Updates Oct 2013

I haven’t been writing as much as I should have. Life has taken many winding turns since I created this blog. Business is doing well and I’ve never been happier with both my loving staff and our awesomely loyal clientele. 

 

I’ve aligned myself with several key things since last year. Our work and I were featured at the Smithsonian Museum for African Art in June of this year. I was on a stage with several other amazing panelist as we discussed African Culture and how it relates to modern beauty culture. Listeners heard from an anthropologist, a DNA genetics researcher, a dermatologist and a cosmetologist (me!) It was one if the best panels that I have ever been on and I hope it fosters more national discussions on the beauty of black hair culture.

I have had several educational opportunities, The Baltimore Natural Hair Care Expo, The Naturalista Natural hair show and I was a guest panelist at the Washington D.C. screening of international documentary KICKIN IT WITH THE KINK’S sponsored by Ansylla Ramsey of My Hairitage. 

 

My goal is to keep teaching, keep discussions going and feed positivity back into our Natural Hair Care Industry. 

Hair Ties & Heart Strings

I believe that the time and alignment of the world with the rest of the universe plays a large part in the things that appeal to us. I am a full fledged, bonified Aquarius woman. Social butterfly one minute and quirky loner in pursuit of the new “interesting”, the next minute. The broad connections of social media has made being me EVEN MORE fun that it already was.

I was on myspace.

Then I was on Facebook (still am)

Then, I discovered Twitter. What stuck out about it, and why I hovered there so long, was that it felt as though I was able to read that person’s mind. 140 characters is just enough to tell someone about your mental chatter…no matter how banal the topic.

On Twitter, I shared a lot of information about natural hair, just as the recent trend was taking off in 2009. It was there that I could really teach and let thousandths of people know that natural hair was here to stay and that people should find ways to get comfortable with it and themselves (before larger companies would come through and mass market or trivialize it, but that’s another blog topic!).  It was (and is) a place for me to educate, encourage and reach out to those who were otherwise isolated from the valuable information about transitioning, maintaining and styling. I speak to them in the ways that I speak to my friends and clients, with my (((((((hugs)))))) for long sufferers, ****shimmies**** for that right product found and —–> 0_o! over the events of their lives (hair related or not).

I make my connections real. I wouldn’t be a true Aquarian without having fostered several virtual and physical friendships from engagements on social media. There are several young women that I have met on Twitter and Facebook that I am currently doing business with, have done business with, done their hair, educated them in person or simply met in person and shared a hug (or two!). Fostering friendship bonds should be a matter of sincerity instead of a bed-post mark up of perceived social importance. I have high standards for myself in this matter because dealing with the heads of hair of black women also means dealing with some pretty heavy psychology as well. I have held hands through big chops, loc removals, loc installations and several transitioning sessions shared between my salon and my next door neighbor’s shop who specializes in braiding and weaving. Its not just our hair, anymore, but an epic culture shift away from insecurity and fear and towards being self-assured and confident. This shift stands ripe and ready to alter the black hair care industry (in products, manufacturing and sales), to create jobs and add millions of dollars of opportunity for small business owners to reach and affect the world market.

I support those bloggers/vloggers who encourage and properly educate the people. I support the product makers who have taken the time out to educate themselves so that they can bring excellence to us in the form of products (and in the understanding of applied chemistry). I definitely encourage every sister and every woman of color who struggles with this mental transition into natural hair to connect with an authentic and kind soul, such as the late Dawnyele Partee, however ultimately making the connections deeper than our hair. In her last video, she gives us a few minutes of connection to how she is feeling, to her legitimate exhaustion in being a full time mom and employee. Yes, her hair was divine and always “laid to the Gawds”!!!…but she was also a person with a good heart, a life outside of YouTube and Natural Hair. The passing of this sweet sister is a reminder to me to practice fostering genuine connections.

Pray on it, then ask a sister in your life some genuine questions about her dreams, her fears and how she plans to overcome them. The people she loves and how they have influenced her, the burdens of her soul and how she has practiced fortitude in hard times as well as how she manifests mercy towards hurtful people and forgiveness towards them. Moreover, if you are dealing with sisters who are draining you of your life force, taking and not replenishing…let The Spirit guide you on which connections need to be fostered and which of them need to be terminated.

R.I.P. to Dawnyele!

Rest in Paradise, sweet sister. She passed away last weekend due to complications in her pregnancy. Her son lives (thank you Jesus). Please support the family in any way that you can. Prayers of peace to her husband, children and entire family.

copy & paste this link in your browsers

http://fordawnyele.weebly.com/

The Colonized Mind: Curl Syndrome

I was born in the late seventies, but became aware of the many nuances of black folks during the early eighties. The few black people on television, back then, were either clowning, struggling or dancing.  As early as five years old, I noticed that brown women with kinky hair were either extremely rare, disguised under wigs or subject to appearances only in a  Antebellum themed movies. I gathered that these were not images that the modern time wanted us to appreciate. The nullification of the previous decade’s black pride era was in full effect and the flash of the eighties had begun with “light-skinned people worship”. Given my nearly beige hue, this proved to be a conflicting time for me. I had neither straight hair or the covetous wavy hair. Scores of young black girls were utterly confused about my racial identity and I was commonly asked “What are you mixed with??”

