Performer Fights for Hairstyling Diversity on TV & Film Sets

Black women in the film and TV industry struggle to find hairstyling diversity on set. Jessica Walker from wants to fix that

Jessica Walker, founder of AfroIsMassive

London-based performer Jessica Walker founded the online platform to give hairstylists advice on working with afro hair. After experiencing hairdressers in the film and TV industry, Walker learned that many of them aren’t educated on how to treat different textures.

“I got my first film job just after completing my dance degree,” she said. “I noticed straightaway on my first job that the styling team didn’t have any diversity within it. The lead stylist didn’t know how to work with afro hair – and pretty much all of the rest of the team were the same.”

Walker remembers how uncomfortable it was to be in the stylist room where no one knew what to do with her hair. “Subconscious biases come into play when these people are given hair they know they can’t work with – calling it wild and untameable which is dehumanising and problematising the Black body,” she said.

On-set stylists can’t do my hair, says Jessica

According to Walker, many stylists aren’t taught how to style afro hair in school, which leads to damage for their clients with different textures.

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As a performer, Walker feels that the diversity in the film and TV industry is only surface level. She said the industry wants to use Black bodies, but doesn’t want to recognise the discrimination that they experience. 

“Black performers have been told by their agents to stop speaking out on racism online,” she said. “We have to change this standard so that we can safeguard future Black performers looking to get into the industry and ensure they don’t experience this too.”

From school to set

Walker, who is from Buckinghamshire, connects her experiences on sets with ones she had in school. “There was one day when I wasn’t let into a classroom because of my hair – I was told it was too ‘distracting’. I wasn’t let back into the classroom unless I had a plastic bag on my head,” she said. “When you’re 15, you don’t know how to protect yourself and you think you’re the issue – just like how I was made to feel on those film sets.”

There was one day when I wasn’t let into a classroom because of my hair – I was told it was too ‘distracting’. I wasn’t let back into the classroom unless I had a plastic bag on my head.

Jessica Walker, founder of AfroIsMassive

The inspiration behind Walker’s online platform came from one of her encounters at school. “I was called ‘AfroIsMassive’ in the style of that ‘Jungle is Massive’ song, but now I’ve turned it into a way to talk positively about afro hair. When I first looked up afro hair on YouTube, I’d never seen Black women talk about their hair positively so AfroIsMassive is my answer to it always being seen as a problem or inconvenience.”

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You can check out the online platform here.

Hair discrimination has to stop…

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