Skip to content

Hairstyle Finder

April 15, 2009

iVillage has a Hairstyle Finder for black girls.  It’s aight.  Nothing special but a good way to waste about 15 minutes.  The nice part about the Finder is the short paragraphs describing how to create each look for yourself.

I think I will be playing around with Beyonce’s look in the upcoming days…


Halle Berry for Harper’s Bazaar

April 15, 2009
Halle Berry for Harper's Bazaar - April 2009

Halle Berry for Harper's Bazaar - April 2009

So here is Halle on Harper’s cover this month.  I am not sure what the hell they have done to her makeup, but it is shiteous (in the words of Perez Hilton.)  Her hair on the other hand is cute and flirty and perfect for spring.  The brunette color is fab with her complexion (although hell with the cover’s leading pink color).  I am not sure if she dyed it for the cover or if she has changed her hair color in real life, but I like it on her.  Granted she remains ageless, I think the color makes her look even more youthful.  (Hard to believe, I know…)


A Black Hairdo in the White House & the Implications

April 14, 2009

The Michelle Obama hair challenge

Nappy or relaxed, African-American hair has always been a loaded subject. So what does it mean to have a black do in the White House?

By Erin Aubry Kaplan

Michelle Obama @ the Democratic Convention

Michelle Obama @ the Democratic Convention

Are we moving toward a “black hair” moment?

It might sound like one of those media-created, racially overwrought questions meant to boost ratings and Internet chatter. But with Obama in the White House and a black family center stage — not to mention a first lady whose appearance and fashion choices are already being endlessly dissected — the question suddenly becomes almost reasonable.

Consider: Michelle’s hairdresser, Johnny Wright, just signed a development deal for his own beauty reality show. Chris Rock recently went to Sundance to screen his documentary “A Good Hair Day,” a look at the enormous but mostly unexamined industry and culture of black hair care. “[Black women’s] hair costs more than anything they wear,” Rock recently said in a Salon interview. “It’s like the No. 2, 3 expense of their whole life.” Meanwhile, in a recent discussion on MSNBC, black Princeton prof Melissa Harris-Lacewell agreed with Rachel Maddow that an Obama administration meant white people would be more emboldened to ask black people about previously taboo issues, like how they do their hair (Harris-Lacewell admitted she wasn’t looking forward to that). The interest is encouraging to a point. And like all white scrutiny of any aspect of black life, it also feels like voyeurism, to a point. The gray area is just one of many reminders that bridging the racial divide, like black hair itself, is going to be complicated.

But first, let’s take a look at Michelle. Her hair represents the highest aspirations and also the limitations of a certain black style. It’s always immaculately done, straight and shiny. On Inauguration Day, it complemented her cheekbones; it riffled gracefully in the frigid wind. Nothing wrong there at all. And that’s potentially the problem: Nothing’s wrong. It’s perfect. It’s the look Michelle’s had since we’ve known her, and it’s already starting to look locked in, like armor (Condoleezza Rice, anyone?). Certainly first ladies have their signature looks, including hair — Nancy Reagan’s coif never moved an inch in eight years, wind or no. But I wonder whether such a young, high-profile black woman who gets her hair straightened or relaxed as a matter of course will occasionally let it be something different: unstraightened, less straightened, or anything that doesn’t bounce, lie flat or swing like a pageboy. In other words, a do that suggests her ethnicity rather than softens it.

I know firsthand how complex these choices of style and identity can be: I’m a black woman with curly hair, but it’s not curly enough to be considered kinky (aka nappy) and typically black. Yet my blackness dictates perceptions and expectations about my hair; non-black people assume I have a relaxer or a weave and are always curious about what I’ve had “done.” I’ve had very little in the way of chemical or heat straightening in my life, but I didn’t escape black hair rituals altogether: Growing up, I wasn’t allowed to wear my hair “natural” or “out” because that was simply too ethnic. To this day I have childhood anxiety about how to wear my hair for special occasions or photo-ops. Do I hot-roller it, pull it back? How do I look my best, or look like myself? Is it even possible to do both? Poised as she is, I would wager Michelle Obama asks herself such questions too.

A hair change shouldn’t be a radical notion; every beauty magazine I’ve ever read trumpets makeovers every month. But black images — indeed, the very idea of beauty — are still inherently political, mirrors of our national mood about race and ancient tensions between reality and what we prefer to see. Hair is a particularly good mirror. A reality check: In this alleged new era of racial enlightenment, how would we see Michelle if she switched to braids, twists, curls or dreads, if she looked more like the black person she is? We applaud the sparkling new role models in the White House. But do we expect the Obamas to define a new black mainstream or to hew to an idealized model created by a white mainstream that blacks internalized long ago?

