We all know the feeling. You plop down in a stylist's seat excitedly waiting for your slay to begin, only to be met with a look of panic when they actually lay eyes on your hair. As a woman with thick and coarse 4C textured hair, I know that gaze well. Sadly, so do most Black women, and it's been an ongoing problem in the entertainment world for decades.
During a recent episode of Red Table Talk available on Facebook Watch, Willow Smith shared her experience of having to style her own hair at a major fashion event. She says:
"All of the white models were getting their hair done and they all had somebody. The person that was supposed to come do my hair, came, looked at it, and tried to do something to it; tried to touch it. I can tell they were extremely (pauses) perturbed. I could tell that they were just like, I don't know what I'm doing. That anxiety of looking at them in the mirror not knowing what to do with my head, made me feel like, I'm going to just take the reins. So, I basically did my own hair for a really high fashion shoot. That should never be happening."
Although her story is unfortunate, it's not surprising at all. However, it does make you think, with Black creatives making such an impact in Hollywood and the entertainment space, why are we still not being catered to in the same way? I mean just imagine being a Black hairstylist or make-up artist that gets booked for a high profile event and being unable to style white women's hair or face. Chile, we'd be fired so quick! There is a desire to increase diversity and representation in media, but what goes on behind the scenes suggests that that mobility is surface.
As a model, Willow has been afforded many opportunties to work with major brands like Chanel and Mugler, but is it really a seat at the table if she and women like her aren't afforded the tools and resources to bring their best selves to these spaces? Black women being met with stylists who don't know how to work with their hair is nothing new. If white stylist can't learn to work with our hair, so much so we have to do our own hair on these sets, maybe the bigger conversation is how important it is to make sure representation and diversity isn't just represented on screens, but behind the scenes as hairstylists and makeup artists on set too. Also, when we get opportunities, it is important to share them!
Speaking of sharing, here is a list of amazing Black women who have also spoken up about the discrimination of having to do their own hair on sets in Hollywood.
With the exception of her show Insecure, writer and actress Natasha Rothwell noted having to spend her last in the early stages of her career to ensure her hair was on point, a burden her white counterparts never had to bear. She said, "They can wake up, roll out of bed and don't have to worry about what's in their bag."
"It's a real disservice to actors of color who are effectively doing someone else's job and not getting paid for it. There's nothing [more] dehumanizing than sitting in a hair and makeup chair and watching your co-stars go through the works and leave, and you're still there because someone's moving very slowly because they're very scared. It's [you] feeling like a problem to be solved."
Taraji P. Henson
"If you know how to do it, great. If you don't, pass it to somebody who does. It has nothing to do with pride or ego," Henson told The Hollywood Reporter. "I'm not saying you have to be black to know how to do [that] hair, but you got to know what the hell you're doing. When an actress of color requests a hairstylist, listen to them. They're not being difficult."
In 2019, the model vocalized her experiences at Paris Fashion Week and not being able to find a stylist who knew how to do her hair. She wrote in her Instagram caption:
"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 OK. This will never be OK. 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's mind-blowing to me that we still have to —- meaning Black actresses —- have to fight to have Black hairdressers on set for us. There was one time in particular I was doing this movie and, my God, I was the lead. And after this person did my hair, I cried. I was like 'I cannot, like, I cannot go out there looking like this.' I just don't understand why you have to fight to get someone to understand the importance of that."
While Halle Berry looks like she was made to rock her signature pixie cut, the style was actually a product of her environment as an up-and-coming actress who had trouble finding stylists who knew how to do Black hair on set. She revealed:
"That's why I had short hair. [Maintaining] it was easy. I think as people of color, especially in the business, we haven't always had people that know how to manage our hair. Those days are different now, that's when I started."
Queen Latifah, who notably did her own hair during her time starring in the hit sitcom Living Single, but expressed that change needs to be a focus:
"It's not because their heart wasn't in the right place — they just didn't have the skill set to do Black hair. As African-Americans, we have all different shapes, sizes, colors, textures, and you got to be able to work with that. We are always in a position to be able to work with what White people do. That's just how it's been, but it has to be reversed. It has to be some respect over here and figuring out what to do with our hair. So we just really need to add more people to the industry."
Gabrielle Union is never one to mince words when it comes to speaking her truth. In a 2017 Glamour essay, she wrote about her experience when getting started as an actress:
"I was like a guinea pig on set, and I didn't yet have enough power to request a stylist who I actually wanted to touch my hair. It got to the point that I would pay to have my hair done before I got to work and pray they didn't screw it up."
"I realized very quickly that there were many people in hair and makeup trailers who were totally unqualified to do my hair. Hairstylists used Aqua Net–like hairspray with crazy amounts of alcohol, which caused chunks of my hair to literally come off on a styling tool."
Gabourey Sidibe shared in at tweet in 2019:
"If they don't have the budget to hire a Black hairstylist for me, or won't, I just get the director to agree that my character should have box braids or Senegalese twist."
