The natural hair movement has seen many black women cast off their wigs, weaves and relaxers, yet the media’s focus on women with longer, looser curls has been obvious. Now, women are proudly opting for shorter, natural styles. How will this impact the black beauty industry?
Charlotte Mensah is the owner and artistic director of the Hair Lounge salon in Notting Hill, founder of the Charlotte Mensah Manketti Oil product line, and three-time winner of ‘Afro Hairdresser of the Year’.
Khembe Clarke is the founder of health and wellness festival Return to your Roots.
Kadian Pow is a queer, Black femme who has lived in three different countries. She is currently a lecturer at Birmingham City University, where she teaches courses in sociology and Black studies. She hails from Kingston, Jamaica but spent the majority of her life in Washington DC. Prior to moving to the UK and earning her PhD, Kadian focused on informal education and inclusion at such institutions as the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Smithsonian, the Barber Institute, and the University of Birmingham. She is also the founder and managing director of her own beauty brand, Bourn Beautiful Naturals.
Patricia Akingbe is a photographer who lives and works in London. She specialises in fashion and portrait photography, but doesn't mind what she's snapping so long as she's behind the lens.
Lynda Cowell is a London-based writer, web editor, and former BBC television researcher. Having written for the likes of The Voice, Pride, The Guardian, Time Out and Marie Claire, much of her work has focused on race and gender, but not exclusively. In her free time, she likes to read, drink red wine, and watch the kind of television programmes other people sneer at.
Ethnic minorities have long been underserved when it comes to hair care, but Mayvenn is challenging how black Americans are catered to both as consumers and as professionals. It’s allowing salon owners and stylists to guide and sell directly to clients who they once might have sent elsewhere.
For women of colour, finding a nearby stylist within a reasonable price range can seem like a near-impossible task. The Bantu app offers a solution for people seeking care for their ‘kinky, coily, and curly hair’, providing them with access to prices, available styles and reviews in their area.
From the record-breaking Black Panther, to viral ‘Black Twitter’ memes, it’s clear that black Americans are cultural catalysts. Canvas8 talks to Jerome Williams, marketing professor at Rutgers University and founder of Walker & Company, Tristan Walker, about how black Americans are influencing culture.
Whether it’s through community activism, inclusive ads at the Super Bowl, special accommodations in stores, or body positivity in games, people want their identities, histories, and stories built into the fabric of broader culture. They want those who represent them to provide tangible action to support and platform the experiences of their communities. As the founder of eponymous streetwear brand Mikey Trapstar summarised in an interview with The Face: “The reason we are here today is because a particular culture has supported us. We started at the bottom and worked hard to get to where we are. We now have a responsibility to give back, we have to make sure we keep the culture alive.” People have learned to spot virtue-signalling by those who don’t truly have a vested interest in representing a community, meaning that lip service and tokenism will quickly be called out. This shift is a reaction to the surface-level allyship that became commonplace in the years following protests in the summer of 2020 as businesses that failed to address their historic and internal systemic issues rushed to align themselves with marginalised communities without acknowledging or investigating their own practices and structures. Progress has been made since 2020, with 60% of organisations surveyed by diversity and inclusion consultancy Paradigm in 2022 reporting that they had DE&I strategies in place – although only 16% had clear goals for improving racial representation. Many have bemoaned the short-lived gains made since 2020 as declines in media diversity have revealed the shallowness of these commitments, while others feel that companies are only an economic downturn away from reversing that hard-won progress. For some, inequality seems baked into the corporate system, and the only solution is to hand control to those who have a stake in seeing the communities they represent flourish. Brands that understand the value of working with diverse communities are responding with active collaborations year-round and proving their efforts are not just for a marketing moment. They’re championing inclusivity that takes into account the internal disparities within communities, while some are highlighting forgotten histories that have been whitewashed, giving people an opportunity to connect to meaningful, positive, and diverse stories. Loyalty and legitimacy are hallmarks of genuinely progressive brands that understand that collectivism is key to long-term success, which requires an investment in equitable culture internally and externally.