella and Mizani, with her work appearing in film, TV, print and New York Fashion Week shows. She’s also an outspoken activist on diversity and inclusion in the beauty industry.
“I’m of the belief that you’re a hairstylist if you can style all four hair textures but more of an enthusiast if you can style only hair textures that are similar to your own,” Everett says. “I think every client off the street should look better after leaving a stylist’s chair. They should never have to hear something so embarrassing as, ‘We don’t do your hair texture here.’”
In her mission to change the industry, Everett created the Texture Style Awards competition in 2021.
“I thought that a way to counter the lack of diversity and inclusion was to hit it at a different level," she explains. "I thought, 'Why don’t I hit it where it’s celebrated and appeals to the competitiveness of most hair stylists?'”
The competition was designed to help increase diversity and inclusion within the beauty industry by placing equal emphasis on all four hair texture categories: straight, wavy, curly, and coily/kinky. With more than 350 submissions in its inaugural year, the Texture Style Awards resonated with the community.
But stylists are only part of the equation, and Everett says brands, too, have a responsibility to celebrate all looks.
“People aren’t exposed to certain textures as much so they don’t see the beauty in it,” she says. “Brands should be showing all textures throughout advertisements, and they should just do it; it doesn’t have to be a major announcement. If you have a red hair color, it can be shown on a Black woman, an Asian woman, a white woman—anyone.”
Education is a part of the equation, too, whether from brands or from independent educators like Everett herself. For brands, Everett suggests they hire regional educators, who would provide a more personalized approach.
“I can go to some of these top hair shows and either everyone looks the same or the brands claim they’re diverse but I can literally see the Black educator section, where there’s a Black stylist working on a Black model. All of this subliminally communicates that textured hair is not important.”
Everett also says there’s a misunderstanding in the industry that assumes Black stylists aren’t interested in brand partnership roles. “They just don’t know how to go about it,” she says. “Things are culturally different, and that includes booth rental, which means you won’t get that education coming in from brands and they’re not able to scout your talent.”
With plenty of talented Black content creators and stylists in the industry teaching brands how to use their products differently, Everett says it’s time for these partnerships to open up.
“I just can’t think of any brand that’s truly doing it right,” Everett says. “After the murder of George Floyd, so many brands came out to offer support and pledge money, but a majority didn’t follow through. The prayer is that in 20 years, this is no longer a conversation because we’ll be doing it at so many different levels.”
Educator Who Launched 3 Platforms
Curl specialist, master colorist and industry activist Keya Neal is busy—to say the least. She’s the visionary behind The Kolour Kulture, a color and texture education platform; Texture vs Race, a community aimed at eliminating the deep-seeded racial divide in the salon industry; and REPAIRations, a digital education event intended to repair a damaged industry through education for all hairdressers about all hair textures.
Neal began launching these educational initiatives after relocating to Maryland from South Carolina in 2011 and noticing how segregated salons were in her new location.
“I was the only Black person there,” Neal says of the Maryland salon she joined at the time as an apprentice. “I learned so much about myself and so much about the industry. I felt like I was on an island by myself, with a bunch of white people who let me be there but didn’t want to hold me there. They didn’t know how to hold space for me or how to emotionally support me.”
She stepped into the apprentice role to learn how to color straight and wavy hair, and it was during this process that she realized there was a huge gap in education. Kolour Kulture was born shortly after.
“What surprised me was that I got a multicultural audience for my Kolour Kulture classes,” Neal says. “I thought most white people already knew how to do color, but many didn’t.”
Several years later came Texture vs Race, which was initially a class Neal developed for the Board of Certified Haircolorists after they asked her to create a course on how to color Black hair.
“Salons and churches are the only two institutions left to be overtly segregated,” Neal says. “We started Texture vs Race classes to talk about our social issues and address our fears about why we don’t desegregate salons.”
Next came George Floyd’s murder in 2020, and the industry finally started to address some of the longstanding divides. In July of that year Neal was asked to participate in Sam Villa’s Fabric of Change, a day-long educational and fundraising event aimed at showcasing Black stylists and educators and raising money to support equality and end racism.
“When Sam Villa calls you to do something, you do it,” jokes Neal. “But when he called, I said to him, ‘I feel like there’s this big surge of texture education but we’re just continuing to serve an already advantaged community. We’re not serving the disadvantaged and disenfranchised at the same time. If white people do white people, and Black people do Black people, and we teach white people to do Black people but we don't teach Black people to do white people, what do you think is getting ready to happen? It’s going to cause an economic hardship in our community.’”
This is when repHAIRations was created, providing more than 900 stylists with invaluable education and more than $50,000 worth of product for free.
“The Black stylists who attended this event felt seen and heard,” Neal says. “We have not had equitable education in the Black community ever, and I think repHAIRations was just a sign that there had to be a righting of a wrong.”
Although Neal says that many brands had a knee-jerk reaction to help after George Floyd’s murder, she adds that she does continue to see progress in this regard.
“The brands that I’ve connected with and worked behind-the-scenes with in the past year and a half have done a lot of internal work," she notes. "I think many of them are afraid to talk about all the work they’ve done because they feel it will look self-serving, but they’re making changes for sure.”
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