Meet Chrissy Zemura; the Sydney based hairstylist, colourist and educator facilitating one all too vital conversation – namely the all too prevalent absence of Afro, Curly and Textured hair education in hairdressing training programs across Australia.
At the heart of her efforts? A petition urging both the Australian Ministry for Tertiary Education and relevant Heads of Education to incorporate Afro Hair focused training into local syllabuses (including TAFE’s CERT III in Hairdressing and equivalent education schemes).
Extending far past the realms of social media coverage, Chrissy’s efforts align with so many who (in concurrence with the profoundly timely Black Lives Matter movement) are working tirelessly to amplify and support Black voices and subject matter across all facets of industry.
While her primary goal is to ensure Afro Hair training and education become industry standard, it’s a conversation that extends further still; one that aims to facilitate a large scale zeitgeist shift towards inclusivity across the hair, beauty and fashion sectors and beyond.
We caught up with Chrissy to learn more about the state of Afro and Curly Hair Education in Australia, how the industry can help prompt a larger scale shift in behaviours and how other hairdressers and allies can get behind this movement.
UPDATE: In case you missed our Instagram LIVE interview with Chrissy, check it out below.
TJ: In your opinion, why is it so important that Afro and Curly hair be added to hairdressing education curriculums including the Cert III in Hairdressing?
CZ: As it currently stands, Afro and Curly Hair are not included in the Certificate III in Hairdressing in Australia. This is something we need to change quickly and it’s important for us as an industry to be on the right side of history and to make the right changes to accomodate our diverse nation.
To me, [the omission of Afro and Curly Hair education] is much like excluding people with different hair types (e.g. fine hair). It’s not just a POC issue; it’s something we should be addressing as a collective. There are so many individuals with curly or textured hair who encounter the same issues with accessing these services.
TJ: What prompted you to start the petition?
CZ: The goal is to ultimately reach the Minister for Tertiary Education and TAFE Board Members in Australia, so that necessary changes may be made to the education [curriculum]. Thus far, I’ve been flooded with support from the industry – from other hairdressers to brands.
I thought it would be a great chance to get the conversation started. Now that we are building momentum, the idea is to keep spreading the word among our industry peers so we can facilitate that change.
TJ: Why do you think this area of training has been so under serviced over the past few years?
CZ: In my opinion, I think this stems from hairdressing education models enforcing euro-centric beauty standards, that scarcely include curly or textured hair. The makeup of Australia is so diverse – with so many different identities and nationalities – it only makes sense for different types of training and education to be made more accessible.
TJ: How do you think these standards extend to the creative and fashion industries at large?
CZ: What I’ve noticed [over my years of assisting and styling on set] is that when a stylist is presented with a model who has naturally curly hair, there is an instinct to straighten or blow-dry the hair – rather than embrace the model’s natural texture.
Unfortunately, this is often done without [an informed knowledge of textured hair types] and an understanding of the damage this can cause for such hair types in the long run.
It’s not the fault of the hairdresser – most hairdressers qualify with an education that neglects this aspect of training. Stylists should feel confident [caring for and styling all texture types]. Just as clients should feel comfortable with their hairdresser.
TJ: …hence the need for a global shift. Did you notice this gap in training while you were completing your own studies? How did you overcome this?
CZ: I was lucky enough to have plenty of access to people with Curly and Afro Hair. I’m originally from Zimbabwe [and during my visits there] I completely threw myself into it’s local hairdressing industry, helping [and learning from] other hairdressers wherever I could.
It’s something I had to learn as I went. I really had to be proactive; to seek out those avenues that could better equip me for all circumstances. For me, it didn’t make sense to be a hairdresser who could not cater to all hair types – let alone my own hair type.
TJ: Talk us through the specialised subjects that Curly and Afro hair education should encompass.
CZ: Key focus areas should include treating Afro hair – it’s something that’s almost as basic as the simple washing and conditioning of Afro hair (which has its own specific needs). Many people don’t even know how to condition and apply conditioning products to every strand.
Also cutting, styling, colouring, as well as product and tool selection to name a few other important areas.
TJ: In your opinion, how can shifts in the hairdressing industry prompt larger scale shifts in the fashion industry, corporate sector and beyond?
CZ: Hairdressing is really the cornerstone of so much. Even during the recent pandemic, hairdressing has continued to be regarded as an essential service. Media can’t function without hairdressing; nor can film or fashion. It’s a huge pillar to so many industries.
Even when you consider clients – EVERYONE has a hairdresser. Even during times [such as the present in which so many] people are struggling with their incomes – they’re still more likely to scale back as opposed to cancel their hair services all together.
Being in such a pivotal position means we are at the forefront of change. If the hair industry is able to [make strides towards inclusivity and the incorporation of Afro and Curly hair education], the brands and fashion houses who consult them will soon follow suit by incorporating [these looks and standards] into their briefs.
[Likewise, as these trends become more large-scale, this will trickle through into all other aspects of industry] including, for example, the corporate sector – where so many look to fashion trends for inspiration.
The ultimate goal is to change the conscious of our subconscious; to facilitate and steer the conversation.