The last time we spoke to Camille Friend, award-winning hairdresser, educator, and “Black Panther” Department Head, the film had not opened and she could not have known the impact it would have or how successful it would prove to be when it debuted. At the time, we discussed how her inspiration for the hairstyles featured in the movie came from both the culture and beauty traditions of Africa and also the technologically-advanced society of fictional Wakanda. By merging the two, along with some impeccable styling and wig skills, she created looks that told us so much about each character and that celebrated natural hairstyles.
But while Friend has developed the skills necessary to work with natural hair, recently stories have been circulating on social media about models and actors showing up for work to find that no one is either versed in or comfortable with natural hair styling. Friend feels that the challenge around lack of inclusivity in styling can be met…and that it all comes down to education.
“My background is in multi-cultural salons,” she explains. “Even when I was coming up through the salon system we did all types of hair and all textures and there was never an issue. My skill set helped me get jobs. I could do all types of hair and that was definitely to my advantage.”
Since she first started in the entertainment industry (Friend has been on-set for years, doing hair for a long list of films including The Hunger Games: Mockingjay I & II, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Civil War and The New Mutants ), she sees change towards a more inclusive approach to beauty but she knows we can move further along if we commit to one thing.
“It is a hard but simple answer--education. The lack of inclusivity can be solved but we have to change ourselves and our human perspective. This is a great opportunity in our industry as hair and makeup artists, knowing that we can improve, that that there is always a solution and that it is education.”
Her love for sharing her knowledge started as something she was doing as part of her job. Having traveled all over the world, she often found herself demonstrating and teaching techniques to other artists while on set. “I was showing people how to do things they didn’t know how to do or they didn’t get a lot of practice or a lot of exposure to so everywhere I went, I would find myself teaching. When I was working on Guardians of the Galaxy 2, I did a class for my whole department and Marvel paid people to come to class because I needed to make sure people knew what they were doing. But I really enjoyed it and it was a passion for me. That is when Hair Scholars was born.”
In between movies, Friend has established an education program, Hair Scholars, where she focuses on teaching hairdressing skills that have either been lost or just aren’t practiced enough for hairdressers to have developed confidence in themselves.
“I like to talk about the nuts and bolts, the really serious skills. One of my areas of expertise because if you’re skilled in wigs and can place it to make it look realistic, that’s huge in this business. We have so many stunt doubles, and doubles for the actors and actresses, and they’re very often in a wig.”
In her wig classes, she talks about how to take accurate measurements of the client’s head to make a form for the wig. “Learn to do a wig fitting and make a shape and you can make money. These skills are real.”
Friend also teaches period styling. “Every job is different. If I’m going to be called on to do 1940 styles and I don’t do those every day, then I have to get a mannequin and practice. When I get to work is not the time to figure things out. The preparation is everything."
And for people who would like to do what Friend does—travel, work on films, have her work seen on the big screen by millions—she is offering a Mentorship Program. “People want to know how to work for me, how to get in to the union and they need to understand what that entails. We hare helping the newbies and also people already in the business, giving them the education and the skills so they can make better decisions.”
If you are in the Los Angeles area, Friend will be teaching a class on April 13th on Working with Wigs.
Everyone is welcome.