‘Glam Squad’ seeks to diversify entertainment industry 

By Darlene Donloe

Contributing Writer

HOLLYWOOD — The lack of Black hair and makeup artists working on television and film productions is an ongoing issue in the entertainment industry. 

Black actors and actresses believe Black hair and makeup artists are vital because white hair and makeup professionals are not always familiar with dark skin tones or natural textures, which actors feel is a disservice to them.

Several organizations have taken up the mantle to ensure aspiring Black hair and makeup artists are well-trained and prepared for the industry with enough experience to join the union and thereby obtain employment.

The NAACP and the Handy Foundation, both committed to increasing diverse representation in the entertainment industry, have partnered to announce the return of the NAACP x The Handy Foundation Glam Squad Training Program. With the support of Netflix, the NAACP and the Handy Foundation have expanded the program to two different editions this year.  

“We have always been driven by a mission to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion — on and off screen,” said Kyle Bowser, senior vice president of the NAACP Hollywood Bureau. “We see a clear need for underrepresented creatives in this industry. We are proud to partner with Netflix and Handy Foundation in this fight to make a tangible impact in creating more access points for up-and-coming artists.”

The goal of the program is to train 10 aspiring hair and makeup artists who are Black, Indigenous or people of color and provide them with the necessary skills for opportunities to work on film and television productions.

During a seven-week training program, trainees will learn specialized training for various skin tones and techniques, special effects, work on mock photo shoots and gain hands-on experience working at the state-of-the-art NAACP+ Studios.

In addition, they also will gain insight from tenured industry professionals including; Quintessence Patterson, STARZ’s key makeup artist; and Moe Coles, STARZ’s key hair artist; Camille Friend, Oscar-nominated and NAACP Image Award-winning makeup artist and hair stylist (“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”); Danielle Milton, founder and CEO of the Milton Agency; Kali Patrice, hair stylist and creator of  Style Like a Boss; and Carol Rasheed, NAACP Image Award-winning makeup department head for “The Color Purple.”

 The first edition of the program launched with 10 individuals who were selected from a highly competitive applicant pool after weeks of internal assessments.

Carol Rasheed, a 35-year hair and makeup veteran said, “Any organization helping to include people of color, I want to be a part of, period.”

“It’s harder for us as people of color to get an opportunity,” said Rasheed, who launched her TV Film Makeup Academy in Atlanta in 2017. “Anything Handy and the NAACP can do to open the door and get exposure is great. You gotta be trained properly and you have to understand the business side. It’s incumbent on us as people of color to educate ourselves and connect so our skills and ability are on point and we won’t be able to be shut out.”

Part of the blame for the shortage of Black hair and makeup professionals on sets is the major lack of their ability to gain entry into Hollywood’s coveted hair and makeup union, which is how most get jobs. Black hair and makeup artists don’t gain entry because they don’t meet union requirements.

It’s a Catch-22. To work on most productions, whether it’s film or television, hair stylists must be in a union. To join the union requires a license and experience working on a production. The issue is most Black hair and makeup professionals seldom get called for those gigs.

The union is Hollywood’s Make-Up Artists & Hair Stylists Guild, IATSE Local 706, which is in charge of who gets movie or TV work in entertainment. Unfortunately, even after they join the union, production teams may not choose Black makeup or hair artists. Even if they are working on a high-profile gig — sometimes they won’t get the credit needed for a union membership.

Patrice, 53, is a veteran hair stylist and creator who became a licensed hair stylist in 1992. She is the personal hair stylist for Billy Porter, Renee Elise Gooseberry and the film “Albany Road,” on which she heads the hair department.

Patrice, who produced the documentary, “(C)answers: The Answer to Cancer,” said her objective for wanting to speak to the cohorts is to get them to think another way about their careers.

“The core of the work is getting to a point where we know we belong in the room,” she said. “I wanted to emphasize to the cohorts that what’s important is to be ready, and make sure you have what it takes.”

Training this year’s cohorts is Keshia Smith, a seasoned holistic makeup artist with over 20 years of experience. Smith has worked with renowned brands such as Nars Cosmetics, MAC Cosmetics, Smashbox, and more. 

Smith’s work with projects for Target’s Black History Month venture and Dove’s Crown Act campaign led to her selection to spearhead the initiative.

The 2024 Spring Cohort participants are Chanice Williams, Jennifer Cormack, Kalia White, Rashima Wilson, Alyndy Chavez, Jeannee Primm, Dominique Henson, Summer Stephens, Ainya Carter and Rocket Minjizzle.

Minjizzle, 36, and the mother of one, has a “passion” for hair and makeup.

“This program is important because we are usually overseen,” said Minjizzle, a Houston native who has worked on Elise Neal, Jennifer Williams, Princess Love and the Clermont Twins. “We’re not the first picks when it comes to working on the set. 

“Our culture needs to be recognized. I also look at this program as a pipeline to getting into the union. It teaches you how to stand up for yourself, deal with people, and budget.”

Jennifer Cormack, an actress and mother of four who grew up in Victorville, has loved, “The special effects part of makeup.”

“I love what hair contributes to the program,” said Cormack, who founded the hair care brand Stronger Strandz. “As an actress, I’ve done my hair 99% of the time.”

As a cohort, Cormack said the program has been priceless.

“I’ve gained a lot so far,” said Cormack who can speak to being both a hairstylist and an actress who has had to do her hair. “Networking, resources. They have introduced me to great opportunities. 

“I spent 20 years on the other side,” she added. “There were too many moments where I felt that the person didn’t know how to make me feel beautiful. Many times there weren’t any Black people available to me. 

“If a woman comes to the set in braids, she has gone outside of that production to get it done. She paid $500 to do their job and the hair person, who never touched their hair, will get the credit. The importance is being represented.”

Ri-Karlo Handy, founder of the Handy Foundation said, “Actors and performers come from diverse backgrounds with unique needs and require beauty professionals to have experience in servicing different hairstyles, textures and skin tones. The Handy Foundation is honored to partner with the NAACP and Netflix on this initiative. It will be a game changer for performers and the next generation of beauty professionals alike.”

The support from Netflix for the NAACP x Handy Foundation Glam Squad Training Program is part of the company’s Fund for Creative Equity, a dedicated effort to help build new opportunities for underrepresented communities within entertainment, which is designed to build new pathways for underrepresented communities within entertainment.

Tiffany Burrell-Lewis is the director of creative talent development at Netflix.

“Hair and makeup artists are pivotal to bringing stories to life on screen, and it’s a privilege to support NAACP and the Handy Foundation as they continue to pave the way for a new generation of talent focused on this craft,” she said.

At the program’s completion, one or more participants will have an opportunity to work as a production assistant in the hair and makeup department for an industry partner.

Last year, several members of the first cohort were contracted as hair and makeup stylists on several NAACP+ Studios projects including the NAACP Image Awards, NAACP Virtual Award show and the NAACP Convention.

Darlene Donloe is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers South Los Angeles. She can be reached at ddonloe@gmail.com.

Photo by Jeff Lewis

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