Over the next few weeks, we will be featuring blog entries from celebrity makeup artist Deida Massey on her experience as a Christian makeup artist in the entertainment industry. Learn more about Deida’s journey as she answers our first question below and check back each Monday for Deida’s latest blog entry.
How did you begin your career as a makeup artist?
I started my career as a professional makeup artist in 1998. While obtaining a Master of Jurisprudence from the Loyola University School of Law and working full-time as a paralegal, I worked nights and weekends at makeup counters in downtown Chicago.
While building my confidence working at various makeup counters, I started assisting some local makeup artists. Through assisting, I was afforded the opportunity to get representation with Ford Models Management Team in Chicago. My agent booked me on advertising and editorial shoots for magazines, commercials and hair ads.
Christmas 1999, a family friend bought me two self-help makeup books by Reggie Wells and Sam Fine who are both pioneers in the makeup industry. I thought after reading both books, perhaps my friend was sending me a subliminal message to jump-start my career in makeup. Well to my surprise, and everyone else, it worked!
Working at the counters, for Ford Models and reading those two books gave me the courage, confidence and clarity I needed to choose a career as a professional makeup artist. Before I knew I could make a living doing makeup, I thoroughly researched the industry. More importantly, I asked those who were in the business how lucrative it was.
Transitioning from a 9 to 5 to self-employment, I must admit I was a bit apprehensive. Later, after taking the leap of faith, it became one of the most rewarding decisions of my life.
I remember taking a class in the Chicago area by a woman who had saturated the industry in Los Angeles. I figured if I wanted to move there, I needed to start obtaining information that would help me put a plan in place.While in the seminar, the words “relocation” resonated within me as she explained some very important steps one needed to take in order to be successful. I quit my 9 to 5 in 2002, transported my car, rented my condo and took a courageous step towards a life of uncertainty.
After putting a plan in place and landing in Los Angeles, my roommate and I networked with people within our industry. Through networking, I landed jobs on music videos with DMX and Keyshia Cole at the time. Later, a close friend worked with Def Jam West and started booking me on photo shoots and videos with Ludacris and other artists that would later help build my resume.
I initially moved to LA to work in film and television. However, I knew by encountering new territory, I had to work my plan first and then execute through perseverance. While living in LA, I still worked at makeup counters to help build my confidence. I was focused and worked the vision GOD had given me.
When I moved to LA in 2002, I never knew or even sought to become a celebrity makeup artist. Even hearing the phrase today seems so cliché. However, GOD’s dreams are bigger than any dreams we have for our lives. My dreams are still unfolding and every step of the way I have learned to trust GOD.
WE’RE TALKING ABOUT HAIR?: Olympian Gabby Douglas was the first African American to win a gold medal in the all-around gymnastics category, but some people were more interested in her hairstyle. (Photo: Bob Daemmrich/Newscom)
What do Oprah Winfrey and Gabby Douglas have in common besides being hardworking African American females, and history-making ones to boot? Well, as you’ve probably heard by now, both came under fire last week because of issues with — wait for it — their hair.
It is no secret that within black culture hair is a pretty big deal — especially for women. Whether it’s one’s hairstyle or method of hair care, there is no shortage of opinions regarding the subject. Black women of all shades undoubtedly can say that at one point in their lives the status of their tresses has been a hot topic of conversation — and frustration.
Last week, when Oprah released a tease for the September issue of her O Magazine, where she graced the cover donning an all-new natural ’do, the chatter began immediately. In the article, O contributor Ruven Afanador said, “For the first time ever, Oprah’s appearing on the cover of O without blow-drying or straightening her hair.” Afanador writes that Winfrey enjoys wearing her hair naturally, because it makes her feel unencumbered.
But not everyone agreed that Oprah’s hair was legitimately “natural.” A controversy emerged in social media about what actually constitutes “natural,” because for some the remnant of any past chemical treatment means it’s not truly natural. Oprah needs to stop lying to herself, the detractors declared.
Soon after that, reports started circulating about criticisms of U.S. Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas’s hair, that some black women didn’t like the ponytail or how she uses a gel to grease it back.
But why all the hubbub? What is it about black women’s hair that is deemed so worthy of scrutiny by other black women? It’s been said that a woman’s hair is her glory (1 Cor. 11:15), and if that is the case then why is the personal choice of her having a natural hairdo versus a relaxer so controversial?
Evan Miles, a writer for Journey Magazine, sought to unearth the societal implications associated with black hair and the roots to African American history and culture in his provocatively titled article,“Is a Black Woman’s Hair Her Glory or Gloom?”
Miles believes that for centuries, African Americans have been stripped of their heritage and forced to comply with a European cultural worldview that encouraged a new standard of beauty. According to him, “This meant taking the very essence of their being and denouncing it.” This is why Miles believes, perhaps more than ever, why black women are so adamant about regaining ownership of their hair and their own personal identities. According to him, black women’s various hairstyles “exude confidence” and self-beauty. He believes that it’s not only what is on the outside that matters, but also what lies deep within.
