Caring for textured hair is T’kehya Prentice-Cupid’s specialty. She’s been doing it professionally for the past six years (not counting the 12 years she spent, teaching herself about naturally curly and coily hair). It’s a skill that makes her a rarity in the industry, she says.
“I would work at salons where there were advertisements of Black women or mixed-race women with texture in their hair, but they were lacking the product that worked well with those textures.”
It’s a gap she has seen throughout her career, especially working in “Eurocentric-based salons,” Prentice-Cupid says. She says beauty salons and schools in Canada aren’t given adequate training on how to care for textured hair.
“Our hair needs the most love,” said Prentice-Cupid who also has textured hair and sports a pink-tipped afro. “It needs a certain amount of attention that not everybody is willing to do,” Prentice-Cupid says many salons don’t offer the personalized care and time that textured hair needs–and the services don’t meet the unique demand.
“Most people in the world have textured hair and only 30 per cent of that population is being represented with services,” said Prentice-Cupid.
The turning point and final straw came for Prentice-Cupid when she created a poll on her social media account, asking other professional hairstylists how comfortable they felt taking care of textured hair. The results were startling.
Ninety-nine per cent said that they did not feel confident in the training that they got in school.”
“And then it was interesting because 37 per cent of them then said that they felt confident over time in their career … (which) means that they learnt what they learnt through trial and error,” said Prentice-Cupid. “And it’s unfortunate because our hair shouldn’t be an experiment — people should have the tools that they need from school to be able to provide the services.”
So, in the spirit of ‘build it and they will come,’ Prentice-Cupid created her own tool: Textured Hair EDU — a first-of-its-kind curriculum focused on bringing textured hair education into beauty schools across Canada.
“The goal is to build Canada’s first textured hair curriculum. So, not only do we want to provide classes, but we actually want to go in the [Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development]’s face and be like, you need to put curly hair, afro-textured hair education in your schools.”
She hasn’t received an answer yet from the Ministry on whether or not they plan to implement her curriculum, but Prentice-Cupid has already hit the ground running.
“My first class that I had was in the summer … it was a silk press class, where I was teaching anyone that signed up, how to blow-dry, style, wash and straighten afro-textured hair,” said Prentice-Cupid. “The next class is going to be a colour class, so that’s more catered to stylists … we’re going to be releasing it as well as our website in the new year.”
Prentice-Cupid says she’s calling on the ministry to implement her curriculum to replace the current one that exists, which says is outdated.
“The services that are a requirement for stylists to know are relaxers and perms, and that’s the extent of the textured hair education,” said Prentice-Cupid of the current curriculum in place. “And there’s more women wearing their hair naturally curly and textured and protective styles that they’re rocking, and [stylists] need to have the right training.”
Prentice-Cupid believes the key to closing the gap in representation at mainstream salons is dealing with the problem at the root: confronting and changing the training standards.
She says currently, the industry is putting out ‘unprepared’ and ‘ill-equipped’ stylists, but that with her curriculum “we’re hoping that the confidence can build in stylists so that anybody that walks in from the street is able to provide services for them because it’s a human right to be able to walk into a public salon and get serviced and not be turned away.”