In the Freeform series, The Bold Type, actress Aisha Dee plays the biracial, bisexual, bold Kat. However, she made it known before the series' end that all was not as progressive as it seemed behind the scenes on set. She shared on Instagram:
"It took three seasons to get someone in the hair department who knew how to work with textured hair. This was impactful on so many levels, and I'm grateful for the women who show me how to embrace and love my hair in a way I never had before. I want to make sure that no one else ever has to walk onto a set and feel as though their hair is a burden. It is not."
The Flash star Candice Patton revealed during a SXSW panel in 2019 that she, too, has encountered when she said she needed "someone who can do Black hair.":
"At work, I don't want to be labeled a diva because I have to say to production, 'I need someone who can do Black hair. I need someone who knows and understands how to do Black makeup.' It is not the same. We do not share the same kind of skin. We do not need the same kind of makeup. And not everyone knows how to paint me in a way that makes me feel comfortable on camera, and me asking for that is not me being difficult. It's me being a diverse talent on this network asking for something that's different. And if you hire me, you hire me with the intent of knowing that I have different requirements and different needs—and that's just what it is. I think there's a lot of education that still needs to happen."
Actress Jurnee Smollett was able to advocate for her desire to have a Black stylist on set of Birds of Prey by talking to her co-star Margot Robbie about wanting one. She stated:
"In pre-production, when we were creating a look for the hair, for me it was very important to bring a woman of color on in the hair department to create the look for Black Canary. My hair, my texture, the kind of blonde we were going for…and I called her up and I said, 'Honestly, Margot, it's different. I need Nikki Nelms and this is why I need her.'"
Featured image by Jerritt Clark/Getty Images for Savage X Fenty Show Vol. 2 Presented by Amazon Prime Video
- Nia Long Had The Best Response To Being Labeled 'Difficult' In ... ›
- 14 Black AF TV Show Characters That Are Our Forever Natural Hair ... ›
Kirby Carroll grew up in VA but now calls Atlanta, GA home. She has a passion for creating content and helping brands grow through storytelling and public relations. When not immersed in work, you can find her sipping a mimosa at brunch or bingeing a new TV drama on Netflix. Keep up with her on social media at @askKirbyCarroll.
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
It is Eartha Kitt who once said, “Aging has a wonderful beauty, and we should have respect for that.” I couldn’t agree more. That’s why, it really does get under my skin, that we live in a culture that is almost obsessed with staying young. Why? Don’t you want to grow, evolve…mature? That’s why I’m also not big on people who are damn near obsessed with looking 20 years younger than they are. Nah, personally, I think the goal of looking great for and at your age is where it’s at because, as my mother (who ages remarkably well) used to say, “I’ve earned every year. I don’t want to be looking like a child when I’m not.” (It’ll preach.)
This kind of wisdom is the type of hindsight that cannot be matched. Because again, while getting older shouldn’t be anything that any of us are afraid of or ashamed to do, wouldn’t it be great if we were more proactive than reactive when it comes to how we take care of ourselves — so that as we do age (and it is inevitable), we will age…gracefully…seamlessly…beautifully?
That’s why I took the time to ask 15 women in their 40s to share some things that they wish they had done in their 20s as far as physical beauty is concerned. Look at it as me doing a solid for any of you younger readers who really think that “I woke up like this” will last…forever. It won’t. And if you settle into that very real reality by taking good care of yourself now, the 40s will be where you actually end up looking better than ever.
*Middle names are used in all of my interview pieces, so that people can speak freely, no matter what the topic may be.*
“Some women aren’t gonna like this but, Black can crack. I see it often; especially when I look at a lot of these women’s necks — even celebrities. You can look like you’re 29 in the face but because you didn’t take care of your neck when you were in your 20s, it’s out here looking like it should be in a nursing home. That part of your skin ages and sags like everything else. I wish I had cared about that back in the day. I do now and yes young women, moisturize your neck every night and every morning. I personally use a combination of rosehip oil and lavender because they help to stimulate collagen production. Don’t wait until you have tree rings. Do it…now.”
“I wish I had taken better care of my breasts. Not [just] as far as my health; as far as their appearance. When you’re in your 20s, everything is perky and unicorns. Hit 35 and you start to notice that your girls like your feet more than your neck. Doing some exercises to make your pecs more prominent and applying some cocoa or shea butter every night are little things that can keep them youthful. Don’t wait. A breast lift is an option but those aren’t cheap. And if you can avoid paying what a used car costs to keep your breasts sittin’ high, why not do that now?”
“It might sound weird but I wish I had laid off of my protective styles more. It’s like we’ve forgotten that the point of them is to grow our hair out but that can’t happen if we’re never giving our hair a break from all of the tension that comes from tight-ass braids and twists. Now my edges are suffering and that can make you look older than you are. Those ‘Brandy braids’ are cute, girl, but so is having a full hairline. Don’t live in a protective style — your future self is screaming this at you.”
