Meet Two Women Amplifying Black Hairstylists and MUAs in Hollywood

Founders of Black Beauty Roster Simone Tetteh and Maude Okrah

Black Beauty Roster

Black actors, models, and musicians have been vocalizing their frustration with non-diverse glam teams for decades. Although there has been increasing Black representation on screen, the entertainment industry still fails to consistently provide Black talent with beauty pros that can work with their hair texture and skin tone. 

During the 2021 Hair & Makeup Equity Panel, actress Meagan Good shared that a hairstylist burned her hair and skin on the set of Think Like a Man. "It was quite frustrating for someone to say they knew how to do [my hair] and not really do it and kind of use me as an experiment," she said while reflecting on the ordeal. Since then, Good has always brought a kit of hair essentials to set in case she encounters a stylist who cannot style textured hair. 

Last year, model and fashion entrepreneur Leomie Anderson uploaded a TikTok documenting her frustrating beauty experiences during fashion week. The video showed hairstylists roughly handling her hair and a makeup artist applying a foundation that didn't match her complexion. Ultimately, Anderson had to fix her hair and makeup minutes before walking the runway. These incidents show the entertainment industry doesn't prioritize investing in hairstylists and MUAs that can work with Black hair and skin.

After noticing the lack of inclusivity, Simone Tetteh and Maude Okrah founded Black Beauty Roster (BBR). Through the organization, Tetteh and Okrah elevate Black beauty professionals and educate the community about working with diverse hair textures and skin. Ahead, the founders discuss launching Black Beauty Roster and the importance of amplifying Black beauty professionals in television and film. 

What inspired you to start Black Beauty Roster?

Tetteh: We started this company to make the beauty industry more inclusive and less traumatizing for people. We saw that finding competent hair and makeup artists wasn't exclusive to Black women or women of color. We sent out a survey, and the results showed people who did not have fair skin or straight hair experienced discrimination on set. Noticing this, we wanted to make the beauty experience accommodating for all while also creating opportunities for beauty professionals to further their craft.

Why do you think the entertainment industry has trouble providing Black talent with beauty professionals that can do their hair and makeup?

Okrah: I think the lack of hairstylists and MUAs is driven by unconscious bias. There's a bold assumption in the beauty industry that all hairstylists can work with all textures, and all makeup artists can work with all complexions, but that is not the case. The reality is that beauty schools often don't teach hairstylists about textured hair, and knowing how to work with textured hair is not a requirement to graduate from cosmetology school. 

It is also about who you know in the industry, and people often overlook Black beauty professionals. Black hairstylists have also found it challenging to get into the union, and union membership leads to better opportunities to work with larger productions on set. 

There's a bold assumption in the beauty industry that all hairstylists can work with all textures, and all makeup artists can work with all complexions, but that is not the case.

What are some of the programs Black Beauty Roster offers?

Tetteh: The three tenets of BBR are education, opportunity, and advocacy. We offer educational opportunities to beauty professionals to help diversify their craft. Beauty schools only teach so much and don't have a diverse curriculum. Our classes are taught by respected beauty professionals in the industry like Larry Sims. 

We also educate brands and companies to teach them how to be better allies because it is a trickle-down effect. When executives are informed about how their decisions affect the people in front of the camera and behind, that will lead to a more diverse workplace. We also advocate for Black beauty professionals to receive more opportunities to work on set. When brands come to us about making their set inclusive, we offer these positions to people on our roster. 

What are some of the contributions BBR has made thus far?

Okrah: We have worked with CHNGE—a sustainable clothing company that is working to increase diversity in fashion—to provide insight regarding hair and makeup. We also partnered with Warner Bros. Discovery to provide hair and makeup support for their respective productions and education. We've worked with companies like Disney and Endeavor, and they've recognized the importance of education around the intricacies of textured hair and how they can be an active ally.  

How do you go about creating partnerships with other thought-leaders in the industry?

Okrah: We've been fortunate that word-of-mouth has led to us connecting with beauty professionals and leaders in the entertainment industry. Last year, we had a digital summit that focused on advocacy, opportunity, and education around TV, film, and fashion with a focus on beauty. We were lucky to have people like Gabrielle Union, Tyra Banks, Sir John, and Larry Sims speak at the summit. The event brought a lot of attention to the work BBR has been doing, and we've had brands reach out to collaborate. 

How do you see BBR changing the conversation around Black hair and makeup stylists?

Tetteh: BBR is bringing the conversation to the forefront. For a long time, conversations about the lack of diverse hairstylists and MUAs were discussed in the shadows. People were afraid to speak on these issues because they didn't want to come off as difficult or demanding, but all they wanted was to be represented in the best way possible. We want people to be more transparent about these issues in the entertainment industry and work actively to resolve them. We also want to give people the agency to demand equitable treatment on set. 

Okrah: We recognize that many brands and productions want to do the right thing but aren't sure how. That's where we come in. We create a safe haven and become a sounding board where they can ask some difficult questions to do better in the future. 

BBR is bringing the conversation to the forefront. For a long time, conversations about the lack of diverse hairstylists and MUAs were discussed in the shadows.

What do you envision for the future of BBR? 

Tetteh: Aside from increasing inclusivity in the beauty world, another aspect of our business is to go beyond beauty. There is a lack of diversity in many sectors of the entertainment industry. We've had people in the audio and light department express how their environment is white and male-driven. Our job is to drive that change and bring more diversity to the environment.

Okrah: We not only want to build on diversity but also inclusion. Diversity is multifaceted, so while we are currently focused on the conversations around textured hair and darker complexions, we understand that diversity extends beyond that receptive scope. Asian, Latinx, and LGBTQ+ talents have also expressed their frustrations on equitable treatment, and we want to ensure diversity and opportunity for all marginalized groups.  

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