Open Letter From A Hairstylist to Natural Hair Lovers & Fellow Hairstylists

 

When I opened the floor for Camille Reed of Noire Salon to share her opinions based on experience in the Hair Blogger Falsehoods post, I had no idea we’d strike such a nerve. There were such vehement responses that I had to ask Camille to come back and address the issue further. I realized the main complaint wasn’t so much with what Camille was actually saying – the information was incredibly valid, and in weeks since I’ve seen other blogs tackle “natural hair myths” without creating a response of overall outrage. Many expressed issues with Camille’s perceived tone, and to me, that comes from the projected feelings many of us have gotten from stylists in our past experiences. That led me to write a follow up of sorts, Hairdresser Horrors, Who Hurt You – about my own hair salon experiences, the very experiences that led me to go natural and avoid going to hairstylists. And it led Camille to return to the topic at hand.

lg_three-on-one-annie-lee

Three On One by Annie Lee

This time, her words of wisdom and experience are addressed both to the natural hair lovers who responded to her first post with anger, and also to the stylists who have done the craft a disservice and created this rift of distrust to begin with.

We’ve got to do better.

Take it away, Camille!

I love who we are and what we represent. We have an opportunity to build the spirits of one another so that we can all be great.

Black girls are a special kind of amazing. We are witty, smart, chic and in possession of a lot of character. However, what tends to stand out the most about us is our physicality. I have such beautiful sisters who have an immense range of complexions, with supple seeking eyes, round noses and cheeks, curvy hips and derrieres. There is a cultural fixation on our looks, so how does the majority culture expect us not to share this fixation when it comes to our hair? See, the hair of the black girl was the one thing to which we could effect much change. It could alter (just in a subtle way) how the population would perceive our character. I realize that this seems unfair. Why do we feel like this? The history is so complicated. From the horror of the slave trade and the several hundred years of legalized slavery, killings, towns destroyed, families split and broken apart – despite all of these things, our hair has still managed to have a major spiritual connection to a sense of community that will never be broken.

All That Glitters by Annie Lee

All That Glitters by Annie Lee

 

The black hair salon is a safe house. A black girl leaves her place of work and sheds her mask as soon as she walks in. She can look completely relaxed or express her true exhaustion. The hair dresser is her therapist and just like a priest, who sees her at her most vulnerable. She leans her head back in the bowl and closes her eyes and for a little while, is transported to a place where no one is judging her, where her family isn’t being so demanding, where she can speak freely about politics and religion. The salon is the place for the things that matter to our hearts.

We are told, from young girls that our hair is our crown. What effervescent little black princess wants a tarnished crown? So we put a lot of money and time into our hair. Hours and days spent and never to return, stories told and heard and at the end…a blossom of a thing that sends us out into the world renewed and refreshed.

A giant schism is being created in the natural hair world as a result of what sisters have endured in “the classic black salon” which takes the aforementioned things and turns them completely turns them into something grotesque and unrecognizable. Gone is the place where we could be free and open and enter the salon culture of rudeness, hustling, cheating and stealing. Some places have become so malevolent that clients become victims of crimes, or to the effect where illegal activities are taking place within the salon space.

Some sisters have gone to salons, vulnerable and open, and have been abused by the same women that they have trusted. They have had their scalps seared and burnt, their hair broken or cut with unwarranted fervor. Some ladies have endured such violence as a result of their stylist not wanting their client to be “cuter than them.”

 

Burn You Baby by Annie Lee

Burn You Baby by Annie Lee

Their trust has been seared into a scar that is having a hard time healing. Ladies are leaving the shops in droves, and taking their hair care into their own hands (where a few unscrupulous individuals are tending to lead them down a path of more hair-related misfortune). My mother would call this “jumping out of the pot and into the fire.” What many of these ladies want is the return of the safe place and the guidance that they were used to. Sisters want to feel safe again and we, as stylists, need to do whatever it is that can be done to create the healing atmosphere that has inspired their strength throughout the ages.

I challenge each of us to understand the gravity of this responsibility and bridge the growing divide between the stylist and the sister. We need to open our mouths and communicate our knowledge, unafraid, and willing to revere our jobs as the priesthoods that they are. In African culture, the hairdresser was a central figure…a helper. Let’s take this natural hair movement away from just profiteering and reclaim the rich ministry that it truly is.” — Camille E. Reed, www.noiredesignconcepts.com (and you can follow her on Twitter & Instagram at @Noireboss1).

All artwork featured in this post is by the legendary Annie Lee, click here to visit her official site.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Comments

  1. Thank you, Camille! I appreciate your vision of the salon as refuge.

  2. For some of us, the salon was NOT a refuge or rite of passage. It separated the girls with money from the broke. Now the barrier of entry is lowered and everyone can get great styles and achievable length during times of a “recession” and “frugality” craze. This is one of the reasons, along with bad experiences, why naturals don’t do salons.

  3. Anne,

    I read your post several times in a row to try to ascertain what you meant. Is frugality a bad thing, in your opinion?