“I wish I drank less. I had a good time, trust me. But drinking on the weekends and then having drinks a couple of nights a week after work took its toll. My skin feels drier and it takes more work to keep it moisturized. These days, [I] eat edibles instead. It’s healthier and it has compounds in it that can slow down the aging process. Oh, to be young again.”
“I wish I had incorporated some sort of hand care. If anything takes wear and tear on a constant basis, it’s our hands and we’ll be out here having a beauty regimen for everything but those. Now my hands are starting to look older than I would like and so I’m having to work overtime to get rid of some fine lines and fragile-looking skin. What I do is get hand facials every couple of months. Look to see what spas or salons offer them. It makes a really big difference on your hands. Your arms too.”
“I’m the most comfortable sleeping on my side but it’s not the best for my face — anyone’s face, really. I used to hear that it would cause wrinkles but when those aren’t something that you have to worry about, you don’t care. I’m starting to see a few around my lips and so now I’m on my back more often. I’m thinking that if I had cared about this in college, avoiding wrinkles would not be on my list of concerns at this age.”
“Stay off of acidic drinks. Your teeth will age just like everything else and sodas and orange juice doesn’t help. Think about the people you know who look one way…until they smile. Then they look 10-15 years older. Go to the dentist regularly and schedule a professional whitening appointment. White teeth make you look younger. Just take good care of them. You’ll be glad that you did, if you do.”
Jaye. 44.“Gray hair is a blessing but my grandmother always told me that it can come in prematurely — and a part of what causes that to happen is stress and a poor diet. When you’re young, you don’t care about stuff like that. But let those first ones creep in around your hairline and suddenly, you’re looking for all kinds of hacks. My advice? That man, that job, and that relative that is already making you want to pull your hair out? Let them go. Your hair can’t take it. And all of that junk food you’re consuming? I still hit a drive-thru but these days, it’s more like a couple of times a month instead of during every lunch break.”
“Get your legs waxed. All of that razor shaving can cause discoloration or leave razor marks that can make your skin look older over time. Plus, it creates ingrown hairs and something about those can make you look older too.”
“Stop not taking sleep seriously. When you’re 25, you can go on four hours of sleep for days on end but it catches up to you. Sleep is what rejuvenates you and if you don’t get it, eventually you will look like it. I have dark circles that I’ve been trying to get rid of and a part of it is due to years of no sleep catching up to me. Whatever it is, it can wait until you’ve had at least seven hours. Don’t listen if you don’t want to. One day you will look in the mirror and wish that you did.”
“I wish I had spent more time outdoors. It’s no secret that Black people have more of a vitamin D deficiency than anyone else but trying to pile up on supplements when you’re older is a lot. When you’re at restaurants, eat on the patio. Sit on your back deck to read a book. Go for a walk in the mornings. I’m dealing with some hair loss stuff right now and it’s partly because I need more vitamin D. And thinning hair makes you look older than you should.”
“Waist trainers are bad for you. I wish those damn things would go away. That doesn’t mean that I don’t get that a snatched waist can take a few years off. Hell, I know that I took mine for granted back in my 20s. Snack on bananas and berries. Do some cardio even if that’s power walking through the mall. Stop drinking cold stuff so much. It might sound like a mama’s tale, but drinking things at room temperature reduces bloating. There are other things that you can do to get the curves that you want without smashing your organs. Lord.”
“I wish I cared more about my damn arms. Nothing makes you look older quicker than your upper arms not being in good shape. Get some five-pound free weights and set aside 15 minutes. Dry brush those bad boys; it’ll keep dimples from showing up. Keep them extra moisturized, so that those annoying little bumps won’t show up. And use sunscreen. The sun doesn’t know if you’re Black or not. It comes for us too.”
“Have a professional care for your skin. There are a billion things that you can do at home but an aesthetician is trained to figure out what works best and what doesn’t. Facials, microdermabrasion, and chemical peels from time to time have all played a role in me starting to look younger. If I had taken preventative measures, it would’ve kept some money in my pocket because I wouldn’t be going quite as much as I do now.”
“I wish I had been more choosy about my sex partners so that I could’ve had wilder sex. Listen to Auntie here. There is some stuff that good sex will do for you and aging that no cosmetic can. Sweat out those toxins. Work out that core. Take in some of that sperm. Just do it with a man you can trust and you can be totally free with instead of these knuckleheads. Yeah, better mate selection is the beauty tip that I recommend — and stop acting like it’s a rite of passage to start this at 35. Get a good man now and sit down somewhere. So that you can lay down in peace. That’s what I’ve got for you.”
Pass the plate around for Payce, y’all. As far as beauty and maturity go, she just preached — to women of ALL ages! Amen? Amen.
Let’s make things inbox official! Sign up for the xoNecole newsletter for daily love, wellness, career, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
Featured image by The Good Brigade/Getty Images