An open letter to hairdressers who can’t do Afro hair

Dear hairdresser,

I don’t want to make you feel uncomfortable, but you need to learn to do Afro-Caribbean hair.

That’s the hair that’s super curly, the hair you call “rough, tough and unmanageable,” the hair you pass on to someone else to deal with backstage at fashion shows, because you don’t know how.

Now is the time to learn.

It’s not acceptable to say you didn’t know you’d have to ‘deal’ with Afro hair, or that you’re not used to it, or that it’s too hard to do. If you can learn how to make hair defy gravity, sew in inches upon inches of extensions and make them look completely natural, and turn hair from black to white, you can learn how to do this.

Please don’t make us apologise for having curls.

Not bringing hair products for Afro hair is like only bringing black hair pins. Like a make up artist only bringing the three darkest shades of foundation. Like a model only bringing big black granny pants.

Not bringing the products, tools and knowledge to do Afro hair to a fashion show or photo shoot means you’re coming unprepared. You’re failing to meet the basic requirements of your job.


We’re not going to stop coming to fashion shows, so I’d start learning how to make our hair look its best (suggested additional kit items below.) 

Wouldn’t it be nice to learn a new skill? To be able to Instagram pictures of the finished hair style on models of colour, as well as the models with European hair you’re so proud of? To not be afraid of who sits in your chair? To not have loud consultations over a model’s head about how unmanageable it is and what to do with it among your colleagues, while throwing distress signals with your eyes? To not have to bring out the hair straighteners to “tame” her hair, because you don’t know how else to make her look like the pictures of white models on the head hairstylist’s brief printed out and pinned on the wall?

To not find her desperately slicking down the front of her hair in the bathroom before the show, trying not to get caught incase she gets in trouble for changing her look? To not look at her with guilty eyes as she prepares to step onto the runway, when you both know she doesn’t look her best – baby hairs are sticking up, straightened hair is curling back up under the weight of layers of soaking wet hair gel.

When a model is confident in how she looks, everyone wins.

She walks more confidently which means more people want to take pictures of her, which means there are more photos of her, which means she’s featured in more places, and she’ll put all the pictures she can find of herself on Facebook and Instagram. When she likes her hair she’ll likely ask you your Instagram name, and tag you or the name of your salon in the pictures, which means more exposure for you and your hard work actually gets shown off.

So next time a girl with Afro hair sits in your chair at a busy fashion week, don’t pass her to another stylist. Tell her the look you’re going for, let her tell you about her hair – whether it’s currently straightened/blow dried or permed, and ask her if she has any products in her bag or on the table she’d rather you use.

Yours sincerely,
Phoebe Parke, curly haired model


Afro hair essentials for your kit bag:

Edge control – this is like hair gel just not as wet and much stronger, it glues down edges (or baby hairs) a treat. Great for slicked back or wet-look styles so popular at fashion week

Hair grease – especially useful if the hair has been styled for a previous show, this will help condition the hair and take out any dryness or flakes of hairspray from the previous day

Wide tooth comb – absolutely essential for combing through the hair. If you have space in your bag, bring a tub of leave in conditioner too to help make the hair more manageable when you comb it through. A spritz bottle with clean water will also help if you’re having trouble combing it through – make sure the hair isn’t blow dried or straightened before you spritz.


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“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” – Proverbs 1:7

2 thoughts on “An open letter to hairdressers who can’t do Afro hair

  1. Gayle says:

    I absolutely loooooooooove you for this Phoebe. You are just the best!! Thank you for this write up. I’m sharing it NOW on all my social media platforms.
    Your insight into this whole issue is amazing.
    I am that girl in the toilet, that looks on in fear in case she gets caught trying to fix her hair before going on stage. I’m that girl walking without confidence on stage due to bad hair experience. I am that girl! Thank you for giving her a voice.
    Love you girl…!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Phoebe Parke says:

      I had to let them know how we feel Gayle! So glad you can relate, I hope this helps the situation get better for us! ๐Ÿ˜˜๐Ÿ˜˜๐Ÿ˜˜


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