Black hair salons are my safe haven
The Black Hair Salon has always been a familiar place to me. After struggling to do my own hair because of my tender head, my mom took me to the beauty salon. I spent my first time in the salon in tears, screaming in agony as I braided my hair. Hours later, I begged my mom not to go back, but she still took me every other Saturday. I would think of it as a ‘Mommy and Me’ day – my brothers usually stayed at home, and these outings were the few days a month that I had my mom all to myself – but I still didn’t realize the vast impact yet. that it could have in a dark living room would have on my life.
We spent about six to eight hours shampooing and styling our hair. My mom would get her usual short haircut with finger waves or pointy curls. I would take a press and loop until I was older and discovered a seam left out. Days at the show were filled with listening to ‘folk business’, watching countless Tyler Perry plays, and browsing endless numbers. Jet.
The living room was always filled with laughter, but sometimes people needed to shout it too – which always led to a surge of love. Throughout my 10 years in this salon, I have learned forgiveness from watching two older women reconcile and cry in each other’s arms. I learned to give back by watching a First Lady from a nearby church buy food for a homeless man, who stayed near the living room, after having his hair done.
Living in rural Kentucky, the Black Room was the only place I saw successful women besides my mom who looked like me. I have seen female soldiers, contractors, and professionals wearing heeled suits. Watching them inspired me to dream big of becoming a powerful woman, a woman who carries her confidence openly, is courageous and selfless, and able to withstand any obstacle.
The hairdresser also taught me beauty and fashion. I discovered skin care products as a Mary Kay rep sold me my first facial cleanser. I learned makeup tips and tricks from watching a makeup artist perfect the faces of their clients. I learned about fashion by watching customers come and go with the Michael Kors and Coach bags, which of course would make me beg my mom for the same later. The beauty salon has become more than a place to do my hair; it became my teacher.
In 2016, I packed my bags and went to college. During my studies, I stopped going to the beauty salon so much. I quickly learned that having your hair done is a luxury; as an unemployed student going to the salon every two weeks was not something I could afford. I started to kiss my natural hair. After countless unsuccessful attempts at twists that resulted in strong puffs, not doing my hair professionally took its toll on me. I entered a capillary depression.
So I started sourcing protective styles from a local braider, usually from them. But even though my hair was styled and I felt more confident, I still missed the culture that my home beauty salon offered me.
After I graduated, I returned home with my parents. I had to have a new hairstyle, so I made an appointment with a beautician in my hometown. On the day of the appointment, I walked into a beauty salon that I have never been to before. The first thing I noticed were the beautician posts along the walls, the nostalgic art paintings of the black salons, and the back issues of Gasoline magazines on the coffee table.
As I sat quietly, waiting to get my hair done, I watched another beautician straighten a young girl’s hair. “Ouch,” she said as the heat of the flat iron scorched her scalp. A flood of memories returned. Moments later, my beautician motioned for me to sit on the chair. She draped a cape of hair over me and started to untangle my hair.
Netflix It’s important to me was playing on the big flat screen in front of the store, which then sparked a conversation. I was still pretty calm until I saw a familiar face – a longtime family friend who owned a barber shop at the back of the salon. I was very excited to see someone I knew. We talked about how much I had grown up and old memories of my family. As the whole living room listened to our conversation, people started to jump in and say, “Oh, he’s your brother, I know them. I remember you when you were a baby. At that moment, I felt at home. My shyness was gone and I started to open up more to the women in the salon. As I sat there in the middle of a conversation, I felt the same as I had had my hair done when I was a young girl. I felt at home.
The living room has always been the sanctuary of black women. A place where you have the right to be vulnerable and to share your frustration about your relationship, your career, and the community. A place to take off your mask and relax without fear of being judged. The black salon is more than a salon; it’s a place where you feel tired and go ready to take on whatever challenges the world is trying to throw at you. The community around the show watched me grow up, made me feel protected and safe, and helped me become the woman I am today. The Black Hair Salon is my home.
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