Yahoo’s Diversity in Beauty Awards (the DIBs) highlight and celebrate personalities, brands, and products that embody inclusiveness and innovation. We enlisted eight experts who have championed diversity in their careers and cover all bases of the beauty industry to vote on the best in makeup, skin care, hair care, and more. Here, DIBs judge Michelle Breyer opens up about “hating” her hair as a child and growing to love it through creating a community where all curls are appreciated and embraced.
TextureMedia, Inc. co-founder and president Michelle Breyer didn’t always love her glossy brunette ringlets. Her mother and sister have straight hair, her dad has curly hair, and she “got super curly hair.”
“So no one knew what to do with it,” Breyer tells Yahoo Beauty. “I hated my hair growing up, just to be blunt. There were no products. Nobody knew how to cut it. There were no role models who had curly hair. You couldn’t look to anyone and say, ‘Oh, look at that beautiful woman with curly hair.’ Beauty magazines kind of ignore them.”
Breyer admits that throughout her childhood and teens, she struggled with trying to love her curls and figuring out what to do with them. Feathered hair à la Farrah Fawcett was huge back in the 1970s, so she did everything in her power to straighten her strands and get them to “do things other people’s hair did.”
When Breyer moved from sunny California to humid Texas, her calculated hair routine of blow-drying and flat-ironing became “a lost cause,” and this fact forced her to come to terms with the way her hair grew naturally from her head.
Breyer eventually connected with other curly-haired women, building a bond that allowed them to “bitch about hair all the time.” However, during a brunch with this group of friends, someone overheard their frustrations and suggested that she start a website. In 1998, NaturallyCurly.com was born.
Before the boom of natural hair and curly bloggers, Naturally Curly became an online refuge for many other women to connect on the topic of hair.
“It really was a hobby,” says Breyer. “My neighbor’s 14-year-old son was our web designer — it was very bare basics. The discussion board was the core of the site, and people found us who felt equally frustrated about their hair.”
Breyer recalls propelling some of today’s most popular hair care brands — including Curls, Miss Jessie’s, and Devachan — on the e-commerce part of the site. Naturally Curly also became a platform for bloggers such as Patrice Grell Yursik of Afrobella and Nikki Walton, aka Curly Nikki, to jumpstart their careers as curly-haired experts.
“We didn’t start because we wanted to create money. It was about creating something for ourselves, but it turned into a business,” says Breyer. “It was about our own personal passion for this and knowing that there were other people who felt the same.”
Of course, she had to deal with a lot of naysayers who argued about whether there was a need for this inclusive community. Breyer explains, “I think a lot of people initially thought it was a passing trend or a campaign that you do once every couple of years for a new product line. When you have curly hair, you always have curly hair, no matter whatever you choose to do with it.”
One of the biggest hurdles Breyer believes the industry needs to overcome is the lack of stylists who are trained to work with various textures in cosmetology school. “You have an industry that isn’t aware. Texture is so different — it’s not one size fits all. It doesn’t play the same way as straight hair. It does its own thing,” she says.
It’s been about 19 years since Naturally Curly’s inception, and Breyer is reflecting on how far we’ve come and the strides that are necessary to go even further in her upcoming book, The Curl Revolution: Inspiring Stories and Practical Advice from the NaturallyCurly Community. Inside, readers will find stories from people of all walks of life — entrepreneurs, actresses, teachers, and social workers.
Breyer’s ultimate hope is that there isn’t a disconnect with curly hair in the industry, and that “it’s made the priority that it should be” — whether that’s training more stylists or developing products that will be stocked in stores.
“You’ve got this consumer who spends a lot more than others and buys a lot more, and that should be reflected throughout the beauty industry,” she said.
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