Cocktails + Conversations: The Root of the Issue
By Dominique Burton
On August 23, RUNGRL hosted Cocktails & Convos: The Root of the Issue at Taylor & York Salon in D.C. As we sipped wine and noshed on small bites, we had a very candid chat about all things hair, fitness and wellness.
Two experts joined our conversation: Ashleigh Taylor, founder and lead stylist at Taylor & York Salon, and Heather Wilson, owner of Worthy Fitness, LLC and co-author of “Love Affair With My Hair: Why Black Women Cheat On Health”.
“I don’t want to sweat my hair out” is a phrase that Black women have said or heard a million times in relation to exercise. While some outside of the African American community may not fully understand how hair maintenance can be a barrier to health and wellness, indeed researchers have found that about two of every five African-American women have said they avoid exercise because of concerns about their hair. That is especially concerning given the United States’ current obesity epidemic and the particular health disparities of Black women.
A Stylist’s Perspective
Ashleigh Taylor kicked off the important discussion by diving into her own experience as a stylist. Over the years, Ashleigh has realized whether a client was natural, had permed hair, wanted color added or was looking for the next major cut, one consistent theme has been that Black women need to work to “control the narrative of what we deem ‘good hair’." To Ashleigh, “good hair” is healthy hair. She also told the group, “You have to wear your hair, it cannot be wearing you. It is not your essence, nor your soul.”
But is it that simple? We discussed how many Black women must navigate the societal norms of what is considered “acceptable” for the office, for a date, or for other social circles and events. To maintain our hair and add personality, though we lean on our stylists and can often spend some major coin in the process.
More than just a place to get your hair done, for many Black women, the salon is a place of refuge. “We have personal relationships with our stylists. It’s almost like a second home,” said RUNGRL co-founder Stephani Franklin.
Ashleigh also shared advice on how to properly take care of your hair and scalp after workouts. You can plan your workouts around wash days or begin to co-wash more often. Protective styles are also a great option during warmer months to prevent heat damage and breakage.
The Fitness Expert
As a personal trainer and fitness expert, Heather Wilson is all too familiar with the struggle to care for hair while remaining active. However, our hair “cannot hold us hostage,” she said. “The unhealthy, three-way relationship between us, our hair and our health is actually killing us.” She shared her experience and insights from her book that gave context to the long-standing commitment Black women have to our hair by explaining the gap in health equity and its importance.
“The unhealthy, three-way relationship between us, our hair and our health is actually killing us.” - Heather Worthy, fitness expert and author
“We need balance in our lives,” said Heather. “That also means seeing the doctor just as regularly as we see our hair stylists.”
Heather's daily work, dedication and passion is driven by the need to get individuals up and moving. “Everyone has the opportunity to live a healthier life, no matter who we are, where we live, or how much money we make,” she said.
The RUNGRL Community
Elizabeth Rene, an attendee and RUNGRL contributor, shared the impact that sharing her healthier eating choices with others has had for her. “We need to lead by example to our family and friends by changing our habits with food and showing alternative options. They soon will follow our lead,” she said.
Another attendee, Traci Branch, a D.C. runner and mommy blogger, also shared how her natural hair journey was first met with some questioning from certain family members, but that it was her father who first encouraged her to make a big leap. “Having my Dad encourage me to embrace my natural hair was a game changer, especially because everyone else in my family had relaxers and weaves at the time,” she said.
Vecoya Banks, founder of Love The Hair You Wear, a RUNGRL event partner, described how as women we make time for what we want to do, and working out should be on the top of that list. It shouldn’t be a chore. “Learning more about hair through trial and error will get us there together,” she said.
This candid conversation was just one part of RUNGRL’s #MyRunningHair initiative that aims to eliminate hair care as an excuse for not exercising and staying active. Through informative articles, social media sharing and in-person events like this one, we are providing resources, tips and inspiration to the community to demonstrate that you can have both healthy, beautiful hair and live an active, healthy lifestyle.
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