Over the past few years, Hollywood has been embroiled in a discussion about diversity. While the calls for more directors, actors, and writers of color are starting to yield results, there’s one aspect of the business that still needs lots of work.
Recently, a few Black actors called out the film and television industry for its lack of Black hairstylists. While some may consider hair to be a minor issue, many Black actors have to either do their own hair or hope that the stylist the production has hired knows how to handle their afro-textured tresses. And sadly, most don’t.
According to Aquaman star Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, far too many stylists try to “figure out” Black hair because of their lack of familiarity with its texture.
“Hair stylists in our industry should have proper training, AND be able to show proof,” he wrote on Twitter. “Too often they begin to ‘figure it out’ the second we sit in the chair.”
Because of the lack of familiarity with Black hair, Malcolm Barrett said many actors have to get their hair done before they get on set, and often on their own dime.
“Most Black actors get their hair cut or styled outside of set, often at their own expense because Hollywood hairstylists are one size fit all and that ‘all’ does not include Black hair,” he wrote. “This has been my experience for the last 20 years in the business & it hasn’t changed at all.”
Actors like Yvette Nicole Brown and Loni Love echoed Barrett’s thoughts, explaining they often show up to jobs with their own supplies.
While many may wonder why Black actors can’t just hire their own stylists, Gabrielle Union Wade explained why it isn’t that simple.
“What a lot of non-industry folks don’t realize is that u can’t just use ur normal hairstylists/barbers/makeup artists on a union job (most jobs are union),” she wrote on Twitter. “Those artists HAVE to be IN THE UNION & getting them in has NEVER been easy or smooth. Ever. Like never.”
Hollywood may slowly be making strides toward being more diverse in front of the camera, but it’s clear that the industry has a long way to truly be inclusive and welcoming of a wide array of talented people.