GOLDEN GIRL: Douglas waves to fans at the London Games following her gold-medal victory. “What’s wrong with my hair?” she said after hearing the criticism. “It can be bald or short, it doesn’t matter.” (Photo: Brian Peterson/Newscom)
So if beauty is only skin deep, and what is inside your head is of more importance than what is on top, why is someone like Gabby Douglas included in this debate? After the social media storm debating Douglas’ choice in hairstyle surfaced last week, the 16-year-old gymnast remarked that she was confused by the commotion. “I don’t know where this is coming from. What’s wrong with my hair?” she said. “I’m like, ‘I just made history and people are focused on my hair?’ ”
And Gabby, of course, is right. Why is it so easy for us to lose focus when it comes to black hair?
Reading the many stories in the press this past week got me to thinking again about this complicated subject that is a black woman’s hair. In my quest for understanding, I began reflecting on my own personal journey with hair — the ups and downs, the highs and lows, and the path to self-discovery and self-esteem.
In my 26 years of life, my identity with relation to my hair has seen many twists and curls. Like many black women, I once sustained my silky strands by way of a relaxer. Four years ago, however, I decided to forgo that method to go “natural.” My hairstyles over the course of my lifetime have been a diverse extension of who I am and a direct correlation of my personality. Being natural for me has been less about a healthy head of hair or making a statement, and more about learning to redefine my own personal standard of beauty.
Granted it takes longer for me to achieve my desired look each morning, because of all the deep conditioning and blow-drying that I do, but I wouldn’t trade that diversity for the world. I love my hair and appreciate the fact that I can be different while being a reflection of God’s diverse creation. I’ve got an eccentric personality, and like my shoe or handbag collection my hairstyle is an extension of who I am as a person.
I feel like India.Arie said it best in her song “I Am Not My Hair,” when she sang:
“I am not my hair/ I am not this skin/ I am not your expectations/ I am not my hair I am not this skin/ I am a soul that lives within.” Our hair, India reminds us, does not define us. It does not make us a better person or friend, and it does not determine who we are at the end of the day.
God created us in his very image, and he does not make mistakes. Instead of questioning his handiwork, we ought to embrace our unique style and diversity. So if rocking a weave or slappin’ a perm in your hair or wearing your hair natural is what makes you happy at the end of the day, then by all means love yourself and do you!
A LIGHT FOR ANGOLA: Leila Lopes, Miss Angola 2011, was crowned Miss Universe on September 12. She is the first Angolan to win the honor. (Darren Decker/Newscom Photo)
Newly crowned Miss Universe Leila Lopes isn’t your average beauty queen. Lopes “wants to help her native Angola further escape a history of war and impoverishment and said she plans to focus on combating HIV around the globe,” Associated Press reported.
Her win raises the question: Can beauty pageants be redemptive?
Opportunity to Highlight Angola’s Troubles
The Washington Post outlined Angola’s troubled history in light of Lopes’ win. That history includes a 27-year civil war, during which 300,000-500,000 people died. As of 2009, 38 percent of Angolans lived in poverty. The life expectancy for both men and women in this country of south-central Africa is 50-53 years, and 2 percent of the population suffers from HIV or AIDS, the article said.
Reminder That Beauty Comes from Within
Lopes is a business management student in Great Britain. When questoned about what physical traits she would change if she could, Lopes said she was satisfied with the way God created her and wouldn’t change a thing. “I consider myself a woman endowed with inner beauty. I have acquired many wonderful principles from my family and I intend to follow these for the rest of my life,” she said.
Jude and broadcast journalist Connie Chung echoed these sentiments, telling Associated Press, “You have to keep in mind that these women are not objects just to be looked at. They’re to be taken seriously. I want to choose somebody I take seriously and the world takes seriously, too.”
Not everyone was so generous though. At The Huffington Post Lili Gil reported that seven-of-16 semifinalists were Latinas and their fans took to Twitter to complain that some of these women didn’t emerge as finalists.
Asked about being one of the few blacks ever crowned Miss Universe, Lopes said “any racist needs to seek help” and “it’s not normal in the 21st century to think in that way.”
At The Root, Jenée Desmond-Harris offered this fitting conclusion, “Remember Satoshi Kanazawa, the professor [and former Psychology Today blogger] who distorted facts to make a “scientific” claim that black women were less attractive? We’d love it if the new Miss Universe could have a word with him at some point during her reign.”
What do you think? Are beauty pageants ever appropriate for Christians or does Lopes make us think harder about their value?
The writer of “The Scientific Fundamentalist” blog for Psychology Today apparently thinks African American women are less physically attractive than women of other races, and he cited unscientific “attractiveness ratings” from a recent study to justify his bias.
In “Why Are African-American Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women?,” published on May 15, evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa used scientific language and multiple graphs to back absurd statements, claiming that he can “compute the latent ‘physical attractiveness factor’” from his data. Psychology Today eventually removed the post and issued an apology, but not before it drew plenty of fire from around the Web. A copy of the article was reposted on Quora.
The brief apology statement posted about two weeks later, just this past Friday, said Psychology Today “does not tolerate racism or prejudice of any sort” and that it had not approved the post. Editor-in-Chief Kaja Perina wrote, “We deeply apologize for the pain and offense that this post caused. Psychology Today’s mission is to inform the public, not to provide a platform for inflammatory and offensive material. … We have taken measures to ensure that such an incident does not occur again.”
