Octavia Spencer’s dynamic performance in the 2020 movie Self-Made opened the eyes of those who thought that the beauty industry has little room for Black or Latino women. The story of Madam C.J. Walker, who invented a line of hair care products for Black women in the early twentieth century and became the first documented black female millionaire in the United States, is inspiring and shows that the desire for beauty is important to people of all skin colors.
Madame Walker was a pioneer, but many Black and Latino beauty innovators and entrepreneurs have taken up the cause. Recently Terri Gardner, who comes from the family that created SoftSheen hair products, introduced a new line of hair care products called Mizani, which proclaims, “No matter the texture, no matter the #HairGoals, we’ve got you covered!” Ada Rojas, who is an Afro-Latina, is the force behind Botanika Beauty, which uses traditional herbal ingredients to create treatments for curly hair.
That’s why so many beauty schools have become more culturally responsive and expanded their courses and programs to include more instruction in the care of textured hair and the creation of new styles in braiding, coloring, relaxing, moisturizing, and using hair extensions.
When it comes to hair and cosmetics, it’s not only black beauty schools that believe that everyone should have access to great beauty and haircare. Today’s beauty schools prove that there is room for everyone.
Does today’s selfie culture mean we are too obsessed with our appearance? Based on history, the answer is no! Humans have always wanted to look their best and enhance their appearances. Cosmetologists are part of a noble and valued occupation.
The Egyptians were the first to create what we think of today as cosmetics and perfumes, and ground minerals into powder to decorate their faces, including kohl for eyeliner, malachite for green eyeshadow, and henna and red ochre for their cheeks, lips, fingertips, and even toes!
The use of make-up expanded to other societies, but by the time of the Roman Empire and the Middle Ages, cosmetics were frowned upon, mostly because the Christian Holy Bible taught that cosmetics were sinful.
Throughout the rest of the world, native peoples in the Americas and Africa used body and face paint, but by the 19th century, cosmetic use was considered vulgar. But theatrical cosmetics continued and became popular in the twentieth century, especially after the development of film and photography. Theatrical New companies were started by theatrical make-up suppliers, such as Helena Rubenstein and L’Oréal. In the more recent past, musicians such as David Bowie and Lady Gaga have used cosmetics to create characters in their performances, John F. Kennedy’s use of stage make-up in the first televised presidential debate is considered one of the reasons he won the debate, because he looked stronger and healthier than opponent Richard Nixon.
Today, cosmetic use is accepted among a wide variety of people, including men. The twentieth century’s enthusiasm for cosmetics lead to an explosion of cosmetic use and products, and today new companies seem to start every day. That’s why cosmetology will always be a valued career path: human beings have always wanted to be beautiful!