The United Nations Building in Manhattan experienced a first on November 30, 2010: thumping techno music and a rush of 500 hairdressers—enthusiastic as hairdressers are want to be. The reason these stylists—amongst them Tracey Cunningham, Ted Gibson and Johnny Wright—descended on the U.N.: the U.S. launch of Hairdressers Against AIDS, a global campaign sponsored by the L’Oreal Foundation in partnership with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria. The advocacy program aims to empower stylists to educate their clients on HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention, because, after all, stylists have a rather intimate relationship with their clients. As Allure editor-in-chief Linda Wells pointed out at the conference, “These stylists are the type of ambassadors needed to bring light to such a serious topic.”
The personable nature of stylists, along with their unique relationships with their clients, is extremely influential. “This is a way we can use our voice, use our power to discover a world without AIDS,” said Christine Schuster, SVP of Worldwide Education at Redken and Pureology, and chair of Hairdressers Against AIDS USA.
The 500 hairdressers will be taking on an ongoing mission to spread the word about HIV/AIDS education, but in the immediate future, World AIDS Day (December 1), these same 500 stylists will be taking to the streets of Manhattan, armed with Flip Cameras, talking to people about Hairdressers Against AIDS and simply starting conversations about what is widely considered taboo. Not only that, streaming video in Times Square, along with video booths set up around the city for people to tape their own thoughts and perspectives on HIV/AIDS, will help further the message.
Of course, these 500 hairdressers are only a small slice of the 500,000 stylists in the L’Oréal network, and this is a number that surely will help make a difference. “With this program, we are working on one of the strongest initiatives,” said An Verhulst-Santos, president of L’Oréal Professional Products Division. “Sometimes you come across things that you have the power to change. We feel this is it. The objective is to take away the myths and taboos, and to give you the words to speak with your clients comfortably.”
Many of the speakers at the symposium repeated the idea that stylists bring a facet to HIV/AIDS outreach that doctors and health organizations don’t really lend. Dr. Robert Fullilove from the Columbia School of Public Health put it best: “Hairdressers may be the most significant vital addition to this struggle. You have the power to say it differently.”
To find out how you can say it differently to your clients, visit www.hairdressersagainstsaidsusa.com.