Grade 12 student Tanesha Duncan-Zulu was feeling frustrated by the lack of beauty products and hair options for Black people in Kingston, Ont., and decided to organize a workshop empowering students with the tools and knowledge to do it themselves.
“Having to travel to Ottawa to go and buy stuff, it’s more expensive in that way,” she says.
“I wanted a space where students can learn how to do their hair themselves and find products.”
Students also shared stories with one another about what it’s like growing up in a predominantly white community.
One particular experience inspired Duncan-Zulu to create this workshop in the first place, giving Black students a safe place to share.
“One day I had my hair up in an afro, and I remember students making fun of it,” says Duncan-Zulu.
“They were saying mean comments like ‘Oh, I can’t see’, or touching my hair without asking. That made me want to straighten my hair, to the point where I would fit in and blend in with my white peers.”
The workshop featured presentations from hair and cosmetic professionals, who say empowering Black students on how to care of themselves is so much more than hair and beauty techniques.
“I didn’t have access to this information, so I think of all the things that have happened to me in my life, in terms of my skin and my makeup, and my understanding about who I am — I didn’t have that,” says MK Rowe, a professional makeup artist and one of the workshop’s guest presenters.
“I think it’s important to have it when you’re younger so that you can grow in that understanding.”
Rowe says the cosmetic and hair industry has become a lot more inclusive for the Black community in recent years.
It’s her hope that with more Black representation, the next generation like Duncan-Zulu will feel confident to be unapologetically themselves.