I was recently invited to Allure magazine's 2014 "Best of Beauty" awards ceremony. I was surprised to get the invite, because I never get invited anywhere. Don't get me wrong; I'm cool with it. I'll admit it, I'm a tad antisocial -- most days, I go from home to the pool; then to my bustling salon, hair rules; then back to the pool; and then home again . Generally, I have zero interest in talking to anyone outside of my lovely clients whose tresses need a little TLC (I was recently on a panel discussion where I was called a "mystery man." I thought it was because I had no selfies on my Instagram.).
Anyway, I got the invite and forgot about it until the night of after my last client. I saw an alert on my computer for a 7 p.m. event -- and it was 7:20! As someone who doesn't really go out, I was definitely not dressed appropriately. I looked down at my flip flops, green socks, army fatigues, and white tee - and I decided that my dirty golf hat would dress up the whole situation. It wasn't until I showed up to the event that I remembered it was Fashion Week. I was certain someone was going to tell me to come in through the messenger entrance, but I was blissfully ignored.
Upstairs, the ceremony was taking place in a loft that held a chic, incredibly well-dressed crowd of about three hundred beauty VIPs. After I ordered a double at the bar, I got a look at the beauty brands lining the wall. They were organized by category, and each category had three product entries. Obviously, I scanned the walls to find a Hair Rules bottle, and on my second pass, I noticed the familiar swirls on my packaging (bright, fun, just-shy-of-a-gay-flag - colorful). I was so proud and honored for my team that Hair Rules was among the honorees! And then I read the category we were being honored for: Best Shampoo/Conditioner for Coarse African-American Hair. Wait, what?
First of all, there is no such thing as African-American hair. Whose hair would it be? Solange's? Tracee Ellis Ross'? Lupita's? Alicia Keys'?
I have been very intentional in avoiding the archaic mindset that categorizes hair by ethnicity, because at the end of the day, it's meaningless. So-called African-American hair runs the gamut of hair textures and types! Allure magazine is supposed to be the beauty authority, the beauty Bible. So I couldn't believe that they were subscribing to such an outdated concept (by the way, "African-American" is just a politically correct way to say "black," and the term is often used in the wrong context. There's no need to politicize black hair; unless of course, you're trying to convince the government to accept all hair textures in the military. Allure could've at least followed the lead of big box retailers that have now started to call the ethnic aisle "Multi-Cultural." And yes "Multi-Cultural" is an annoying term, too, but at least the term reflects an attempt to acknowledge the wide variety of hair types that exist across the ethnic spectrum.
And since when did all black hair become coarse? Come on, people! I was stunned that in 2014, top beauty editors are still taking this old-school approach to hair texture. With as many shades of people as there are in the world are as many hair textures that exist, how do beauty editors arrive at these conclusions? Where do they draw their inspiration from? Who are they talking to? Where are they getting their advice? As an insider, I suspect that the celebrity stylists informing the beauty editors are not exposed to the full range of hair textures.
This shouldn't come as a surprise to me. Even now, in the most advanced cosmetology textbooks used in schools like Aveda or Nick Arrojo the only mention of any hair texture other than straight is wavy or curly. And the only methods to care for those textures are to change them chemically or thermally ("kinky" is not mentioned anywhere). It's kind of like taking a graduate American history course that completely ignores black history -- at a graduate school where you couldn't even take African-American history as an elective!
Perhaps that explains why the real beauty revolution is happening on the internet, where everyday women have bucked the beauty industry, forming a community of bloggers and vloggers who stand up and shout, "Our hair texture exists and it's fabulous!" I built my entire career on dispelling myths and misinformation surrounding our hair, and teaching people to love and honor who they are in the most glamorous way (because every woman should know how to find her sexy through her hair). I guess now it's time for me to reeducate my comrades to do the same.
After all, isn't real beauty about celebrating our differences? The world is not black and white, kids. Diversity is so much more interesting.