Hollywood vs. Black Hair: A Saga on Systemic Racism

Bahtyah Williams

In lieu of Matthew A. Cherry’s Oscar winning short film, Hair Love, the topic of black stylists and makeup artists in the Hollywood union has sparked a riveting conversation. California legislation passed the Crown Act (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair) in July of last year banning the discrimination on the basis of hair texture. The act went into effect on January 1st of this year, yet many black actors continue to face challenges with their hair.

“It’s a real disservice to actors of color...There's nothing [more] dehumanizing than sitting in a hair and makeup chair and watching your co-stars go through the works and leave, and you're still there because someone's moving very slowly because they're very scared,” says Insecure actress Natasha Rothwell. Many in the industry believe the lack of black hair stylists and makeup artists in the union is due to nepotism and ignorance. Many of the people who spend the most time with black and brown skin find it difficult to get the opportunity to work with stars because the jobs are going to friends and family of already established stylists -- who are overwhelmingly white. 

Dr. Kari Williams, beloved stylists who specializes in black hair believes this is still an issue because “education is not being reinforced for stylists currently in the union on best practices for black hair.” Laci Mosely, of Pop TV’s Florida Girls says the issue is bigger than just vanity, and it is “the fact that systemic racism is so deeply ingrained in our industry that we are so forgotten about all the time that this is normal.”

Celebrity hairstylist, Kiyah Wright weighed in on the conversation and addressed the topic from the stylist perspective. She says how even as an African American stylist she has been programmed to not have to deal with certain textures of hair. Wright believes black hair should be celebrated. “Our hair and texture can do so many different things…for me, it’s about diversity, celebrating culture and it comes with so much empowerment.”

In honor of Black History Month, check out these six stylists/salons located in L.A. that are beloved by the black kings and queens of Hollywood: Dr. Kari Williams, Kiyah Wright, I Love Lu Lu Hair Spa, Capella Salon, Stylist Lee, and Olamide “Lami” K. Giwa. 

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