Why black actors and models are criticising backstage hair and make-up

The entertainment industry is working on its diversity problem – but while we might slowly be seeing more people of colour on our screens, it seems this isn’t necessarily reflected behind the scenes.

Some black actors and models are shedding some light on this, and have been sharing their on-set hair and make-up experiences as people of colour.

The conversation was sparked by an Instagram post from model Olivia Anakwe, who says she wanted to “spread awareness and hopefully reach anyone in the hair field to expand their range of skills.”

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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

A post shared by Olivia Anakwe (@olivia_anakwe) on

She describes how backstage hairstylists will avoid her because they don’t know how to do her afro hair. In one situation, she had to search for someone who knew how to do cornrows after a stylist pulled her edges “relentlessly” – which can damage and break the hair.

Anakwe writes: “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?”

The model’s thoughts were soon picked up by others in the entertainment industry.

Actor Yahya Abdul-Mateen II tweeted his agreement, saying that all the black actors he knows face the same problems with stylists not knowing how to do their hair.

Yvette Nicole Brown, who you might recognise as Shirley from the TV show Community, agreed too and shed light on just how many black actresses do their own hair and make-up because they don’t want to risk looking bad or having their hair damaged.

It’s staggering how many people in entertainment commented their agreement with these experiences.

Gabrielle Union is a hugely successful actor, and yet even she has trouble with finding someone who knows how to style afro hair on set.

Soon, people on Twitter started talking about solutions. Brown speaks of the “black tax” – the cost black people incur because they have to deal with things like their own hair and make-up, which white actors don’t have to think about. The general consensus is there needs to be more diversity behind the scenes, and better education so hairstylists and make-up artists don’t just learn how to style white people.

Hopefully conversations like this will push the industry to address these issues.

- Press Association

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