Doo Rag Blog

It's Our Black Hairstory to Tell

Natural or not, embrace your hair story.

It's 2018 and African American women still struggle with hair issues. With all the race issues in the U.S., are we still battling hair? I've noticed that celebs such as Oprah, Thandie Newton, Melissa Perry-Harris, Jill Scott, and Solange Knowles are all wearing their hair naturally, but can the average African American woman go 'natural' in the workplace and still be perceived as quaffed and professional? Would America be ready for the former First Lady (and the best one of all history) or her daughters wearing locs, braids, or an Afro?


I could be wrong, but I think not. For most Black women the first hairstyle they wear is chosen for them. Mother decides what's right and proper, and for many it begins with the use of a flatiron or a relaxer to achieve the most acquiescing appearance–meaning hair that's long, silky, shiny, manageable, neat, groomed, polished, and acceptable to society—all equaling straight.

Our "hair-story" begins with Sarah Breedlove aka Madam CJ Walker. She was an entrepreneur and inventor of hair shampoos and ointments during the turn of the century. Her products were designed to strengthen hair, but when combined with a hot-comb, they were also very successful at straightening hair. Walker's hair products would propel her into becoming the U.S.'s first African American millionaire.

Today, the Black hair-care industry is a trillion dollar business, with African American women spending almost ten billion dollars a year on beauty and hair care products – 80 percent more than any other ethnic group. But in the last two years, chemical hair relaxer sales, marketed mostly to black women, have dropped by 12 percent, according to Mintel, a consumer spending and market research firm

Julie Varee, my sister

My sister lives in Anchorage, Alaska. She told me a story of an early love affair and later divorce from chemical processing, which eventually led to finding acceptance with her natural hair.

"When I moved to Washington D.C. to work after college, I saw so many more Black women with natural and un-straightened hair. After a short stint with a Jeri-curl, I cut my hair short and began wearing it without any chemicals and then later I chose to have "locs" (a process of tightly knotting and forming hair into a long, snake-like roll). When I eventually cut them off, my boss at the time gushed that my hair looked so much more "professional" without the locs. I've kept my hair very very short and it hasn't seemed to have an impact on my career — even in Alaska," she says.

Tiveeda Stoval

The question of whether natural hair is a political statement depends on who you ask. Tiveeda Stoval, a former Community Service Program Coordinator at University California San Diego, is a self-proclaimed "hair-activist" of sorts. She says she never felt as beautiful as when she stopped wearing hair weaves, using chemical relaxers or hot-combs to try to straighten her hair. She began wearing her hair in "sisterlocs" nine years ago, and says her hair has never been an issue in the workplace. "It's my statement, but I don't believe it has really held my career back at all. I work in non-profit though, maybe it's different in a corporate job. My kids are bi-racial. My daughter and son have both cut their hair super-short. My daughter used to wear locs and my son had a huge afro," Stovall says

Arthel Neville, FOX News anchor

FOX News anchor Arthel Neville, who wears her hair almost exclusively in a straight hairstyle, says she believes hair is important in front the camera, but that doesn't necessarily means it has to be straight. "You can't have distracting hair. As long as you look pulled together it shouldn't matter how you wear it—be it braids, locs, or straight. I wore my hair in mini-braids ten years ago, it was a more casual look. I wouldn't wear it today on-air as an anchor," Neville says.

Geya Williams-Prudhomme, my cousin

According to Assistant District Attorney and Section Prosecutor, Geya Williams-Prudhomme, "If First Lady Michelle Obama were to wear her hair naturally, she'd get massacred in the media. In my office, I see Black women confidently wearing their hair naturally, but my white male co-workers have been known to make little jokes. I heard about a male DA a few years ago who had locs. They really made fun of him saying they didn't know if he were the DA or the criminal," Prudhomme says.

Black women who do straighten their hair go to great extents to maintain these expensive and high-maintenance styles. Staying away from water and sweat is an absolute with chemical or heat processed straight styles—even if effects their health. Doctor Amy J. McMichael, M.D., conducted a study at Wake Forrest University, and found that complications of hair care is the main reason why many of her African-American patients don't exercise as much as they'd like to.

My cousin, Teri Harrison

"I think there's a an unspoken standard in corporate America that straight, long hair is pretty and more acceptable than natural. Naturals are still associated with being "angry," "anti-western" or "hood," says Harrison, an attorney, author, and personal development strategist. In business, success is duplication.

"Women duplicate what we see as successful. It's not easy to be your authentic self. But I always wonder if the beauty standard is one that corporate America has set for us or we've set for ourselves? If we embrace our truth, wouldn't the rest follow? If you can make money, they'll accept you the way you are.

"The more Black women who work in corporate positions and wear their hair naturally, the more role models there'll be for women who're afraid to let go traditional hair rules. Michelle Obama could things change a lot. Every African American woman I know looks to her with such huge admiration."

Me

My hair is naturally curly, but I've recently taken to curling the ends with a curling iron to control the curl and in an effort to look more glam. I've struggled with my hair my whole life, but, the truth is since it's thinned a lot lately, I'm just glad to have it.

Ten years ago, a close friend of mine lost her hair going through chemo. She survived and today she's cancer-free. But, the experience put the whole hair thing deeply into perspective for me.

Whether you chemically straighten your hair, wear it naturally or with a weave, your hair is your crown, and how you choose to show it off is ultimately your decision -- no one should pressure you or make you feel badly for being you.

The Dooplex team

The Dooplex team.

Global Cosmetic News

By by Georgina Caldwell

Texan entrepreneur Kevin Lyles has launched an online marketplace for women of color, according to a report published by The Glow Up.

The Dooplex champions small and lesser-known minority-owned brands catering for women of color's hair and skin care needs such as Dr. Earles Skin & Hair, KitiKiti, BBD King and Indigo. The site also carries a blog, named Doo-Rag.

