- November 14, 2021
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As a hairdresser, Domonique Mosely prides herself on being able to style any type of hair that ends up in her chair: straight, wavy, curly or coily. But that hasn’t always been her experience as a salon customer.
“People do look at Black hairstyles as if they are harder or more complicated,” Mosely said. “I’ve seen it with different people [being turned away because of the texture of their hair]. I’ve had that experience myself.”
This week, however, the Louisiana State Board of Cosmetology decided to make cutting textured hair – the type that typically belongs to people of color – a requirement for its licenses. The board unanimously approved the change, which takes effect in June 2022.
By updating the licensing test to include cutting textured hair, board members hope to undo racist beauty standards and enhance stylist education. The decision comes in the wake of the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act, a federal law that prohibits race-based hair discrimination. Fourteen states have passed their own version of the law, and in December, Mayor LaToya Cantrell signed a New Orleans ordinance modeled on it.
The New Orleans City Council voted unanimously on Thursday to outlaw discrimination in the workplace based on hairstyle, as part of a growing …
The Cosmetology Board chair, Edwin Neill, who owns the Paris Parker salon chain, said 65% of people have textured hair, yet “the test was always just on straight hair. We needed to recognize this competency was important. This is a great first step in making sure, no matter what kind of hair a person has – wavy, curly or coily – hairdressers are able to accommodate that client.”
The licensing test’s technical aspects were largely based on 1960s and 1970s styles for straight hair, said Mosely, a textured hair educator at Paris Parker Jefferson in Baton Rouge. The only parts that reference Black hair are roller sets and relaxer, a corrosive chemical process that straightens textured hair but also renders it prone to breaking.
When Mosely started styling hair at age 14 in her Houma bedroom, using a mannequin head passed down from her brother’s barbershop-owning father, “everyone had a relaxer,” she said. “But now relaxer has plummeted to the smallest part of the market. I don’t do relaxer anymore for my Black clients.”
The history of hair straightening by Black women and men through chemical processing and extreme heat styling is rooted in the discriminatory practices of slavery, according to testimony presented by Nia Weeks, founder of the Citizen SHE United advocacy group in Louisiana, and Drexel University law professor Wendy Greene to the New Orleans City Council. Textured hair is an indicator of blackness, while straight hair conforms to Eurocentric beauty standards.
Black men and women still face pushback from employer and school dress codes and the public when they wear their natural hair, as WWL television news anchor Sheba Turk documented when she stopped chemically straightening her tresses.
For Sheba Turk, it was a personal decision. Nearly two years ago, around Christmas 2017, the WWL-TV morning show anchor decided to do somethin…
“Unfortunately, [racist comments about hair] are not uncommon,” Turk told The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate in 2019. “And it comes in many forms: emails, tweets, Instagram comments that will just be randomly like, ‘Your hair is a distraction.’”
Turk’s transition to her natural hair texture is part of a larger trend toward embracing curly hair, Mosely said, and the updated licensing requirements are a way of ensuring that people of all hair textures can receive care at any salon.
“We want to approach hair as hair, so nobody is intimidated by me if I call and say, ‘I am a Black woman coming to a salon,’” Mosely said. “We need to have every person learn how to do anybody’s hair, no matter what their race is.”
Jessica Williams contributed to this report.
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