Haircare, Black Where?
Written by: J. Stokes – December 20, 2016
At the beginning of this week we came across a video posted via YouTube by scholar, social commentator, and creator of The Black Business School, Dr. Boyce Watkins, in which he expressed his concerns about Black women and their spending habits regarding hair and beauty products. In his video, Dr. Watkins asserted, “With all the money that Black women are spending on hair and beauty, there’s no reason why Black women should not dominate that industry.” In other words, he believes Black women should own the majority of businesses that cater to Black hair and beauty. This is a logical viewpoint, given the fact that Black consumers, in general, are more likely to know about their haircare needs than distributors of another race (ex. the stereotypical Korean vendor). There are also those who claim starting more Black businesses is likely to improve Black communities and school systems, as well as provide more jobs to Black people, who still face issues with unemployment despite the improved U.S. economy.
Dr. Watkins furthermore stated, “I personally believe that if Black women are spending that much money in the industry, then there should be an equally diligent effort to train them on the business side of the industry.”
This belief (more like an honest suggestion) also holds some merit, given the aforementioned benefits of starting more Black businesses. To see the entire Dr. Watkins commentary on the topic of Black women and their investment in the hair and beauty industry, check out this link beginning at the 17:09 mark. While many may find his suggestions to be just another example of people telling Black women what to do with their hair and cosmetic habits (how many times has the weave debate come up?), let’s unpack this a bit further.
First, we must ask if there has been a concerted effort by Black women to run their own hair and beauty stores? The answer to that is “yes!” One example comes in the form of two young women named Kayla Davis and Keonna Davis, who are aged 19 and 21 respectively. These two sisters began their own company called KD Haircare Supply, LLC, which is located in Moreno Valley, California. Keonna showed more of an interest in natural haircare, given her transition to wearing the hair texture she was born with (i.e. Black hair), while Kayla wore hair extensions and wigs. As a result, the sisters combined both of their interests to serve a wide variety of Black hairstyles. Kayla and Keonna’s collective ideas go to show that Black-owned hair and beauty supply stores need not be limited to natural haircare only or extensions only. To see some of their work, check out Kayla and Keonna’s Instagram page here.
Brooklyn, New York houses another well-known Black beauty and supply store called Black Girls Divine Beauty Supply and Salon. Like, KD Haircare, this business venture was also started by two sisters, Judian Brown, 35, and Kadeian Brown, 33. Despite their battle to keep this business afloat in its earlier stages, the Brown sisters have managed over four years of entrepreneurial success. One last example of a Black woman who began her own hair and beauty business comes from Lisa Price. Beginning in a Brooklyn kitchen, Price has gone on to create the nationally distributed Carol’s Daughter. Price’s business has served the likes of well-known celebrities such as Jada Pinkett Smith, Solange Knowles, and Gabrielle Union. Despite its successes, however, Carol’s Daughter (more specifically, Carol’s Daughter Stores LLC) was met with financial hardship at one point. It was because of this that Price decided to join the L’Oréal family. In other words, L’Oréal cosmetics, a leading beauty care company based in Paris, France, which has had its fair share of controversy regarding the treatment of Black women despite having a Black woman as their Women of Color Lab Manager, acquired Carol’s Daughter.
L’Oréal, to date, still allows Price to remain active in the company. However, one must ask if this action, allowing a non-Black group to purchase a Black business, is acceptable for Black-owned hair and beauty supply stores? Answers may vary. On one end of the spectrum, there is the issue of finances.
Price allowed another company to acquire her business in order to keep it running and remain successful. Nevertheless, people like Kayla and Keonna have shown how far investors can help with entrepreneurial ventures. Moreover, the Brown sisters managed to keep their business running for a respectable amount of time despite initial hardships. Price made what she considered to be the best decision for her and Carol’s Daughter. The original intent of this business was to serve Black women and other women of color, and L’Oréal is a recognized brand all over the world. Therefore, isn’t it safe to say that Price’s decision had an extraordinary effect? Some still seem to disagree.
Beauty News Editor for Refinery29, Taylor Bryant once stated, “Maya Brown, the vice president of marketing for Black Opal [a Black-owned beauty and cosmetics company], believes brands are too focused on quick fixes rather than truly taking the time to understand the needs and concerns of the Black community.” In other words, many of the companies that own Black businesses in hair and beauty or sell products meant for women of color are not truly catering to Black women as they would White women or those with a paler complexion (more so when it comes to cosmetics as opposed to hair). Bryant goes on to say that an appropriate range of colors in makeup is not often present for women of color, and mainstream brands, that are not Black-owned, should make more of an effort to be inclusive.
She furthermore asserts that many companies catering to women of color are often placed in the “ethnic” space. So even if L’Oréal included a section for Carol’s Daughter in one of its megastores, products released by Carol’s Daughter run the risk of being overshadowed by “the beauty big dogs.”
Going back to Dr. Watkins and his suggestions about Black women owning hair and beauty stores, the fact of the matter is there are plenty of women who have taken part in these business ventures. Actually, the Black Owned Beauty Supply Association is a nationally recognized organization geared towards helping Black women, and Black men if they are interested, demonstrate competitive leadership in the Black hair and Black cosmetic industry nationwide and internationally. What it all comes down to is notoriety and investment. If more Black women knew about the various opportunities and success stories in Black-owned businesses regarding hair and beauty, they could possibly dominate the industry. Nevertheless, there must be support from others for these business ventures to thrive and survive. Switching gears, we’d like to point out that this blog post is by no means an extension of the assertion we made last week, stating that we will dive into the topic of Black women and hair acceptance. However, what we have described here may be used as a reference point in our future coverage of the subject matter.
**Let us know what you thought about today’s post. Was it informative? Leave your comments below!