Hair! Hair! Hair! It’s what we know. It’s what we do. It’s what we love. The Black beauty industry (hair and makeup) is a BIG deal, from hair weaves to natural skincare products created at home. Today, we are afforded the luxury to look and feel fabulous with ease, affordability, and convenience. The ability to alter our hair texture, color, and style has become second nature to so many women of color. I’m certain it’s something that’s often taken for granted.
While there’s social pressure to go natural, lay our edges, minimize shrinkage, and avoid a sweat out, it takes a great deal of time, effort, and money to do so! With so many tools, products and tutorials readily available I look at the black beauty industry as a whole in utter amazement. Some will frown upon the many looks and hairstyles of our sisters but for me it’s one of the many things I love about being who I am, a woman of color.
This year for Black History Month, the Black Bride team honors a few trailblazers as we delve a little into the past of Historic Women of the Black Beauty Industry! The hair industry has gained popularity and momentum from the inventors an innovators of our past. The next time you style your hair, take a perfect hair selfie or visit your stylist I hope you will remember the women who have brought us this far! Let’s show love to some of the amazing women who have done their fair share of making sure we look beautiful until the end of time!
Madame C.J. Walker
Madam C.J. Walker, born Sarah Breedlove has always been one of my favorites since the 5th grade when I did a report on her for Black History Month. It’s around the time I discovered my own passion for the beauty industry would last forever. I must say after reading more about her on the site for Madam C.J. Walker Beauty Culture, I am surprised to “unlearn” a few “alternative facts.” Though Madam C.J. is indeed one of the greatest innovators of the beauty industry she did not invent the hair relaxer or pressing comb though many believe her to be credited for both!
Madam Walker is however, America’s first self-made female millionaire who developed her own hair products to help nourish and grow the hair and heal the scalp. She created a beauty culture that enriched the lives of many who learned from her and continue to follow in her footsteps today. Madam Walker has help set the standard for professionalism in the beauty industry and has opened doors no man can close. Her story is one of overcoming adversity, persistence, and is certainly inspiring. Her family continues to honor and celebrate her legacy and uphold her vision of an empire since the 1800’s.
Speaking of trailblazers – we can’t mention Madame C.J. Walker without sharing what we’ve learned about Annie Malone, one of Walker’s mentors! Malone founded Poro College, the first educational institute in the US dedicated to educating African-American women in the black cosmetics industry. She believed women would be empowered if they improved their physical appearance, gaining greater self-respect and achieving a higher level of success. The college reportedly trained over 75,000 cosmetics agents world-wide – among them, Madame C.J. Walker.
In addition to Poro College, Malone also developed her own brand of beauty products including a hair straightener. With her forward vision and dedication to women of color, Malone was known as a generous entrepreneur, philanthropist and one of the first black female millionaires along with Walker. Together, these women not only helped pave the way but set a high professional standard for the beauty industry. They are exemplary examples of how great we can be despite the adversity we often face as women of color.
With countless colors, lengths, and textures, hair weaves continue to gain increased popularity among women of color. They provide an abundance of versatility and endless possibilities for beautiful hairstyles. Though I’ve never given it much thought before, I was certainly happy to learn we can credit the hair weaving process and innovative hairstyling technique to another remarkable woman of color, Christina Jenkins.
Jenkins graduated with a degree in science and worked for a wig manufacturer. Soon after, she studied sewing in hair to add length and body. This beauty trailblazer went on to develop and patent her hair-weaving technique which she later taught to others and provided services at Christina’s HairWeeve Penthouse Salon.
You can learn more about Christina Jenkins and view her patent on the web which I think is so amazing!
As we look to the future I hope you are inspired to be great and live up to the amazing women who have come before us. They've made sacrifices we have yet to endure so that we may become greater and live out our wildest dreams. During times when women's rights were restricted and racial barriers were not just common, but also legal these women made a way and lived extraordinary lives. Be your own hero! Be great! Be extraordinary!
Have you come across any interesting finds this Black History Month? Join the conversation! Share your comments below or on social media @blackbride1998 and @woodsonlegacy.