For Allure's April 2017 issue, 41 women of color were interviewed about how their appearance and how race played into their careers and experiences. Editor-in-chief Michelle Lee sat down with five women of color who come from various backgrounds in fashion, entertainment, and beauty, to talk about their experiences as women of color in their fields.
Conversations about race in beauty can very often veer towards shared experiences as to how one's racial identity and appearance affects everything in their lives from how they are treated to the success of their careers. Hair has categorically been a hot topic especially when it comes to natural hair textures for WOC. When what grows out of your head becomes a topic of political and socio-political discussion, it can't help but affect your sense of identity as well as a large part of the experience being a person of color.
Ebonee Davis, writer and model, had been using relaxer in her hair since she was four years old, saying she didn't realize she had curly hair until two years ago. She'd kept straight hair throughout her life after being continuously pressured from clients and agents who implied that she wouldn't get work with her natural hair texture.
After seeing a model with natural hair walk on the Victoria's Secret runway, Zazie Beetz felt overwhelmed by the corporate acknowledgment of natural hair as a sexy and accepted look. Hair has been a huge proponent of identity representation, especially when both she and Dascha Polanco have been told by former employers that they couldn't wear their hair curly or natural at work. To have their natural hair texture considered a problem in the workplace and something to always be tamed has been a struggle. All could agree that there's been some progression with visibility about this issue, but ultimately there's still more work to be done.
Davis went natural after a self-conflicted idea that since it's her job to sell things, she wants to promote an image of what black hair looks like on a person who loves themselves. "It's not about conforming - it's about making it acceptable," Polanco remarks. "It's about being able to not have this conversation about 'why is this beautiful' and just making it for what it is and actually believing it - actually saying 'this is the norm, diversity is the norm, it's not a trend." Beetz echoes, "This is what our country looks like, this is what our world looks like - most of the people in this world are brown."
Davis notes, "I'm a model; it's my job to sell things. It's this moral conflict with me because I don't want someone to see an image of me and feel like they have to change something about themselves and buy the shoes, clothes, or whatever I'm selling to feel good about themselves - If they see me being free, accepting who I am and loving myself and they can love themselves too."