Despite all the joy of #Blackgirlmagic and #teamnaturalhair movements, Black women in Hollywood are still facing serious drama when it comes to getting their hair done on set. Over and over, we hear (and see) traumatic stories of hair loss, damage, fails and all-around f*ckery when it comes to our fave celebs and models wanting to get their tresses styled by a capable hairstylist.
Actress Yvette Nicole Brown is proving to be a vocal force in the conversation to get qualified hairstylists on set. Last Saturday, she took to Twitter seeking a licensed hairstylist in Los Angeles, with some basic requirements: they must be part of the local union and able to style natural hair without heat for a new show she is filming for Disney.
Her request and subsequent tweets received thousands of retweets and comments. However, two days later, she reported not one qualified hairstylist had been referred to her.
And, it wasn’t because there aren’t hairstylists who can do natural hair. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of stylists. But, according to the tweets, many are just unable to get union status to work on set.
“This is not on the production companies/studios/networks,” wrote Yvette. “This is a union issue. The folks we need aren’t members and it’s almost impossible to get them in. And Black actresses suffer because of it.
Her sentiments echo Gabrielle Union‘s, who went viral back in March with her tweet about not being able to use her normal hairstylists. “Getting them in [the union] has never been easy or smooth. Ever. Like Never.”
That’s because joining unions like Los Angeles-based Makeup Artists and Hair Stylists Local 706 requires that stylists get hired and work as freelancers for a certain number of hours on non-union or union jobs with special exceptions before being able to join. However, they can’t get those hours.
Actress Lori Petty wrote she shared Yvette’s request with a stylist. The response? “…they dont hire us to get our hours, they pay our clients to pay us so they won’t have to hire us!”
Celeb after celeb chimed in to share their myriad horror stories. Ryan Michelle Bathe said that a stylist flat out refused to do her hair. She had to do it herself each Sunday for the week. “I was a series regular. He said, verbatim, ‘They couldn’t pay me enough money to do your hair.'”
Holly Robinson-Peete wrote she sometimes gets her hair pre-done “because they won’t hire people who know how to do us.” Gabrielle Dennis said she still brings “a hair and makeup bag to set ‘just in case’ those paid to do it don’t know how. “
During New York Fashion Week, several Black models also shared with me similar sentiments of having to come camera-ready. I even watched one redo her ponytail braid when the stylist left. This is not okay.
While Yvette still searches for a hairstylist, she challenged Local 706 and other unions to create a waiver system to allow stylists with “specialty skills” (read: they don’t teach how to do it basic cosmetology school) to provisionally work.
“Why is it so hard for Black actresses to get what they need to do their jobs?” she asked in another tweet. “Why is it always a fight? Why?!”
Yvette told Hype Hair she was finally able to locate a hairstylist –“two, actually.” She said the stylists “will share the job because they were both booked” and busy.