As more women of color walk in designer shows than ever before, the progress on the runway has exposed another diversity issue backstage: Most of the hair and makeup artists are white. And while it seems standard that all backstage pros (of any ethnicity) would be properly trained to work with a range of hair textures and skin tones, as Zulka knows, that’s not always the case.
“All the models say, ‘Until we see you, no one touches us.’ You can see it because you look at the pictures and the hair is all over the place. You’re like, ‘Really? Y’all couldn’t have done any better than that?’”
“I don’t want to say it’s a color thing, because some white people know how to braid and some Black people don’t know how to braid.”
“You have to make sure the person who is hiring knows that there is going to be some type of diversity. You need someone that can color, someone that can cut, someone that can braid, someone that can do locs and twists,” she says. “It has to be diverse because that way you can handle all types of hair. You never know with models — there are different textures of hair and different lengths.”
Oludele agrees that it’s a team effort to get more diversity backstage. “It’s definitely everyone’s job. As a stylist, I reach out to people when I think, ‘OK I don’t see anyone who looks like me in the space, how can I be a part?’ When a designer wants braids in his show, I definitely think the designer should do their homework and look at who is hot in braids [to lead the backstage team]. You want everyone to say, ‘Wow, that is so authentic and it looks good.’”We are entering a new era in fashion in which natural hair is celebrated on the runway and in magazines — and that’s a very good thing. But embracing natural hair means recognizing the spectrum of styles that can be created with it, and to do that, we need more educated stylists. “We need more diversity… and you need stylists that understand [natural hair],” says Stephen
And when it’s done right, you get shows like Texture on the Runway, Harlem Fashion Row, and Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty presentation. These shows all highlighted the beauty and versatility of natural hair. At each show, something was actually done to the hair, giving it a specific look, from cornrows and box braids to bedazzled mohawks and pastel-colored Afros. But it should be noted that all these shows were keyed by Black hairstylists, and in the case of Fenty and HFR, those stylists were hired by Black designers. This is what the future of Fashion Week could look like if we have more people backstage who understand the complexity of Black hair.