My most famous and petulant answer “Chuck and Cheryl!!!! (*my parents)

However, continued exposure to other young & conflicted black girls, of multiple hues and hair textures while in elementary school, found me to be increasingly annoyed with my hair. By the time i was nine or ten, my inner questions were -Why wouldn’t it stay straight? Why did it hurt so much to comb? I loathed those press & curl trips to the salon for years because my hair tangled PAINFULLY when it was air dried and then held the heat of the hot comb. My young eyes spent a lot of time wishing i had the more “coveted” texture so that I could avoid the horrible pain of trying to make my hair cooperate with the styles of the time. Age 10 found me in my first relaxer and exposure to the worst pain of my life…SCALP ON FRICKIN FIRE!! But I was willing to endure that. This “perm” made life easier on my mom, so at the time, I thought it was a miracle product

My late father had the hair that I secretly wanted. His biological parents, both biracial (maternal -black & native American, paternal -black & white) had passed on a rather striking off-black and wavy texture of hair to my dad and uncle. Daddy’s hair cut well, washed quickly and had shine that made your jaw drop! I loved brushing it and watching the sides and nape “feather”. There was definitely an inner conflict in me at a young age, coupled with the guilt at all my mom had previously endured to keep my hair done.

Fast forward nearly 30 years, nothing much has changed in modern culture. Even through this recent upsurge in natural hair worship, the ever-present “bi racial curl adoration” is still present. Instagram is an interesting new social media tool. Its users market and post images to other followers of the things that are important to them. One natural hair themed product sample seller post hourly images of images of curly haired, bald, sometimes nappily coifed or head-wrapped black hipsters.  However, its the images of the bi-racial women that make a play for the envy button in every black girl, further fostering the decades of cultural insecurity. Perhaps the poster is unaware of this, but the frequency of the images of the curlier haired women cause me to believe otherwise. There was also some subtle controversy over the recent “The Secret to Long Natural Hair” YouTube video. Amongst the evidential hilarity of the message, the perceived condescension from the lighter-skinned bloggers on “reducing envy and merely waiting for your hair to grow”, upset a few people and its understandable. Making public jest of our issues will always incur some level of backlash and it takes a mature mind to explore this topic with as much delicacy as possible.

These are the effects of The Colonized Mind, and honestly, its not so f____g funny!

Colonization occurs when a foreign culture inhabits a indigenous groups territory, cultivating and guarding the land and its people as their own. My definition of this as it applied to the collectively damaged psyche of black people, is that we have allowed another cultures dominant racial features to become etched into our mental profile of what beauty is. As if it is not  insult enough to some to be black, there is also an unmistakable and unchangable aspect to racial blackness…the bend and twist of our natural hair. Its one of the few things that surgery can neither hide or permanently change. The kink is an ever-present reminder of whose we are. Mitochondrial Eve is always standing there, one hand on Africa and the other on our head, making sure the world knows that we belong to her.

Observe other colonizations where black peoples are involved.  The first thing the foreign group tends to do is destroy monuments of royal faces by destroying the nose and other obvious racial distiguishers, re-establishing the local context of art/beauty to fit their standard, destroying tribal cohesion and the dynamics between the rich and the poor in whichever country it is taking place. We would have to be really silly to think that in 600+ years, the entire diaspora of black persons hasn’t been effected by these changes. We all have a tiny apartment in our brain that is still willing to house the notion that our beauty cannot be our own and we must seek to “control, calm or manipulate” our look into something that is easier to swallow by the dominant culture. In other words, natural or not, there is still that part of you that wants to cover up those nappy edges! (thank you Ntozake Shange)

My favorite event of 2012 has been Solange Knowles self removal from being a representative of Carol’s Daughter Cosmetics. My girl said “I never painted myself as the team natural vice president” after scores of newbie naturals criticized her for not getting control of her tightly curled (and beautifully disheveled!) hair. She also is quoted as saying “I’m actually no longer apart of Carol’s Daughter, but throughout my entire time working with them, I was constantly fighting for the right message to be heard” ….

I love her. She will always be my favorite Knowles sister.

My message is really simple (even amid my aforementioned topics). Dont cover your nappy edges. Explore them, touch them and the heart strings that they are often connected to. Explore that room where the insecurity lives and challenge yourself to break the connections to your value and purpose. Kiss your cocoa, chocolate or coffee colored hand and thank the protective melanin within it. Kiss your mama and daughter and build a place of forgiveness towards those ugly things you may have thought about yourself or other sisters. Eventually, let self loathing and colonized mental thinking move out and let confidence and self sacredness move in. In the meantime, “I will leave a light on for ya!”

 

 

 

Don’t believe the hype: Branding (Revised)

I have read scores of blogs over the past few months. Natural Hair related and otherwise, just to see what people are talking about.

It appears as though the internet has turned into a giant heap of Op Ed articles!

