Every Friday, after school I would sit in between my mum's legs and brace myself for the painful detangling that involved oil and a "comb casualty" (the teeth of the comb breaking off under the tyranny of my afro). I have what you describe as 4c hair. For as long as I can remember people always had something to say about it. They would say things like:
"Oh! It looks like a sheep!"
"Can I touch it?"
"Why does it stand on its ends like that?"
"Your hair is...different."
Unfortunately, the comments weren't always kind. My hair has been described as 'nappy' and 'unprofessional', and I grew to believe that my hair was ugly. I wanted hair that looked like my Barbie's. Her hair was long, straight and, luckily for her the little pink comb did not snap as I ran it through her hair.
As soon as I was old enough to take care of my hair, I had no idea how to take care of it. So straighteners seemed like the easy option when it came to taming my hair. When that didn't work, I graduated to my first dose of the 'creamy crack' (relaxer) during my first trip to the salon. There I was greeted by African women who insisted that I call them 'aunty', where appointments were non-existent, the smell of jollof rice filled the air, and I was one of many clients who was having their hair done by the same person. I noticed that there were establishments very few and far between that dealt with Afro-Caribbean hair on the high street. In one respect the salons were a great cultural hub, however the young generation are no longer showing an interest in this particular setting - they need reliability, aesthetically pleasant environments and hairdressers that know what they are doing. Unfortunately, many of the salons on the high street only tick two of these boxes. Long story short, after booking an appointment, I was then told at the reception that they did not deal with my 'kind of hair.' So back to the 'aunty' I went!
Ever since that first visit my bank account has never been the same. Black women are estimated to spend around six times more on hair-care than other women. Statistics also reveal that UK black hair care market size is an estimated £4.2bn. Culturally and economically, black hair is a big deal, and still, we still see a gap in our mainstream UK retailers and a lack of representation in ad campaigns. According to a report conducted in 2016, just 22% of ethnic models (Black, Asian, Hispanic) had featured in ads while 78% of European models still dominated the media scene when it came to beauty and health. It seemed that media was and still is projecting European hair as the 'ideal'. The small 'ethnic hair' sections in the beauty aisles in supermarkets and beauty stores such as Boots and Superdrugs still reflect that notion. This growing frustration has meant that online retail is one solution to meeting the social element and brand connection. Companies like Luxe Beauty, The Good Hair Club and Antidote don't just parade their products online they offer reviews, sound advice, and community. They celebrate what others would call 'different' or 'interesting'.
Many questions arise when it comes to the issues surrounding diversity and representation, whether it is in beauty or media. I think it is important to celebrate those individuals or companies who are leading the charge when it comes to shedding light on these matters and challenging those that are not.