Blog #1: The Beauty Supply Shop

From the time I was six, I can remember going to the beauty supply shop with my mother to pick out her wigs and hair coloring, or my barrettes and bobble hair ties. This space was one where I was surrounded by women and girls who looked like me on the boxes. However, another constant was the fact that none of the beauty supply shops that I visited were ever owned and operated by black people. The importance of this detail became clearer to me as the years went by and my friends and I were racially profiled while walking around beauty supply shops or when I saw stories about black women being violently assaulted by Korean owners. How do we understand this industry that has barred black people from being able to sell and profit off of it, despite them being the main consumers?

This was the second week that I had visited my site: a beauty supply shop  called Feel Beauty, located on the corner of Flatbush Ave and Avenue H, located off the last stop of the 2 and 5 subway; grey and underwhelming on the outside, vibrant with color and stuffed to the brim with wigs, extensions, products, and jewelry on the inside. It’s a cornucopia of things that will eventually adorn the medicine or under-the-sink cabinet of a black woman or girl. It is so inviting and warm, reminding me of my childhood and transition into womanhood.

The first thing I notice is the enormous security screen, with pictures of virtually every space in the shop. The aisles are numerous. In the front there are two cash registers, manned by three employees, of some sort of African descent. In fact, most of the employees are black, which allows me to be lulled into a false sense of security, that perhaps I’m in a space that is completely a black space, unbridled with any sort of exploitation by non-black people. Until I walk towards the back and see the Asian owner, overseeing the store. Throughout my time there, I feel like I’m being surveilled.

There is no mistaking that the store is trying to appeal to any other demographic besides black — all the products have black faces on the packaging and have the desire to change black hair in some shape or form.

On Flatbush Ave, for at least two blocks, there are two other beauty supply shops that are very similar to this shop. On the door of one of them, there is a brusquely worded sign that reads: “No Food or Drink; Check In Bag; No Pets.” I wonder: if we were in a predominantly white, wealthy neighborhood, would they have iterated these demands?

While this is quite the unconventional topic about a community that is facing a precarity or threat, I think it is necessary to investigate because this ethnic enclave economy has had a major impact on African-Americans ability to start black-owned beauty supply shops, and furthermore their ability to feel safe and empowered in a space that is so thoroughly marketed towards them.

– Olivia Blackwell

~ by oliviablackwell1 on February 17, 2019.

6 Responses to “Blog #1: The Beauty Supply Shop”

  1. Most effective!
    I love the photos within this blog! All the photos well illustrate the information you give! I can see how the interior part of the beauty shops looks like when looking at the first photograph, which made the blog post more engaging. I can literally feel the vibe and understand what you are trying to say.

  2. Best Overall: this post beautifully captured both the feel of the ecology and the specific attributes that are in need of investigation (racial discrimination in relation to economic impact, surveillance and cultural values).

  3. Most affective
    Your detailed description of the place plays a big role in giving us, the readers, the opportunity to imagine and feel the atmosphere.

  4. Most Informative:
    The part where you mentioned about you found that “all the products have black faces on the packaging and have the desire to change black hair in some shape or form” really brings out the issue that I have not noticed before. The problem you bring up is really specific and detailed.

  5. Most informative– When you wrote that you discovered the security screens in front of the beauty shops, I felt I learned something new and something that I personally did not pay attention to before. You were clear in explaining the details of the shops, such as wigs, extensions, jewelry…, and pairing it with images really gave me a clear sense of your ecology.

  6. Best Overall: I think this post exemplifies all the best qualities of a great first blog. I appreciate that you qualify your topic as maybe not as conventional as others, but continue to stress why this precarity is important. Further, you beautifully tie in your own personal connection to the topic, which adds a weighted affective quality to the piece – we, as readers, feel just as connected as a result. Lastly, you excellently threaded the connection between the beauty shops and larger issues among the black community.

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