    • The growth in frugal and coupon movements, which were amplified in the 2008 recession led to a DIY culture. It became chic along with economical to DIY. Women of all income could achieve the same styles with free information online, coupons, discounts, and sales anouncements of their favorite products online. Why go to a stylist to get yarn braids if you are trying to budget and have all the tips from various sources cheap online, along with where to get the cheapest hair, yarn, and more. In response, I now see stylists teaching hair boot camps because of this change. You may get let’s styling, but they are buying your products or educational services.

      This rite of passage and community shifted to other places.

      • Oops, I meant to say you may get “less styling.”

      • All the freely available information has certainly “lowered the barrier of entry” as Ann Noire puts it. So many did not know that it really doesn’t take alot to grow and maintain healthy hair. Online tutorials are a great help especially for those in the U.S. and probably Europe because getting your hair done in a salon can be expensive.

        However, I also agree with Camille who says that in embracing the DIY idea some are still being led astray. I have noticed that the obsession with products that some people have. Spending lots of money on what they have been convinced is the holy grail even when lower cost alternatives exist.

        I believe the salon should be a “safe house”, to use Camille’s words. A place where one can relax as they get their new do and also one that offers a conducive environment. I can relate to having visited salons where the stylists were gossiping about clients after they left,among other rude behaviour. Very unkind. Also when you are unable to visit a stylist you can create your own salon experience with friends and family. Doing hair is an activity that can bring us together as sisters…along with our brothers too.

        • Beverly L says:

          I agree with Ann. I have yet to go to a black salon and have a wonderful experience. My ear is usually burned or there’s some type of awkwardness felt throughout the session. Sometimes I feel forgotten about.
          The last experience I had with a stylist, my braids fell out the next day. I have become one of the DIYers because I do not feel I receive quality work when I pay for it. I do not want to be a DIY though. I desperately want a salon in my area, central Texas, that can handle natural hair and will not ask me to perm it. I have yet to find it.

          • Nina Baldwin says:

            I agree with Beverly and others here, who have had bad experiences at black salons. The longer my hair got, the more I was pressured into getting chemical processes, or to get it cut shorter, Even though I was paying more money -BECAUSE OF -longer length hair. It was always real clear, that my hair was just “too much work” for them. I also thought that since they were “experienced” and “trained” beauticians, that meant- in pretty much all types of hair- natural and chemically altered, and that they would be supportive & even proud to help me along the “natural hair path”. -But too many times, all that was given was “Attitude”, because all they wanted was for you to do what was easiest and most profitable for them.

  4. Lisa,

    You’re so welcome! :-) its a mix of my experiences as a young person and the stories from our vast clientele over the years. Hair is simply apart of the story of our lives.

  5. I feel you and wish and hope there’s a way to bridge the gap. My grandmother was a salon owner and licensed beautician. From my time in her shop, I learned to love the textures of our hair. However, it was at the hand of stylists that had no vested interest in me that I learned to not trust. At their hands, I asked to grow natural and was convinced to get a texturizer – or perms were left in too long and broke my hair off. There are many stories, but overtime, I learned to stay away. I learned that most stylists dont want to grow. Even as a provider of natural hair resources, I have launced CEU courses in Ohio to educate and teach what is not taught in the schools. I have gone to the board to contest their insistance of natural hair laws(OHIO) withouth requiring schools to offer the program to get the license. I have worked as counsel with a major beauty school to make curriculums relavant to natural hair care practice(vs the test that is obsolete to application). Through these attemps, workshops etc. I seek to bridge this gap. Yet, I still find a population of stylists that want to be convinced ‘why’ they need to learn how to do natural hair. Their chairs are empty and their customers are flocking to workshops that empower them to do what the stylist can’t. Making oneself a resource takes personal initiative. I applaud you and your efforts. The sanctuary should not be foresaken due to legislative rules that tell us to NOT care about our true hair textures..just because it isnt on the test. :)

  6. I am sorry so many had bad experiences with hair salons. My positive experiences getting my natural hair done have outweighed the bad, and I have been natural for many years. I love going to the salon and will continue to do so. I agree with both of Camille’s articles and do not get all the stylist bashing. Everybody is not like that and you cannot paint everyone’s realities with a broad brush like that. No need for bitterness! Do you and move on!

  7. kwmechelle says:

    Camille, many thanks for coming back and bringing further clarity to the situation. I read your original post, and as a natural, I was not offended at all. I appreciated the experience, expertise, and professional advice/wisdom that you brought to the table. I think the disdain comes when others aren’t allowed to express thoughts that may not be popular or that disagree with others. I for one am one of those who believe that you know what you’re talking about; even if it differentiates from the popular, cultural myths in the natural hair community.

    I believe that you tackled your follow up response with grace and poise. Kudos to you! Please don’t be hindered from speaking the truth. Even if it is received negatively, it doesn’t change the truth. And the truth never backs down because others can’t receive it. Just my two cents….

    • I agree with kwmechelle. Thank you Camille; I hadn’t realize this side of you. Definitely will check you out if I’m ever in your state. Hope you post more on this. Thanks to Afrobella as well.