However, the apology stopped short of detailing what measures would be taken to prevent future racist articles from being published. It also failed to point out the post’s scientific flaws, let alone denounce them. Merely recognizing the post as offensive is not enough; Psychology Today also needs to call out Kanazawa’s faulty science.
As many have pointed out, Kanazawa’s statistics are deeply flawed. A Scientific American journalist and other writers for Psychology Today recently conducted independent statistical analyses of the Add Health data and debunked Kanazawa’s claims. Just the beginning of how his claims didn’t make sense: Kanazawa used data from an Add Health study about how adolescent behaviors affect their health—not a study about race and beauty. It’s common knowledge that the population of any study needs to be an unbiased sample, and the people doing the beauty judging were Add Health researchers. Since when are the researchers themselves an unbiased sample?
Having presented these flawed statistics in his post, Kanazawa mused about the cause of this supposed attractiveness difference, passing up the “race difference in intelligence” as a potential cause (he claimed beautiful people are more intelligent)—as if such a racial difference exists. He just as confidently concluded that the only possible explanation he could think of must be that African American women have higher levels of testosterone—with no data to back up that outrageous claim.
Now, the London School of Economics is conducting an internal investigation of Kanazawa’s comments and students are calling for his firing, The Guardian reported.
Perhaps the most disturbing part is that Kanazawa has gotten away with other absurd claims until now (past posts include titles like “Are All Women Essentially Prostitutes?”), under the façade of fighting political correctness in the name of science. Which makes you think: How easily fooled is our society? Are racist or sexist beliefs suddenly okay if some statistics are thrown out there to justify them? It’s all too easy to take statistics out of context to back up ridiculous claims and hide the truth. Take race and the academic achievement gap—does such a gap prove some racial minorities are inherently less intelligent? Or does it prove that our society has systematically oppressed those same minorities for generations?
If pseudoscience can be so recklessly used to justify racism, then what can we do as Christians to combat these social messages? Perhaps we need to remind others of the truths behind Scripture such as Galatians 3:26-29 and the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., that all humans are inherently equal and our society can only heal after we acknowledge the damage of racial prejudice and injustice. In doing so, we must reject Eurocentric definitions of beauty and instead define ourselves each as Christ does: children of God worthy of love regardless of how our society might attempt to rank our value.
Chris Rock’s new documentary probes the world of black hair to humorous effect, but also forces us to confront disturbing questions about our prescribed standards of beauty.
One of the big conversations in my household this year has revolved around the question of whether my 9-year-old daughter is ready to get her hair “permed.” Some girls at her school have already been initiated into the world of relaxed hair, so the peer pressure is in effect.
On the one hand my wife, who spends an inordinate amount of time combing and styling our little girl’s hair each week, would love to reduce the strain and pain (on both her and my daughter) of braiding and curling and ponytailing. On the other hand, she’s not yet ready to subject our daughter to the extreme measures involved in chemically straightening black hair. Who would’ve imagined that there’s so much drama involved in styling a little girl’s tresses?
Well, Chris Rock did.
Rock’s new documentary, Good Hair (PG-13), opens Friday in limited release and nationwide on Oct. 23, but it’s already got lots of folks buzzing about this most sacred of topics in the black community.
Critics have praised Rock’s mixture of satire, history, and social commentary. And his funny but insightful look at the $9 billion black hair industry covers a lot of territory. Indeed, there are few things more central to the daily experience of a black woman. A good-looking ‘do plays a pivotal role in both her personal and professional happiness.
Yet an ominous theme undergirds the entire enterprise. Why do so many women spend so much time and so much money trying to attain what’s essentially a “white” look? That question is at the heart of Good Hair, and with Rock as our irreverent yet sympathetic tour guide, the film sets out to get some answers.
By roaming the exhibit floor of the massive Bronner Bros. Hair Show and talking to everyone from Maya Angelou to Raven Symoné, Rock presents a subculture that is at once familiar but nonetheless foreign. How is it, again, that some women are willing to pay thousands of dollars for weaves (some actually putting their hair on layaway) to create the illusion of long tresses? Or how is it that so many are willing to apply harsh sodium hydroxide creams to their heads to straighten kinky hair? (Rock demonstrates how the chemical can literally eat through chicken flesh and disintegrate aluminum cans.)
What Rock discovers in his cinematic expedition is a gold mine of endless humor (Al Sharpton even gets some screen time — need I say more?). But it’s also a source of great poignancy. That lingering issue of who determines the standard of true beauty pervades the movie like a stubborn ghost, haunting every corner of a black woman’s existence. Even our churches — or, perhaps, especially our churches — are full of lofty hairdo expectations for black women.
Still, in Good Hair, Rock is able to take all these contradictions and discomfitting realities and allow us to laugh at them — and at ourselves. He also may have inadvertently helped settle that little dilemma in my household: If I have any say in the matter, my 9-year-old will have to wait until she’s voting age before getting that soda-can-eating paste applied to her head.