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In Hollywood, black actors can’t always count on adequate professional hair services on TV and movie sets. Circumstances like these, along with the continued disfavoring of certain hairstyles in workplaces across California, led to the passing of the Crown Act, a state law which went into effect Jan. 1, 2020. It prohibits discrimination based on a hairstyle or texture in a professional environment. The sponsor of the bill, State Sen. Holly Mitchell, tells The Hollywood Reporter, “I wore braids in high school in the ’80s without backlash. I cannot imagine how the trajectory of my life would have changed if my choice to wear my hair natural had not been allowed [and I was] forced to comply with Eurocentric standards.”
Working with hair, no matter the texture, can be challenging, as depicted in the Oscar-nominated animated short film Hair Love (which has received 14 million views on YouTube), produced by Matthew A. Cherry and Karen Toliver (executive vp creative at Sony Pictures Animation). Started as a Kickstarter campaign in 2017, it shows the issues an African American father encounters while doing his daughter’s hair. “People want to see representation of diverse groups living life, being loved and being inclusive,” says Cherry. Toliver adds that, as a black woman, “Hair is so personal for us.”
In honor of Black History Month and Hair Love’s Academy Award nomination, here is a list of L.A.’s hottest salons that specialize in natural hair along with their owners’ viewpoints on the state of black hair in the entertainment industry. Several hairstylists say their star clients often visit them before call time to prevent the awkwardness of potentially sitting in a chair and being worked on by unskilled hands. All six cater to textures from 3A to 4C, including thick Afros, tightly coiled tresses, even the big chop — cutting off all relaxed hair, leaving only natural hair.
151 S Doheny Dr., (323) 939-1620
Clients: Tessa Thompson, Ayesha Curry, Brandy, Kelis, Eva Marcille
Williams provides styling and care for natural hair while focusing on its health. She’s a fan of Hair Love, calling it “a wonderful way for the beauty of black hair to be celebrated on a large platform. It gives a glimpse into the nuances, discovery and connection that is involved with caring for our hair.” To achieve better hair care on entertainment-industry sets, she suggests that more “outreach, education and information be taught to licensed professionals on the steps and requirements needed to get into the union.”
8383 Wilshire Blvd., (323) 559-7176, email@example.com
Wright, two-time Emmy award-winning stylist for The Tyra Banks show in 2005 and 2006, specializes in hair that is transitioning from relaxed to natural and offers color treatments, cuts and styling of all textures.
733 South La Brea Ave., (323) 934-5727
I Love Lulu’s Hair Spa advertises its approach as “scalp health first then hair,” which includes in-house, all-natural treatments infused over 30 minutes under a hair steamer. Their clients visit for everything from the big chop to taking off chemically processed hair to a blow dry and flat iron. On the subject of Hollywood and its care of actresses with natural hair, a spokesperson for the salon tells THR, “If the department head does not specialize in kinky, coily or textured hair, hire someone that does and hire them full-time to manage and maintain the talent’s hair with love and care.”
12930 Ventura Blvd., #216, (818) 784-4247
Clients: Lizzo, H.E.R., Tia Mowry, Skai Jackson, Serayah, Allyson Felix
Curl master Shai, whose experience includes proficiency with all textures, says “Natural hair is very tricky because it can’t be styled as quickly as straight hair. It takes a lot longer to wash, detangle and style. Straight hair can be easily blown out, combed or pulled up in a bun but most curly hair textures can’t be manipulated quickly. It’s nearly impossible to rush this process because if you want it done properly, there are no shortcuts.”
1250 N. La Brea Ave. #137, (818) 856-1533
Clients: Ari Lennox, Deborah Cox, Rich the Kid.
Lee, who excels at spiral sets, soft braids and dread maintenance, says actresses feel a “sense of relief” when she’s hired on sets. “Within minutes they’re telling you about their last assignment that didn’t have a black hairstylist on set,” says Lee, along with experiences like “the spray water on your hair and ‘voila, you’re finished’ trick.”
Lee adds that the attention Hair Love is receiving “will inspire children, parents, writers, directors and people all over the world. Black hair is an identity, it’s versatile and can be expressive at times. Black hair is riveting, alluring and resilient all bottled up in one.”
(708) 238-5218, Instagram and Facebook @_lamilam_
Clients: Solange Knowles, Ashley Blaine Featherson, Justine Skye
Giwa, a master braider to men, women and children, tells THR, “Every hairstylist should be versatile in dealing with the different textures of hair and individuals that feel confident [should] provide services for African American talent.” She adds, “When I see or do black hair, I always ask myself, ‘What story does she [or he] want to tell today?’ Black hair is unpredictable, diverse, versatile, strong and evolving.”
A version of this story first appeared in the Feb. 5 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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