It’s benefited firms like Carol’s Daughter: Chairman Steve Stoute, himself black, credits investments from black entertainers and patronage from savvy black consumers with helping grow the company founded by a black New Yorker to a $20 million business known for organic products that pamper ethnic hair.
”I like to support our black business owners, so if I see someone who is offering a particular product, I’ll give it a try,” said Angel Shabazz, a Richmond, Va., woman who uses Carol’s Daughter on her dreadlocks.
Hair is a touchy subject for many black women.
Most straighten their hair for manageability and social acceptance, beginning the monthly ritual as early as age 5, explained Venus Opal Reese, assistant professor of aesthetics/cultural studies at the University of Texas at Dallas.
“Natural hair historically has been related to as militant,” Reese said. ”If you go further back, it’s been regarded as unclean and unkempt.”
Attitudes shifted in the late ’90s, as kinky-haired entertainers like Lauryn Hill challenged traditional black beauty ideals, Reese said.
Also influential is the damage black women have seen from years of chemical straightening, said Sam Ennon, with the Black-Owned Beauty Supply Association, in San Mateo, Calif.