"We are political, and we're not afraid of being political. We're not afraid of saying who we are and having that open communication and conversation that black women have every day, like they would have in a salon. But this way, they're going to have it online."

"We want to say that women of color are not an afterthought; this is not the 'ethnic aisle'. This is for them, with them in mind, with them in the front of our minds, and we want to offer products to them that work."

An African American female entrepreneur, who's made her mark in the retail subscription industry, with a focus on perinatal and postpartum needs.

While other products tend to focus on baby, The Stork Bag offers curated products, which help mothers throughout their pregnancies and postpartum period. It's been loved by mothers throughout the world -- including Joanna Gaines, Khloe Kardashian, to name a few -- since November 2014.

The Stork Bag is the only pregnancy subscription product to have received OBGYN certification. And, it was a labor of love, for sure.

Perry launched The Stork Bag after obtaining her Master's degree, while pregnant with her third son and working full time in the nonprofit sector. On top of that, Ericka recently published a pregnancy journal called "9 Months of Happiness: Maintaining a Blissful Pregnancy," and helps her husband run his self-help YouTube channel YouAreCreators, Inc.

At the end of the day, Ericka is an inspiration for women to reach for the stars, focusing on what makes them the happiest.

To get a sense of what Ericka's like (and her amazing personality), please see her reel, and a link to one of her TV appearances.

DOOPLEX: What was your inspiration for starting the business?

PERRY: My biggest inspiration was mothers, in particular, pregnant mothers. I'm a mom and have many friends and family members who are also mothers. Catering to women during such an important time in their lives was and still is the driving force behind my business.

DOOPLEX: What have been your greatest achievements and biggest challenges?

PERRY: My greatest achievements have come in the form of customer satisfaction and word of mouth brand recognition growth. Knowing that not only are people purchasing The Stork Bag, but are also spreading the word about it makes me proud. I've faced many challenges with growing The Stork Bag but the biggest would have to be in the arena of scaling. Scaling a subscription based business can be challenging until you find what works for your business. This is because many sub-based businesses rely heavily on other brands, we've learned to work around this challenge by implementing processes that help us align with the right brands and provide exclusive content.

DOOPLEX: Advice to women who want to start a new business?

PERRY: My advice to aspiring entrepreneurs would be to Just Do It. As a consultant, I often times come across clients who have a really great idea but are too afraid to step on the gas. I always tell them to Just Do It, put it out there and tweak it along the way. Too much overthinking can lead to failure without even trying.

DOOPLEX: What are your plans for the future of your business?

PERRY: My plan is to grow The Stork Bag into the premier pregnancy gifting brand. Our vision is not only The Stork Bag being the "go-to" pregnancy gift, our goal is for our brand(s) to be synonymous with pregnancy.

DOOPLEX: Being a black woman business owner? What are some of the specific challenges?

PERRY: I don't necessarily see challenges related to being a black woman business owner. My outlook sees far beyond barriers and capitalizes on opportunity. I encourage all female entrepreneurs to do the same, especially AA female entrepreneurs. We're not victims, we're leaders who can create magic if we knew our potential and focused only on opportunity; image what we could create!

DOOPLEX: What do you love and struggle with when it comes to your hair/skin?

I love my skin color, growing up with darker skin was sometimes hard and when I became a young adult and started wearing make up, it was a struggle to find the right foundation. Luckily, I've never struggled with acme prone skin but oil prone skin was a headache!

The GLOW Up

By Maiysha Kai

Looking for an entirely for-us, by-us, one-stop shop for hair and beauty products? Welcome to the Dooplex, a new online marketplace hoping to elevate the black beauty industry to the next level.

Launched on Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2018, the Dooplex is the brainchild of CEO Kevin Lyles, who left a corporate career in Texas to return to his native Gary, Ind., to help his family's 29-year-old beauty-and-barber supply company, Milizette. Witnessing the ways that his hometown was dying because of the loss of industry and jobs, Lyles sought to give back to the community and help small black-owned salons and beauty suppliers stay afloat by selling their product online. Enter friends and partners Roger Fountain and Jacob Williams who are helping Lyles bring his vision to life through the Dooplex. In addition to offering options from lesser-known black- and minority-owned skin- and hair-care brands, starting with Dr. Earles Skin & Hair, KitiKiti, BBD King and Indigo, the team are also offering community and kinship through their blog, Doo-Rag.

"We are political, and we're not afraid of being political. We're not afraid of saying who we are and having that open communication and conversation that black women have every day, like they would have in a salon. But this way, they're going to have it online."

Their autonomy to craft and convey their own unique message, as well as curate offerings specific to the needs of women of color, derives from the fact that the Dooplex is independently funded. While their pace of growth may be slow and steady compared with other startups, there are no venture capitalists editing their messaging or watering down their products, each of which is salon-tested and professional-grade.

"I think it's important that we make sure that our customers know that the lines that they're buying are black and minority-owned. ... It's never been more relevant than right now. And that is something our customers really respond to—it doesn't have to always be these big cosmetic companies that are the powerhouse. You know, these smaller lines are out there; they've been chugging along in the black community doing really well for women for a long time. It's just that now we have a national platform for them, through e-commerce."

As the Dooplex continues to grow, future plans include a possible in-house label, which would create local jobs, as well as philanthropic efforts to help revitalize the city of Gary, potentially through the creation of a nonprofit. But for now, that growth depends heavily on word of mouth and ensuring that the customers the Dooplex was created to serve know that a space exclusively for them now exists,

"We want to say that women of color are not an afterthought; this is not the "ethnic aisle." This is for them, with them in mind, with them in the front of our minds, and we want to offer products to them that work. ... For us, first and foremost are our customers, and what works for them and what they need."