Change Alberta's cosmetology curriculum to include more modules on black hair

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My name is Chloe Streit, and I am a grade 11 student with CBe-Learn and the Career and Technology Centre in Calgary, Alberta. In the fall, it will be my fifth semester with the cosmetology program at the CT Centre. I am very passionate about the program and the beauty industry.  I was also a member of the Chief Superintendent's Student Advisory Council under you during the 2018-2019 school year in grade ten, and have taken these leadership qualities I learned from that amazing program and applied them to this letter today.

With the recent political uproar in terms of the Black Lives Matter movement, I have been thinking a lot about ways that I can show more support as an ally to the black community. I’ve attended rallies, donated to charitable causes, and signed countless petitions.

After a company I am employed to, Mode Models International Inc., released their new booking policy, stating that fees would be charged if a black model showed up to a booking with hairstylists and makeup artists unequipped to work on them based on differences in hair type/texture and skin tone. This policy was put into place because it is an unfair racial bias that black models have had to bear for a very long time.

 This got me thinking to write on how this issue is affecting cosmetology related education in Alberta, as a representative of student voice amongst a topic of conversation I’ve brought to the attention to several of my peers. 

I am very disappointed in the lack of education in the Alberta cosmetology curriculum and my cosmetology class on working with black hair. It feels as though the services we are taught and tools and products we have available are mainly only applicable to Caucasian people and those that have straight to loosely wavy hair, and I think this is completely unacceptable in a public education system, especially one that takes so much pride in our celebration and respect for diversity and all cultures. How are we able to make those claims when our education is streamlined to only be helpful to a narrow demographic? 

In our classroom, the only curriculum that is targeted towards working on black hair is a single module on a couple types of extensions and one wig mark, as well as two modules that require the use of relaxer. Even with this minimal education, I see somewhat of a problem here. The methods taught to us are often looked at as something necessary to ease a societal pressure to black people, which was a concept described to me well from the documentary “Good Hair,” as opposed to a celebration of their beautiful natural hair. Wigs are not made to show off natural hair, but rather to cover it up. Relaxer is used to decompose the hair’s natural curl structure and texture and straighten it, to mimic Caucasian hair. Sure, many black clients are likely to request these services, but when this is all we offer in our school’s salon to cater specifically to black clients, what message does it send to them?

Tonight, I am looking to my future. I picture myself or any of my peers in ten years from now as a Red Seal hairstylist working in a salon. If a black client were to come to my salon and ask for a weave, cornrows, protective hairstyles, styling product recommendations, or more, I would have to say no as I never received the education or training to do so. In fact, I don’t think I even have enough knowledge to even cut very curly, thick hair as this requires a few adjustments that I have not been taught.  The thought of this breaks my heart and makes me very upset. The fact that students in Alberta high schools with cosmetology programs can earn themselves their Red Seal in hairstyling yet walk away with little or no knowledge on black hair is mind boggling to me, and leads us astray from excellence in our profession.

As soon as possible, I would like to see changes in the Alberta cosmetology curriculum to account for more diverse education, and tools and resources available to us in the classroom. I have firsthand witnessed a student in my classroom ask for more education on black hair, and for black mannequins to be included in our kits that we buy - as we receive two Caucasian women’s mannequins and one Caucasian male mannequin. I am in strong agreement with this classmates’ viewpoints. Even to have black mannequins in our classroom for shared use would be a step in the right direction.

In terms of education, I’d like to know more about the art of braiding. We learn the basics of this, but not to the extent and to easily have the ability to create cornrows. From that point forward, weaving education should be incorporated. To further education, students should be given the choice to learn more about the art of sewing wigs or creating extensions from bundles of hair, whether that be an optional  in-class lesson or at bare minimum, approved e-resources provided.

Lastly, I think students should receive the education to be prepared to fully explain at-home hair care for clients with natural black hair and more on post-relaxer hair care. The product knowledge classes we have should include product lines made by people with black hair for people with black hair. We need to know what protective hairstyles are, and how to teach some to our clients. With more of this fundamental knowledge, students will be on a better pathway to success in the hair industry.