Processing Privilege at the Texture Vs. Race Summit ‘22

12/07/2022

For years now, hairstylist and DEI expert Keya Neal has put on the Texture Vs. Race Summit with the goal of addressing the salon professional industry’s preference for straight hair and reluctance to decenter whiteness in education, product R&D, marketing and more. As she says, Neal hopes to “change minds, open hearts and move hands — in that order” via hands-in-hair instruction

For the TVR Summit ’22, Neal and her collaborative of artists came to Baltimore, Maryland — a small Mid-Atlantic city with a deeply entrenched history of racial segregation — holding the event in the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park Museum from November 27-29, 2022.

The exterior of the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park Museum in the rain — the location of the TVR Summit ’22, November 27-29, 2022. This museum and event space national heritage site celebrates the contributions of African Americans in the development of Baltimore’s maritime industry.

Location, Location, Location

Frederick Douglass was a famous abolitionist born in Maryland, who’d authored Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written By Himself. Like Douglass, Neal is a pragmatist and believes institutions, systems and even industries can be reformed.

The TVR Summit ’22 set out a path for attendees to do just that, moving forward, sometimes if only by failing, with Neal and coaches encouraging everyone to “be in a process.”

A bronze sculpture of Frederick Douglass by Marc Andre Robinson sits outside of the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park Museum. The bust stands 6 feet tall and weighs 1,100 lbs.

Spanning three days, and two floors, the TVR Summit ’22 programming was broken into two parts: a keynote by Neal and presentations from sponsors (and a soirée) on day 1, and breakout sessions with live models and mannequins on days 2-3. Neal functioned as both a motivational speaker and moderator of incredibly challenging conversations about access and opportunities afforded certain kinds of hairstylists within the salon professional industry.

Charming balloon installations, created and constructed by a team of Black women, and instagrammable “moments” provided necessary lightness where conversations continued during coffee and snack breaks.

A Texture Vs. Race Summit balloon installation on display throughout. The TVR team had several “moments” for attendees across two floors.

It Will Take a Village

With a theme of “Fabric + Community,” Neal established that understanding the many hair textures we see across the globe is a necessary first step in creating a more inclusive salon professional industry and can even prevent future harm.

Curly hair is not ‘hard to do.’ You just have to learn how to do it. Hair is hair, but the rules of engagement are different.

Keya Neal on stage at the TVR Summit ’22

Neal and the TVR Collaborative courted brands actively working to bring “textured hair” out of the margins. Joico was the TVR Summit ’22 title sponsor, hosting the TVR soirée, providing education and product for uniquely co-branded swag bags for attendees. SalonCentric was the event’s platinum sponsor, sending DJ Bryan Junior (who had a song for every moment) and a magazine booth to take #TVRSummit selfies.

Hairstylist and TVR Collaborative artist Jamez Smith on stage with his model revealing the ultimate in fantasy colors during the Joico brand presentation at the TVR Summit ’22. Joico was a TVR title sponsor.

Other sponsors with mind-blowing stage presentations, rivaling any trade show, included Schwarzkopf Professional, Essations and Blonde Solutions. Non-toxic hair care brand Fey’ Kare had an interactive display in the TVR gallery just outside of the main stage space with its founder speaking to harmful manufacturing practices and materials used in popular hair accessories at home and in the salon. Sponsors Mizani, K18 and AIIR™️ Haircare contributed to TVR gift bags.

The husband and wife, CEO and COO respectively, team behind Blonde Solutions on stage at the TVR Summit ’22.

Rooting Out Biases and Racism

On days 2 and 3 of the TVR summit, after day 1’s celebration of Black excellence in haircutting, coloring and styling, Neal got to work helping attendees to understand segregation within the salon professional industry hasn’t happened by mistake. On the contrary! Neal maintains the lack of education for stylists on textured hair stems from a lack of value of people with textured hair.

The TVR Summit ’22 main stage backdrop features overlapping, woven elements in the shape of their signature heart. The Summit’s theme? “Fabric + Community”!

Racism and white supremacy demand hierarchy and adopting behaviors to uphold status quo, disadvantaging some groups over others and creating distance between them. What’s more, policing and politicizing textured hair has long been a weapon of oppression.

Neal made it clear time and again “privilege is not having to know how to style textured hair.”

Susan L. Peterkin, professional stylist and founder of the Natural Hair Industry Convention, creates a protective hairstyle for her male model during a hands-on session on Day 2 of the TVR Summit ’22

To check that privilege and bring hairstylists unfamiliar with textured hair “up to speed,” Neal and the TVR Collaborative coaches devised breakout sessions for attendees. Eight models were assigned to coaches, representing common hair textures from tightly coiled to straight. Attendees were invited to a consultation in a rotating fashion and encouraged to touch models’ hair. Eventually they worked with TVR Collaborative coaches to shampoo and condition at bowls.

Keya Neal, founder of the TVR Summit, is all smiles during a breakout hands-on session during Day 2.

Noting that people of color can carry trauma related to their hair, Neal made clear that models had consented to being touched and suggested that attendees to talk with the models, handling their hair with respect. TVR Collaborative coaches, such as Susan L Peterkin above, demonstrated protective and other styling techniques. Other coaches dried and styled the models’ hair before presenting to the entire group.

Mannequin Heads and More

Later, TVR summit attendees received textured hair mannequin heads to prepare the hair for coloring and cutting the next day. (Premium mannequin heads from Black- and woman-owned brand, Lady M Mannequins were on display as well. Be sure to check them out!) And on day 3, attendees were treated to some “performances” from Neal and the TVR Collaborative Coaches in between world-class instruction on cutting technique and color treatments.

Dominique LyVar, Keya Neal, Adrienne Small and Eboni Chaise dancing to New Edition’s “If It Isn’t Love” on stage at the TVR Summit ’22 during a hands-on session.

As the event came to a close, attendees were invited to recap — to unpack and process learnings with Neal. A new, fragile sense of community had emerged with attendees and TVR Collaborative coaches crying through testimonials that were a mix of breakdowns and breakthroughs. The summit ended with a champagne toast to a more hopeful, inclusive future.

If you missed out on this year’s summit, we recommend insist that you make plans to attend whenever and wherever it returns next.

In the meantime, go ahead and follow the TVR Collaborative Coaches:

And to stay up to date on all things TVR, be sure to follow @texturevsrace on both Instagram and TikTok.

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Jeffrey Lunnen

Jeffrey C. Lunnen is the Editor in Chief of The Tease and co-host of The Volume Up Podcast. He is hair obsessed. Obviously!

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