Curl Talk: White stylist can do Black textured hair?


FroRealNoLyeAlthough I can’t speak on all White hair stylists, I can give a shout out to one Ms. Carolyn Long from Uptown Curl. In planning the July 11, 2015 Sister Spokesman Loving Your Hair event, I had several people refer many stylists to me. Out of the five stylists selected, four were Black and one White, whom I never met prior.

Ms. Long seemed excited to receive an invite to be a part of the event. I was intrigued to see her work as I’d heard great things about Ms. Long. Once we connected, I knew she had an authentic desire to master the “Curl” of her craft that included “Black Hair.”

Carolyn Long
Carolyn Long

Selecting a hairdresser can be an intimate process and should be taken seriously. I imagine skill set, hair knowledge, and ability to trust prevails on the top of one’s list when looking. Carolyn is a White stylist intentional about keeping her focus texturized. I share our brief dialogue in an interview:

Fro Real No Lye: Why, as a White stylist, do you work on Black textured hair?

Long: When I decided to do hair as my vocation at the age of 26, I knew that I wanted to specialize in natural curls. My mother is of Russian Jewish descent, and I grew up watching her do whatever she could to alter or deny her natural, coarse tight curls. I wanted to understand my own looser curls which never seemed to fit into a category.

As I developed my skills as a curl specialist, my exposure to the full spectrum of curl was immensely broadened. As a curl specialist, I refuse to end my work along the curl spectrum at a particular spot. Natural curls are a gift and are very precious — I do not take working on them lightly.

Fro Real No Lye: Does color matter when styling hair?

Long: I say “yes” because if we are to be true to our craft as hairstylists, we need to see everything about the person sitting in our chair. I am wholeheartedly aware of my Whiteness when I am working on Black hair, and it would be dangerous, not to mention extremely dismissive, to try to put myself into her shoes.

My hair history as a White woman is not a Black woman’s hair history. Color matters because it is vital that we acknowledge, respect and honor our points of difference. Difference is a powerful, amazing tool to create conversations and to learn from one another.

Fro Real No Lye: I hear a Deva cut is your niche. What is a Deva cut?

Long: A Deva cut (from the DevaCurl brand) is a dry-cutting method that originated in the mid-90s from a curl-specializing hair salon called Devachan in New York. The cutting technique is based on the truth that all heads of curls are unique, and no one person has the same curl pattern throughout their entire head.

You minimize accidental loss of length because no curls are stretched in the cutting process with water and combs — there is nothing as precious to a natural-haired woman as keeping the length she wishes to cultivate. The only tools I use when I cut are sectioning clips, my fingers, and my scissors. When I cut, I move curl by curl throughout the entire head.

If a stylist can make the tresses look right, is confident in her work, and makes you feel special while in the chair, then “do my hair.” Nice opportunity to meet another curl-friend and expand my stylist options!

I respect Carolyn Long’s final thoughts as a curl specialist; she could not set an arbitrary dividing line that happened to end where pigment began. If she is for the curl, then she is for ALL curl. The job of a White hairdresser and the White salon industry is to not look at Black hair as something to conquer, but to honor.

Keep in mind that being pro-natural does not mean you are anti-relaxer. I like mine Fro Real No Lye!


Natural hair coach and enthusiast Kelley Eubanks welcomes reader responses to