Tag: Lori Tharps

“You Are So Beautiful!”: Adoptive Mom Lauren Casper Bonds with Daughter Arsema, 3, Over Hair Care

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Three-year-old Arsema watches a movie during the weekly mother-daughter hairstyle sessions. (Photo: Lauren Casper)

For mom and blogger Lauren Casper, doing her daughter’s hair is something she thought about even before she brought her baby home. Arsema, now 3, was four months old when Casper and her husband adopted her from Ethiopia. “Prior to her coming home, I had researched as much as I could about black culture and raising black children,” Casper, who is white, tells Yahoo Parenting. “For raising a girl specifically, I was learning how important black hair is in the culture. And while I was well-versed in my own hair, that is obviously very different.”

In an essay posted on Today’s community blog this week, Casper writes about watching YouTube videos and scoping out Pinterest boards to learn to style her daughter’s hair, and the mother-daughter bonding time that has resulted. “As the white mother of a beautiful black daughter, hair care has been a steep learning curve for me,” she writes.

“I want my daughter to love her hair and be proud of the springy black curls that cover her head. I want to be able to care for and style her hair in a way shows I understand that her hair is different and I celebrate her unique beauty.”

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Lauren Casper lets her daughter Arsema, 3, pick out a new hairstyle each week. (Photo: Lauren Casper)

Every Saturday evening, Casper and Arsema have their weekly styling sessions. “We do the big shampoo and condition and she picks a style from my Pinterest board,” Casper says. Arsema settles in with a movie on the laptop, while Casper gets to styling. “The shortest amount of time it takes me is 30-45 minutes with the detangling and the parting, even just for braids or puffs,” she says. “The longest we have ever done is two hours – that one stayed in for two weeks.”

Casper says she loves this special mother-daughter time, especially because she’s always loved doing her own hair. “I like doing hair. And when Arsema came home, I recognized I was in over my head for a little while. But it’s fun for me and I wanted to do this with her,” she says. “It’s like when I’m getting ready in the morning and doing my makeup, she pulls up a chair in the bathroom and does lipstick, too. They are fun moments.”

But for this pair, the hairstyling is about more than just getting primped. “I’ve learned from talking to my friends and doing research into black culture that hair is really important. And so I want to do everything I can to celebrate and enter into the culture that my daughter is a part of,” she says. “I realize that I’m still on the outside looking in and will never fully understand, but I want to do everything I can to keep Arsema connected to that as much as possible. I want her to love everything about herself. I want her to love her hair, her skin, and part of helping her love her hair and have that positive body image is caring for it and making sure it’s healthy and that styling it is a fun and a positive experience.”

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Beauty Supply Store Owners Judian and Kadeian Brown on Forefront of Growing Business Opportunity for Black Women: Hair Care

Kadeian Brown, left, and Judian Brown own Black Girls Divine Beauty Supply and Salon, off Church Avenue in Flatbush, Brooklyn. (Kirsten Luce for The New York Times)

Not much seems unusual about Judian Brown and Kadeian Brown’s storefront in a tidy plaza off Church Avenue in Flatbush, Brooklyn, a neighborhood where every block seems to have its own African hair-braiding salon.

Posters of African-American women with long, sleek hair fill the window. Round jars of shea butter belly up to slender boxes of hair dye on the shelves. Wigs perch on mannequin heads.

What makes Black Girls Divine Beauty Supply and Salon’s visitors do a double-take is the skin color of the proprietors. “I go, ‘Look at all the faces on the boxes,’ ” said Judian Brown, recalling other shopkeepers’ and customers’ surprise when they realize she is not an employee, but the owner. “Who should be owning these stores?”

The Brown sisters’ is one small shop in a multibillion-dollar industry, centered on something that is both a point of pride and a political flash point for black women: their hair. But the Browns are among only a few hundred black owners of the roughly 10,000 stores that sell hair products like relaxers, curl creams, wigs and hair weaves to black women, not just in New York but across the country. The vast majority have Korean-American owners, a phenomenon dating back to the 1970s that has stoked tensions between black consumers and Korean businesspeople over what some black people see as one ethnic group profiting from, yet shutting out, another.

A growing awareness of this imbalance has spurred more black people to hang out their own shingles. The people producing the products have changed, too: As “going natural” — abandoning artificially smoothed hair in favor of naturally textured curls and braids — has become more popular and the Internet has expanded, black entrepreneurs, most of them women, are claiming a bigger share of the shelves in women’s medicine cabinets.

“We’re aware of where our dollars are going, we’re aware of the power of our dollars, we’re aware of the cultural significance of the way that we choose to wear our hair,” said Patrice Grell Yursik, the founder of Afrobella, a popular natural-hair blog. “There’s been a lot of taking back the power, and a lot of that is from the Internet.”

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