…..and here I am, joining the ranks.

However, my Op Ed is an opinion from behind the stylist chair. My colleagues, friends and mentors have all encouraged me stand up and speak up for all of the under represented salon workers out there. We have been so busy DOING HAIR that we haven’t been as present on social media as we should be. That will change in 2013. Keep your eyes peeled to Oraje.com and of course here at Noire Salon Blog.

Many bloggers and vloggers, in an attempt to market themselves to you, will make sure their faces are plastered EVERYWHERE. Applying tidbits of googled info, a few cute and fashionable pictures, and linking up with a seemingly-informed resource. This whole façade is designed to make you feel comfortable with all that they claim to be the truth about natural hair and styling.

Natural hair information on the internet is so decieving. It’s a cute girl with a padded butt, fake nails and capped teeth. All image, but at times….very little true substance. Lots of flash and images will.serve to distract you from many of the potholes in logic and scientific method. Still, we flock to it, anchor our hopes and dreams on it, hoping to be recognized by this invisible tribe of “like spirited” natural hair wearers. This means alot to people and I have both understood and spent the last decade spearheading many campaigns supporting natural and locked hair. I just feel there must be a heightened awareness of fact checking.

I’ve spent the last 2 year’s on Twitter debunking a lot of myths. Observing the claims of natural hair folk wisdom, applying science to it, then patting it on the back and sending it out into the world -bathed and smelling fresh! A lot of what you see on other blogs is either a portion of the truth or a well branded hoax. Ask questions, pH test, check cosmetology instruction manuals. Know the truth!

For instance: TRIMMING

Hair is fiber. Keratinized Protien comprised of amino acids. Like many other organic fibers, hair has a shelf life. Surfactants (cleansers), hard water (chlorine, copper, rust), sulfates (the heavy bubble-inducing chemical in certain shampoos), dry heat and dry cold air, tension from combing & styling…all of these things attack the strands on a daily basis.

Every 6-8 week’s, I remove anywhere from 1/8″ to 1/4″ of hair. Most healthy perople will grow 1/2″ per month. So technically speaking, for what little is removed…A LOT remains. A person puts their hair in danger for not having the respect for removing the old or deteriorated fibers. You can use the best products in the world, and still have damaged ends that are overporous, tangled and shredded. Is it really that important to have people envy you for length versus overall health?

Anyone who has sat in my chair knows that I can grow some hair. It’s not just “growing hands”, but a clear method for preserving the integrity of the hair fibers.Using pH balanced shampoo & conditioners, a vegetable or plant based oil, satin or silk bonettes at night and regular trims are all apart of this recipe.

Respect the science, the hair will grow. Understand the necessity for
professional intervention and technique. Partner with an EDUCATED & EXPERIENCED stylist. Be bigger than the tricks, branding and marketing and know that no man is an island. Value your professionals and the rewards will be plentiful.

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Keston Duke shoot (2) More Candids

Photo shoots are not a joke. Our models worked really hard! Its not all glamorous and quick like TV would have you to believe. We started prepping hair at 10:00a.m. and the last model wrapped at 7p.m. A good shoot will take a good thorough long day. Why? Because IT HAS to be just right. Quality isn’t cheap or always super quick.

Special shout outs to MUA Dise. Stylist Audrey A. Models, Jess (of @hgkww- Hair Gets Kinky When Wet), Jana, Lance and Nakiya!ImageImageImageImage

Curl Envy: “I want HER hair!”

I want you all to study this image for a moment.

Concentrating on what you believe this image is trying to communicate to you.

Examine subtleties like gestures, head tilt, word placement, etc.Image

I posted this image on my Facebook page a few months back. Struck by the awkward signals that this image gives to me, I made several observations.

The first young lady is (I assume to be) middle eastern of descent, yet, her hair is poker straight. There is an awkward look on her face as if she is searching for something. The second model is clearly black, but possibly bi-racial with a forced smile. The third model is a pretty ordinary girl with wavy hair, exuding a confident smile. The last model, the one who concerns me the most, is looking up and over to the wavy model–her fingers nearly a perfect point to the image beside hers. It is as if she is saying “I want HER hair!”

We have all had a period in our lives, natural or relaxed, when we saw an image that struck a chord with us. A sophisticated model in Essence, a fun-looking set of portraits on Instagram, a facebook post with someone modeling the perfect curl. Media is designed to make you question yourself and encourage you to purchase or follow something that will fit the fantasy that THEY have constructed into your thoughts. Daily is your mind colonized with thoughts from music and spoken word of your inferiority and how to make yourself better.

The current obsession with and tagline of “curly” is bothersome. What happens to my sisters with less wavy and more tightly curled natural hair (hair that shrinks severely in water. What about my sisters with multiple wave patterns & texture inconsistencies throughout the head? I understand that marketing specialist want everyone to share in the love-your-natural-hair revolution, but honestly, hair isn’t a struggle for them as it is for us. No one ever told a Jewish, Scandinavian, Western or Eastern European woman that her hair made her less of a woman/less feminine.

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