  8. After years and years of terrible experiences with hair stylist, I had an amazing salon visit this past weekend. I was so impressed with the salon service that I blogged about it. Thanks for this post. I loved it. http://www.krystalgrant.com/2013/04/14/flowing-like-the-river/

  9. Nomihair says:

    As a natural, I have found that salons that CLAIM to do natural hair charge ungodly amounts of money to basically achieve the same look I could get when doing my hair myself. I admit there is a lot of false information on line and if you get caught up in the natural hair movement you will end up buying tons of products that you really dont need. I firmly believe in educating oneself and hair stylist often do not listen to their clients and I have had more than one tell me ” I have been doing hair for 15 years” well my response is ” I have had this hair on my head every day all day for 40 plus” so listen to me. I think it is a shame that salons charge so much money to work on our hair in its natural state which is why so many of us do our own hair, and frankly my hair could not be healthier.

  10. This is a very good blog, I can find so useful stuff on Afrobella. Here is a page for hairstylists to put their resume http://lifestyleprofessional.net/en/Home/FindStylist you can also find other hairstyilists and hire them, as well as share your experience. I think you can find this very helpful. Iva. I found the page recently, it really helped me find some hairstylists for my saloon.

  11. Great post! I love how the natural hair movement has taught many women (self included) more about how to accept and care for our hair. However, it saddens me to see the mistrust and disdain, in some cases for stylists. I understand where some of that comes from because I have some bad and downright horrible experiences in salons too but I’ve also had some really great stylists too. I love doing my hair myself but I also love being able to go the “safe house” as Camille calls it, to let someone else fuss over these strands for a change.

  12. Wow…love this post and the art really set the mood. I’ve been meaning to get some of these posters as a reminder of experiences that shaped my soul. I’m so glad you responded. I’m going to follow you and your writings. Thanks so much for opening the discussion. I really resonated with the hair salon being therapeutic: yes it was…it was there through all the milestones of my life. I miss it. I’ve met a few salon owners who have gone out of their way to make it feel a safe place again. No doubt you will be added to that list.
    Namaste

  13. I am so glad that this has resonated with so many of you! My goal has always been to be a guide, a resource. Sisters need a safe place in this world and our salon should be one of those places.

  14. I understand both sides because I’ve had really bad salon experiences & really good experiences but I would should note that I’ve had more bad than good. Fortunately I live in a city with a large African-american population so there are a large variety. I When dominican salons started popping up in my area that really changed the game. AA salons started to improve their customer service in order to maintain clients but some of the stylists just don’t have the necessary skillset to run their own business and if you find that you’ve come across that type of stylist, hit the door! Its your hair and you have to live with it! Don’t spend your money on someone that doesn’t appreciate your business. I have a friend that will literally go to a stylist within the same shop if she feels they are better stylists because she is the one that has to live with the outcome!

  15. MM Johnson says:

    I really enjoyed your beautifully written essay. I love how you gave clear examples on what a professional salon and hairstylist look like. I was a cosmetology for 19 years and I enjoyed it, and I really tried to treat my clients the way I wanted to be treated. For example, in high school, I was in a salon from 11am to 7 pm because I didn’t have since at the time, not to allow a inconsiderate hairstylist to hold me captive;I never treated my clients like that. It is sad when a few bad apples, spoil the bunch. I hope your post will inspire someone, to do better, because they now know better!

    Thank you
    MM Johnson

  16. Oops, I meant to say you may get “less styling.”

  17. Brown Eyed Girl says:

    Thank you for this series, Afrobella, and thank you, Camille Reed, for “Hair Blogger Falsehoods” and this follow-up post. I have been natural for six years. I live in Northern California and have an excellent loctician that I see once per month. I have to drive 40 miles to her salon, but it is well worth it because she is committed to and knowledgeable about natural hair, and behaves as a professional should. If she is running late she calls to let me know. There is no foolishness, no cussing, no gossip, and no untoward behavior of any kind allowed. My loctician introduces her clients to one another, and we all have a wonderful time chatting while we’re there. She provides herbal tea, bottled water, and snacks. This salon is the “safe house” you describe.

  18. I remember my scalp bleeding from open sores due to perms left too long, trims that left me looking like cleopatra and people who didn’t listen when I said what i wanted for my hair. So yes, my natural hair has been empowering in the sense that if i “jack up” my hair, I DID IT and for some reason that is comforting. The salon was never a “Safe place” I probably went through tons in my short lifetime and still didn’t find one I was comfortable with, but I’m comfortable with myself.

    In the beginning, I watched a lot of the bloggers, because if you have had your hair permed since 7 you really don’t know what to do with your hair. I think the important thing is to take everything with a grain of salt, everything should be adapted to fit your life and YOUR HAIR. Also do your research, don’t just depend on one person’s opinion (you go to multiple doctors for a diagnosis the same goes for your hair).

    P.S. Maybe one day I will find someone i trust with this self-made curly mane I created but that is probably going to be a long time coming.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Fun read for natural haired divas. an open letter from a natural hair stylist to us all (AfroBella) [...]

Speak Your Mind

*