Hair is a very complicated piece of that model, historically speaking, as brutal a demarcation of worthiness as skin color. Hair texture and skin color work in tandem: The darker you are, the harder you have to offset it with “good” hair in order to be considered attractive or acceptable. If Michelle weren’t dark-skinned with classic black features, she might not be so wedded to super-straight locks. Of course, this is also about class and station — most professional black women of a certain pay scale adopt the relaxed look as part of the overall look of success. And then there’s convenience. A good friend of mine pointed out that processed hair is often more convenient than unprocessed black hair, which requires quite a bit of maintenance and time. But she also agreed that issues like practicality are virtually impossible to separate from the pressure on black women to have relaxed hair in the first place. Which is why I suspect that even a mild curl on Michelle, à la Oprah’s lioness look, would make people nervous. It was no accident that last year’s instantly infamous New Yorker cover that depicted the Obamas as White House terrorists featured Michelle with a huge Afro. Barack’s turban was a bad joke; Michelle’s big hair was a legitimate threat that could materialize at any moment.

One of my favorite inaugural moments was the Rev. Joe Lowery invoking that crude but accurate black folk saying about the hierarchy of skin color: If you’re white, you’re all right; if you’re brown, stick around; if you’re black, get back. A parallel saying for hair gradations would be something like: If you’re straight, you’re great; if you got curl, you got a pearl; if you’re nappy, you’re unhappy. Lowery was voicing that sentiment in order to bury it, but he was also admitting that it still has great power. Weaves and relaxers have become de rigueur for black women past the age of 13. The unprocessed black woman is assumed to be a vegan, a rebel, a Rasta, a nationalist, an artist, or some combination of the above. And for a black woman to wear her hair “out” — that is, to wear it in its natural state with minimal moderations — well, she must be so far out on the fringe that everyday presentation doesn’t matter. Most likely she’s an entertainer — Erykah Badu, Diana Ross or Rufus-era Chaka Khan. But in the real world that Michelle Obama represents and that most of us inhabit, there is no black equivalent for the wash-and-wear “out” style that white women wear all the time, and have worn for 30 years. For them, it’s become so routine that we now have all sorts of expensive products meant to create untamed, wind-tossed, day-at-the-beach hair. But natural, of course, is a loaded description. You really don’t want to see me with beach hair.

While I appreciate Rachel Maddow’s singular ability to breach racial etiquette in a thoughtful and good-humored way, I cringe at the thought of once again having to educate white people who have no clue. And I don’t think they really want to know about intensive black hair rituals that bond black women but can seem downright medieval to anybody else — hot combs, chemicals, wearing scarves to bed. It’s absurd and not a little maddening to think of all this as being a “moment” for whites, when it’s so much ancient history for us.

The way out of this tangle is, I believe, Sasha and Malia Obama. Throughout the campaign and the inaugural, they were regularly pressed and straightened for the public — “Sunday hair,” we used to call it. And like their mom, they look wonderful. Adorable. But the public also sees that in the girls’ everyday lives, they literally let their hair down with braids and cornrows and puffs and whatever else black girls wear. Now that they’re no longer groomed for the Corn Belt voters on the campaign trail, I see the Obama girls casually affirming the black mainstream in a way perhaps their parents can’t yet. It helps that they are wildly popular now amongst pre-teen girls of all colors; there are even Sasha and Malia dolls on the market, though they don’t resemble the girls much, from the hair on down. But a recent cover in the family section of the Los Angeles Sentinel, my hometown black paper, spoke volumes. One photo was Sasha and Malia dolled up for the inaugural in their Sunday hair, and the photo below it showed them at a more relaxed event — a fourth of July outing — sitting on picnic benches in summer clothes. Malia wore cornrows, Sasha a voluminous, unmoderated ponytail. An American flag sits in full view on the table behind them. That’s a modest vision of the future and of equal opportunity, perhaps, but one too rarely seen. Long after the glitz of the inaugural and the president’s first 30 days in office has faded into the mundane, they’ll be the show to watch.

Procter & Gamble Sells Black Hair Unit

April 14, 2009
Eric Brown and Renee Cottrell-Brown

The company will operate as Johnson Products Company. The new management team will be led by two industry veterans with strong ties to the business, husband and wife team, Eric Brown and Renee Cottrell-Brown. They have extensive experience in the ethnic hair care arena, having both held senior executive positions with the Pro-Line International, Inc. subsidiary of Alberto-Culver Company (NYSE:ACV). Brown will serve as chief executive officer, with Cottrell-Brown as executive vice president.

Founded in 1954 by George Ellis Johnson, Sr., Johnson Products, formerly headquartered in Chicago, has been a mainstay brand for more than a half-century in the African-American community. In 1971, the company became the first minority-run enterprise to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Today, Johnson Products offers more than 30 hair care products, including the Gentle Treatment and Ultra Sheen brands. The company is headquartered in Los Angeles, with offices in Dallas.

