Efforts toward a more inclusive society have gained traction over the past few years; however, there is still a lot of work to be done across the nation, industries and social circles. One place in which huge strides can be made is the professional hair industry, specifically in cosmetology schools and local salons.
Beauty Launchpad spoke with Carole Protat, Wella Company’s senior director of brand education, artists and events, about how hair salons can successfully serve clients of all races, genders and those with physical disabilities.
“Inclusivity has been a massive effort on our side and to be honest it didn't start within the last year, we all know that, but [recent events of injustice] have really put a much-needed fire under our butts,” Protat stated. “To quote Keya Neal, there are two places that are segregated when it comes to hair texture and ethnicity: one is the church, and one is the hair salon. And while I can't do anything about the church, some steps can be taken to address the hair salon.”
“The first step is education. In cosmetology school you don't really learn to work on different hair textures and curls,” Protat admitted. “It is extremely important and everyone's responsibility to get the word out about the great textured hair educators within the industry. There are a lot of myths surrounding working with textured hair that can be debunked with the right education.”
Protat shared that Wella Company is currently developing an entire curriculum that will be a certification program for working with curls, which is expected to launch in 2022.
“The second step is to make people feel welcome,” she continued. “[The hair salon] is a business of personal relationships and community. It is just not okay that people don't feel welcome because of their hair type, the color of their skin or a disability. It takes every single one of us every day to remind people that it is something that we must do."
Wella recently amplified the idea of inclusivity by creating a "Natural Texture Artist" category during the Beauty Envision Awards (BEA), held in August 2021.
Neal, industry activist and the founder of Texture vs. Race and the Kolour Kulture, was one of the BEA judges.
"I love how the new textured hair category has been specified to be a certain thing and not bombarded by a faux version of it," she said during the awards. "I am excited to see more people of color who have entered the competition. I'm proud of Wella and how much the company put into organizing this event and making sure that everyone was encouraged to enter."
"It's all about exposure,” Neal added. “It's not that people couldn't have entered but may not have known to enter or may not have thought that their work would have been appreciated in this space. Now that we are being intentional about expressing that this is a competition for everyone, I think people will look at the awards next year and say, 'I can do that, I'm going to enter.' And when we see that you open up endless possibilities and just because people are exposed to the opportunity."