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Youma Wague
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Youma Wague is educating the fashion industry on Black hair


TextAlex Peters

Youma’s Natural Hair Workshop trains hairstylists with the skills they need to work with natural hair

The fashion industry has a long history of ignorance around Black hair, proving over and over that it doesn’t know what to do with it and often isn’t particularly bothered to find out. 

Numerous models including Naomi Campbell have spoken out on their experiences over the years dealing with hairstylists who were unprepared to work with Black models, while stylists like Lacy Redway have shared stories about being the only person backstage able to work with Black hair. In 2019, model Olivia Anakwe called out the industry in a viral Instagram post which described an experience during Paris Fashion Week where the only person backstage able to braid her hair was the nail artist.

Dazed is not exempt from this. In 2018, during a shoot for the magazine, model Youma Wague encountered a hairstylist who did not have the skill set to style her hair and ended up damaging it. It was one of many similar experiences on set and after discussing the problem with other Black models as well as with hairstylists, she realised the problem starts with beauty schools which tend not to teach students how to work with natural hair. In an effort to change things, Wague created Youma’s Natural Hair Workshop, a sensitivity and technical training workshop where hairstylists can become Texture Positive certified. 

The workshop is an extension of her brand Youma’s Beauty which she launched in 2016 with the brand’s signature product Hair Bloom Oil, a deep conditioning treatment which helps restore hair damaged by heat and chemicals. The oil was an instant success, quickly being stocked in Harlem’s biggest beauty store Apollo Beauty Land. Last year, Wague was chosen as one of ten finalists by a panel of P&G Executives to receive mentorship, growth opportunities, and a grant, as part of the Aussie Hair x Her Campus Business Plan Competition.

Now, as we eagerly await the release of a documentary she began filming in 2019 around the experiences of Black models in the fashion industry, we caught up with Wague to find out more about the brand and workshops. 

What made you want to launch Youma’s Beauty?

Youma Wague: I launched Youma’s Beauty after going through multiple phases of hair damage due to my adolescent self straightening and relaxing my hair to conform to society's standard of beautiful hair; which is straight hair. Straight hair that I do not have and straight hair that I will never have. 

Beginning in middle school to high school I hated my hair and I wanted to look like the women I saw everyday on television, in magazines, and in films with straight flowy hair. As a result of applying constant heat and chemical treatments to achieve straight hair, I lost my natural curl pattern, my hair went from 14 to seven inches and was no longer thick and healthy. So I began researching natural ingredients that could restore my hair and created Hair Bloom, a deep conditioning oil which restores damaged natural hair under my brand Youma’s Beauty.

How did you come up with the idea for the Natural Hair Workshop? 

Youma Wague: The idea came to me in 2019 when I hosted my first Youma’s Natural Hair workshop for Okay Africa. The audience loved it and I thought to myself ‘Wow! This would be an amazing educational opportunity for hairstylists.’ I encounter so many hairstylists on set who were not taught how to work with natural hair but maybe if they were presented with the opportunity to learn, they would. 

What will participants get out of attending the workshop?

Youma Wague: Participants who complete Youma’s Natural Hair Workshop will not only combat natural hair discrimination but grow their clientele and expand their career. Youma’s Natural Hair Workshop offers comprehensible sensitivity, natural haircare and styling training where stylists actually get hands on practice with all the tools and products necessary to do natural hair. You can sign up here.

What advice would you give to a hairstylist embarrassed to admit their shortcomings with natural hair? 

Youma Wague: Don’t be embarrassed. Educate yourself with opportunities such as The Natural Hair Workshop. There is literally no excuse not to. 

What are some of the misconceptions around natural hair?

Youma Wague: One common misconception about natural hair is that it is “difficult” hair, when in fact natural hair is the most versatile hair type. Things like heat, chemicals, and even shampooing daily make our hair fragile and weak and so it requires a specific kind of care that is comprehensible. Once you learn the basic techniques of maintaining natural hair, the styling part will flow through you gracefully. 

What improvements have you seen in the industry since you shot for Dazed back in 2018? 

Youma Wague: I see more models of colour speaking up about what we go through on set with natural hair. Before, models were scared to speak up, afraid they wouldn't book jobs but our message is not hate, it’s please self educate! Respectfully.

How else would you like to see the fashion/beauty industry improve for WOC?

Youma Wague: More hair and make-up artists who are WOC. It’s very common to be on set and the only Black people there are the talent. Everyone else on the production side is white – please hire Black creatives!

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