I recently spent a highly caffeinated day with my friend Glynn Jackson as he put the final touches on preparations for the Golden Scissors Awards, the black hairstyling competition which, over the last 17 years, he has built into the Oscars of black hair.
It was a frantic day with him behind the wheel, his ears glued to his cell phone, toggling between calls. He had to check the plastic surgeon who tried to pull political strings to get into the show for free, bark orders to the video crew filming the event, all while darting from radio interview to radio interview plugging the awards ceremony that will take place on Sunday, Dec. 6 at the Washington, D.C., Convention Center.
As we learned here at The Root during our own investigation of the pressing state of black hair, times are rough for black hairstylists, given the recession and all. I thought we were about to see more proof of this as we pulled up to what looked like an abandoned strip mall in the Maryland suburbs near where the Washington Redskins play.
The parking lot was mostly empty. We drove past the bankrupted big box Circuit City store and pulled past a dingy storefront for Shadez Hair Studio where a lone black woman sat waiting to get her hair done.
Then we pulled up to Sintia’s Dominican Salon.
A gigantic white banner screamed “GRAND OPENING!!!!!” and announced their Web site, www.hairhappenshere.com. Elaborate murals, pink and glittery, cheered the walls. Inside was buzzing with women lined up to test out the shop’s claim that “We do a mean blowout.”
This, Glynn explained to me, is the reason why for the first time in the 17 years that he’s been producing and hosting the Golden Scissors Awards, that he’s created a new award category: Dominican Stylist of the Year.
The Dominican stylists’ community is happy to be included. “It would be great recognition to open up people to Dominican styles,” Sintia store manager Carla Thomas, who is half-Dominican, told me. Thomas realizes that the success of Dominican salons, whose cheap prices, fast service and “blowout” techniques have challenged the dominance of traditional African-American salons—creating some tensions.
“We are not trying to monopolize any business here,” she told me. “There are enough people in the city for everyone.” In fact, she said the fact that the Circuit City is shuttered has been a boon to Sintia’s business: More parking for their customers. “Our slow days are busy days for our salons,” she explained.
The emerging global business market is forcing all traditional black businesses to evolve. The Latino market in particular is creating a demographic tsunami in the U.S. that is affecting virtually every black-owned company trying to get corporate support. That’s why in addition to the usual not-safe-for-work hairstyles and cutting edge fashions, this year’s Golden Scissors Awards will showcase Dominican stylists.
Glynn Jackson had his own rude awakening about five years ago when he discovered that a hair care company that had sponsored his events began sponsoring similar events in Africa and Europe—using the Golden Scissors trademark. With limited resources to wage a global legal battle, he had to react quickly.
That’s why, these days, he spends a lot of his time shuttling between his home near Washington, D.C., and the Dominican Republic and Miami, where he’s put on shows that feature both African-American and Latino stylists. He quickly launched a Spanish-language Web site, www.glynnjacksondr.com. And this weekend, 12 stylists from the Dominican Republic will be traveling to the U.S. for the first time to compete at Washington, D.C.’s Convention Center.
Glynn has gotten some pushback from black stylists he’s known over the decades who see his inroads in the Latino market as a betrayal. Given his own struggles with the economy and shrinking corporate support for his shows, he feels their pain. But he mostly reacts with a shrug.
“I see in the future that African-American stylists will have to change,” he told me. “They will have to make some adjustments. There is no question that African-American stylists are among the most creative people on the planet. But they will have to do what I do—reinvent themselves.”
Natalie Hopkinson is associate editor of The Root. Follow her on Twitter.
Natalie Hopkinson is a Washington, D.C.-based author whose current projects deal with the arts, gender and public life. She is the author of Go-Go Live: The Musical Life and Death of a Chocolate City. Follow her on Twitter.