Why black actors and models are criticising backstage hair and make-up12th Mar 19 | Beauty
Stars like Gabrielle Union and Olivia Anakwe say not many hairstylists or make-up artists know how to style black people on set.
The entertainment industry is working on its diversity problem – but while we might slowly be seeing more people of colour on our screens, it seems this isn’t necessarily reflected behind the scenes.
Some black actors and models are shedding some light on this, and have been sharing their on-set hair and make-up experiences as people of colour.
The conversation was sparked by an Instagram post from model Olivia Anakwe, who says she wanted to “spread awareness and hopefully reach anyone in the hair field to expand their range of skills.”
She describes how backstage hairstylists will avoid her because they don’t know how to do her afro hair. In one situation, she had to search for someone who knew how to do cornrows after a stylist pulled her edges “relentlessly” – which can damage and break the hair.
Anakwe writes: “No matter how small your team is, make sure you have one person that is competent at doing afro texture hair care OR just hire a black hairstylist! Black hairstylists are required to know how to do everyone’s hair, why does the same not apply to others?”
The model’s thoughts were soon picked up by others in the entertainment industry.
Actor Yahya Abdul-Mateen II tweeted his agreement, saying that all the black actors he knows face the same problems with stylists not knowing how to do their hair.
Yvette Nicole Brown, who you might recognise as Shirley from the TV show Community, agreed too and shed light on just how many black actresses do their own hair and make-up because they don’t want to risk looking bad or having their hair damaged.
It’s staggering how many people in entertainment commented their agreement with these experiences.
Gabrielle Union is a hugely successful actor, and yet even she has trouble with finding someone who knows how to style afro hair on set.
Soon, people on Twitter started talking about solutions. Brown speaks of the “black tax” – the cost black people incur because they have to deal with things like their own hair and make-up, which white actors don’t have to think about. The general consensus is there needs to be more diversity behind the scenes, and better education so hairstylists and make-up artists don’t just learn how to style white people.
Hopefully conversations like this will push the industry to address these issues.
© Press Association 2019