- November 16, 2021
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By Nicquel Terry Ellis, CNN
The Louisiana Board of Cosmetology’s recent move to include a section on cutting textured hair on all licensing exams is being celebrated by Black hairstylists and natural hair advocates who say the requirement is a step toward equality in the beauty industry.
The board voted unanimously on Nov. 1 to pass the resolution, which means all cosmetology school students in the state must be trained on cutting textured hair — which refers to hair that is kinky, curly, or wavy in its natural state.
Some Louisiana hairstylists say they have waited years for the board to add guidelines that are more inclusive of Black Americans who have faced discrimination at White-owned hair salons because the staff was not equipped to service their hair texture.
“You’re not a complete cosmetologist if you can’t service all people,” said Sharon Blalock, owner of Blalock’s Professional Beauty College in Shreveport. “We have Mexican friends, Chinese friends, Black friends, White friends and all those people want to look good and feel good. I feel like you should be able to service those people and not just a selective texture of hair.”
Blalock recalled having to seek special training for styling textured hair after receiving her hair license in the 1980s because she did not learn it at the White-owned beauty school.
The change to Louisiana’s licensing requirements comes as more states are enacting laws to combat race-based hair discrimination in the workplace and in schools. Several states, including California which was the first, have enacted the CROWN Act. The acronym stands for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair.” There has been a growing trend of Black women wearing their hair in its natural state in the last decade, increasing the demand for stylists who are trained to service textured hair, advocates say.
Edwin Neill, chairman of the Louisiana Board of Cosmetology, told CNN the state’s new requirement will go into effect in June 2022 so beauty schools have time to implement the training. Neill said the growing “consciousness” around textured hair inspired the board to add it to the exam.
Neill said cutting textured hair requires a different technique from cutting straight hair and all cosmetology students need to learn it. He hopes to add an exam section on styling textured hair in the future.
“For me it comes out of the horror stories I’ve heard in recent years of people going into hair salons and being told ‘I’m sorry, we don’t know how to do your type of hair,’” Neill said. “That doesn’t feel good for anyone and it shouldn’t happen.”
Neill said the board sought advisement from Renee Gadar, global artistic director of texture for Aveda, in changing the state’s licensing requirements.
Gadar said Black women have been “disenfranchised” and left out of the beauty industry for too long. She said the exam requirement will force all beauty school students of all races to learn about textured hair and overcome any stigma around it.
Gadar said her goal is to encourage other states to adapt the textured hair requirement and make it a national standard.
“This is a really big deal,” Gadar said. “Just the fact that people are unaware that cosmetology schools do not include textured hair in their education is a shock to most people and I feel like that’s why it’s news.”
April Bonner, owner of The Beauty Room in Shreveport, said she was thrilled to see the state board add the textured hair section to the test. Bonner said she hopes it will inspire hairstylists to seek more training on servicing natural hair so the hair industry can be more inclusive.
“As we (Black women) started to embrace our natural hair, hairstylists didn’t shift with it,” Bonner said. “But now I think everybody is going to start embracing this.”
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