For people across the globe, this year has not panned out as planned. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic brought life as we know it to a screeching halt. Then, the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd brought our community out into the streets amid a pandemic, demanding accountability, change, and an anti-racist society. All of this left little room for Black women to take care of themselves. As the backbone of the Black community, most Black women, regardless of their socioeconomic status, put others before themselves. With hair salons and beauty supply stores shut down around the country, Black women weren't even able to indulge in the traditional self-care practice of caring for their hair.
While a lot of us have learned to style and care for our hair at home, going to the salon is a ritual for many. It's an experience that cannot be replaced. Growing up, many Black women spent Saturdays sitting under the hairdryer or anticipating that first look in the mirror as our stylist twisted their fingers and tools in our tresses. Even if the salon wasn't a ritual for you, Black women share a collective memory of sitting between a matriarch's knees, getting our hair plaited, or our scalps greased.
Salon experiences now look very different than the ones we grew up with, but their significance has remained the same. During such tumultuous times when many of us were trying to hold on to some semblance of joy, Swivel Beauty founders Jihan Thompson and Jennifer Lambert stepped in to fill the gap. Founded in 2016, Swivel Beauty matches women of color with knowledgeable stylists across the country. The app is committed to uniting reputable stylists with Black women everywhere.
Amid the pandemic, Swivel, in partnership with Unilever sister brands: Dove, Suave, and SheaMoisture, launched the #WashDayLive campaign. Though they were unable to meet in person, this kept women and their stylists connected. More importantly, the dialogue that Black women have around their hair was not stifled or suppressed. The virtual wash day appointments were at no cost to the client, but put much-needed money in stylists' hands. Swivel and Unilever gave Black women the comfort of interacting with their stylists while providing them with some much-deserved self-care.
Amid the #WashDayLive campaign, Dove launched its new Amplified Textures collection. Celebrity hairstylist Ursula Stephen and influencer Naturally Nella gave tips to new naturalistas, had styling demos, and engaged in dialogue about maintaining and freshening natural hair from the comfort of your home. In the first two weeks of its launch, Swivel Beauty x Unilever booked over 600 virtual appointments, extending #WashDayLive into mid-June for women in locations hit hardest by the pandemic.
A workout enthusiast, I began the pandemic with fuzzy knotless braids that desperately needed to be taken out. After holding on to them for several weeks past their expiration date, I washed my hair and wore my signature afro puff. Unfortunately, due to my near-daily sweat sessions and a past-due trim, my hair grew increasingly dry and began to shed.
As someone who has worked diligently on my hair over the past year, thickening my edges and regaining length, I was distraught. It was also unhelpful that beauty supply stores remained closed in NYC for 13 weeks. After hearing about #WashDayLive, I jumped at the chance to see my stylist Ebony of Textured Press and Majestic Hair Studio for the first time in months via Zoom.
Though the session was virtual, we went through my at-home hair care, step-by-step. Ebony educated me on some new product recommendations, including the Dove Amplified Textures Hydrating Shampoo, the Super Slip Detangling Conditioner, and the Moisture Locking Leave-In Conditioner. Ebony addressed why she felt these items would work for my hair and its particular issues.
Due to my workout regime, she also recommended Sea Breeze on my scalp a couple of times a week to combat sweat smells, as well as aloe vera gel and her own Black Magic Oil that I keep on deck in my apartment for retaining moisture. Most importantly, she was able to walk me through a light trim for my suffering ends.
Black women entrepreneurs have been deeply hurt by the financial devastation that came with the pandemic. Likewise, as essential workers, mothers, and people just trying to get through the day, Black women suffered a great deal physically and mentally in general. Swivel and Unilever allowed us a moment of levity and sisterhood with a familiar face during a time when we needed it the most. They did this without trivializing how important our crowns are to us. We are embarking on a new normal now, and even though virtual appointments certainly don't feel the same as sitting in that chair, knowing that Black wellness can be accessible for Black women in various forms makes all of the difference.