I produced this story for Feet in 2 Worlds. You can hear the original story here.
I produced this podcast about the natural hair movement in the West African and Caribbean immigrant community with Sally Nnamani and John Rudolph. I provided research, field recording and audio editing. Together we visited hair salons and homes of women who told us how their hair affects their lives, their sense of self and their wallets.
Sally is originally from Nigeria; she knows firsthand the pressure new immigrants face. Sally left Nigeria when she was 12, and when her parents told her that they were moving to the United States, her mother said, “You girls are going to have to get your hair done!” Many of our interviewees had similar stories: Straight hair is equated with “putting your best face forward,” having confidence and being beautiful.
According to Mintel (a market research group), in 2012 the black hair-care industry brought in an estimated $684 million, and by 2017 that number is projected to rise to $761 million. Mintel stipulated that the 2012 figure does not include general market brands, weaves, extensions, wigs, independent beauty-supply stores, distributors, e-commerce, styling tools and appliances. If all of those things were taken into consideration, the $684 million in expenditures could reach a half-trillion dollars.
Despite the massive size of the industry, this story reveals how personal a topic this is for the women of these communities.