How #ActingWhileBlack is revealing Hollywood’s disregard for natural hair and black skin

Ismail Akwei March 13, 2019
Actress Yvette Nicole Brown -- (Photo by: Dale Berman/Syfy)

Black actors are using the hashtag #ActingWhileBlack to bring to the fore Hollywood’s racial inequalities when it comes to black natural hair and makeup for dark skin.

The hashtag has been used on Twitter since 2011 to express displeasure with the racist undertones actors receive in Hollywood after demanding equal treatment. It started trending on Monday after actor Yahya Abdul-Mateen II reacted to model Olivia Anakwe’s frustration during the Paris Fashion Week where she took to Instagram to criticize hairstylists who can’t do black hair at fashion shows.

“100% of Black Actor/Actress I’ve spoken to on this topic face the same thing in film and television. Hair Stylists in our industry should have proper training, AND be able to show proof. Too often they begin to “figure it out” the second we sit in the chair,” he tweeted using the hashtag.

Actor Malcolm Barrett also tweeted: “Most Black actors get their hair cut or styled outside of set, often at their own expense because Hollywood hairstylists are one size fit all and that ‘all’ does not include Black hair. This has been my experience for the last 20 years in the business & it hasn’t changed at all.”

Actress Asia Jackson also added her voice saying: “One time I literally rolled out of bed and showed up to set and the hairstylist looked at my hair and said “it’s great the way it is!” and walked away. I literally appeared on camera with bed head. Since then I’ve been styling my own hair ?”

Actress Yvette Nicole Brown tweets: “Most black actresses come to a new set w/ their hair done (me) or bring their wigs & clip-ins w/them. It’s either that or take a chance that you will look crazy on screen. Many of us also bring our own foundation. One too many times seeing no shade that matches you will learn ya!”

Actress Gabourey Sidibe said she resorts to box braids or Senegalese twists when there is no black haristylist for her.

Gabrielle Union didn’t mince words either: “The pressure to “just be happy they picked you & you got a job, don’t ask for the SAME things every other actor/model gets on GP…” Listen, if u stay quiet, u WILL have bald spots, hair damage, look NUTS (tho they will tell u its cuuuuuuuuute ?)”

The whole frustration faced by actors was also extended to news anchors who also expressed their experiences including white media professionals who have curly hair.

Model Olivia Anakwe who inspired the trending hashtag after she expressed her frustration in an Instagram post over discrimination of not getting the attention of hairstylists due to her afro hair said:

“This is not okay. This will never be okay. This needs to change. No matter how small your team is, make sure you have one person that is competent at doing afro texture hair care OR just hire a black hairstylist!”

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This message is to spread awareness & hopefully reach anyone in the hair field to expand their range of skills. Black models are still asking for just one hairstylist on every team no matter where your team is from to care for afro hair. I was asked to get out of an empty chair followed by having hairstylists blatantly turning their backs to me when I would walk up to them, to get my hair done. If I am asked to wear my natural hair to a show, the team should prepare the style just as they practice the look and demo for non-afro hair. I arrived backstage where they planned to do cornrows, but not one person on the team knew how to do them without admitting so. After one lady attempted and pulled my edges relentlessly, I stood up to find a model who could possibly do it. After asking two models and then the lead/only nail stylist, she was then taken away from her job to do my hair. This is not okay. This will never be okay. This needs to change. No matter how small your team is, make sure you have one person that is competent at doing afro texture hair care OR just hire a black hairstylist! Black hairstylists are required to know how to do everyone’s hair, why does the same not apply to others? It does not matter if you don’t specialize in afro hair, as a continuous learner in your field you should be open to what you have yet to accomplish; take a class. I was ignored, I was forgotten, and I felt that. Unfortunately I’m not alone, black models with afro texture hair continuously face these similar unfair and disheartening circumstances. It’s 2019, it’s time to do better. || #NaturalHair #ModelsofColor #BlackHairCare #HairCare #Message #Hair #Hairstyling #Backstage #BTS #AfroTexturedHair #Afro #POC #Braids #Message #Spreadtheword #Speak #Awareness #Growth #WorkingTogether #BlackGirlMagic #Melanin

A post shared by Olivia Anakwe (@olivia_anakwe) on

Here are some more reactions from #ActingWhileBlack detailing experiences of black actors in Hollywood.

Last Edited by:Victor Ativie Updated: April 12, 2020


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