“The acquisition of Johnson Products represents the renewal of a family of products that revolutionized the ethnic hair care industry starting in the 1950s, and a next stage of growth for a legendary company that has been an iconic figure and model of success for African-Americans,” Brown said. “The new Johnson Products Company will provide us with a platform to bring product innovations and promotions to a unique multi-cultural consumer group and reintroduce the brands to a new generation. We have an outstanding, motivated team, and we are extremely excited and optimistic about the future of this new venture.”

Johnson Products has annualized sales of more than $23 million. Its products are sold throughout the United States and participate in a global market that the company estimates to be approximately $1.8 billion.

The management team brings more than 55 years of experience to the newly formed company. It has helped launched some of the industry’s most successful ethnic hair care brands, including the Soft & Beautiful, Comb-Thru and Just-For-Me product lines, all part of Pro-Line International.

Brown most recently was president of Pro-Line International, which has been part of Alberto-Culver Company since 2000. In January 2004, Brown moved into a corporate position with Alberto-Culver as vice president global business development, where he was instrumental in consummating global licensing, distribution, acquisition and divesture opportunities for many of Alberto-Culver’s global brands.

Brown is joined by Renee Cottrell-Brown, who since 2006 operated a marketing consulting firm, Streetwise Marketing Solutions, based in Arlington, TX, which provides marketing services to startups and small-to-medium growth companies that market multi-cultural personal care products. She previously held a 25-year career with Pro-Line Corporation and Pro-Line International, most recently as global vice president of retail marketing.

“It makes me extremely happy to know that the brands of Johnson Products will be owned by people who understand the African-American consumer market and care about the brands,” said founder Johnson, 82, whose company became part Procter & Gamble in 2003 with its acquisition of Wella AG. “Eric Brown and Renee Cottrell-Brown will be successful in re-energizing the company, and I wish them the very best in their endeavors.”

Comer J. Cottrell, founder of Pro-Line International, said, “I am excited and pleased to congratulate Eric and Renee on their acquisition of Johnson Products. We have always had a great deal of respect for the company and its founder. The acquisition will perpetuate the legacy of minority ownership and contributions to the industry.”

Lafayette Jones, president of SMSI-Urban Call Marketing, Inc. and founder of the American Health and Beauty Aids Institute applauds the move and is pleased to see the Brown team at the helm of the re-energized company. “I am very proud that the rich history of African-American entrepreneurship and community involvement continues with the acquisition of Johnson Products from Procter & Gamble,” Jones said. “As second generation industry leaders, Eric Brown and Renee Cottrell-Brown, along with the company’s legacy brands, have a solid foundation upon which to rebuild the company.”

Kacy Rozelle and Marshall Geller of St. Cloud Capital, along with Daniel Villanueva and Gabrielle Greene of Rustic Canyon/Fontis Partners, will join the Johnson Products’ board of directors.

“All of us at St. Cloud are very excited to be part of this transaction and look forward to working closely with this talented management team,” said Rozelle, managing director of St. Cloud.

Gabriel Greene, partner of Rustic Canyon/Fontis Partners, said: “The wealth of experience of the management team, coupled with the support of the expanded board and advisory board, position Johnson Products to reestablish itself as a great source of pride in the community.”

Johnson Products Company has been supported by leading food, drug and mass retailers as well as beauty and barber suppliers for more than 50 years. Jay Forbes, president of the Forbes Connection LLC and former vice president of Drug Store News, said he welcomes JPC back to the forefront of the ethnic hair care industry. “In a market that demands innovation, creativity and thoughtful product positioning, I cannot think of two more talented individuals who better understand the ethnic consumer and the retail community,” said Forbes. “I’m certain that Renee and Eric, with their collective experience over many years contributing to the growth of the Pro-Line family business, will excel in re-energizing Johnson Products, a great legacy company with outstanding brands.”
About Rustic Canyon/Fontis Partners
Rustic Canyon/Fontis Partners, LP is a Southern California-based private equity fund, investing principally in companies in the Southwest with sales between $10 million and $100 million. For more information about Rustic Canyon/Fontis Partners, please visit

About St. Cloud Capital
St. Cloud Capital is a Los Angeles-based private equity firm that provides growth capital to the lower middle market (companies with annual revenues between $10 million and $100 million) throughout North America. St. Cloud invests in companies across a wide range of industries in every layer of the capital structure, including senior secured debt, subordinated debt, and preferred and common stock. St. Cloud’s investment discipline includes control and non-control investments, and in each case involves partnering with a strong existing management team or experienced industry entrepreneur. For more information about St. Cloud Capital, please visit

About Johnson Products Company
Newly established as an independent company in 2009 and originally founded in 1954, Johnson Products focuses on strategic brand and business development in the ethnic hair care market. The company has been a leading brand for more than a half-century in the African-American community and currently offers more than 30 hair care products under the Gentle Treatment and Ultra Sheen brands.

For more information on the newly acquired Johnson Products Company, its family of brands and to download photographs of the new management team, visit the company’s website at
Gwen Robinson
RobinsonMcNia Public Relations