It has been over two years since George Floyd lost his life. During this time, many people around the world have been thinking of ways to prevent such heart-breaking happenings to occur again, and about ways to make societies safer and more welcoming to black citizens at all levels, including one that might not seem like a big deal, but it can make a difference: hair.
Known as “natural hair” or “natural black hair”, the characteristic thick and textured hair of black people has been frowned upon and criticised to the extent it gave room for a whole industry to grow and thrive by selling products, treatments and accessories to “tame” it or hide it. This general prejudice is also the reason why many hairdressers don’t know what the specific needs of natural hair are, how to take care of it or how to style it.
Several months ago, the Vocational Training Charitable Trust (VTCT), a specialist awarding and assessment organisation that offers vocational and technical qualifications in a range of service sectors, decided to do something about it. They created a programme to teach hairdressers everything about natural hair: washing, nurturing, cuts, accessories, etc.
The saloon SG Hair (https://www.sghair.uk/) in Birmingham was part of the programme, and they invited my daughter and me to be hair models for a day. We attended with some other people, all with different textures and experiences with their hair. After getting our make-up done, we had the opportunity to listen to the experts while they explained everything and used our hair as example.
It was a really interesting experience! They made tests to determine texture, age and specific needs of different types of natural hair. They even analysed our scalps with a microscope device that showed every follicle and pore. It was a bit shocking, of course, but at least they said our hair was in good condition. In addition, they were able to tell I had put some product on my hair just by running their fingers through it. They called me out on it, as I was supposed to attend with nothing on (oops!).
It was an enjoyable experience, especially because it was a day for me to be on stage, but without performing. Even with cameras following our every movement and a representative of VTCT taking notes, I found it very relaxing, haha. I was thankful for the opportunity to listen to the different experts talk about natural hair and the responsibilities of their profession, too.
At some point, they affirmed that “hair is just not hair” and that really stuck with me. If you browse through my old stage photos, you will find me with straight hair, wigs, and using things to cover it rather than accessorize. I have not always been aware of it, but I have had to go through a journey of acceptance in regards of my hair because my surroundings have been rather hostile towards it, saying it is “messy” or “unprofessional”.
Overall, both my daughter and I were really satisfied with the experience. We went back home with a lot of things to think about. The VTCT programme has finished already, but I’m sure it allowed many people to understand natural hair better and that, with more efforts like this, we can achieve more inclusivity and great things.
Let’s rock that natural hair, because it is not just hair!