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.
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.
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.”
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.