JENNIE Roberts

I’m not going to lie... I’ve enjoyed being the different one in the room, all of my life. 

 

I’ve used it to my advantage.  

I get noticed more and I do get asked questions about my ethnicity all the time and I love it.  

I love sharing the story of how my black African grandfather came to Manchester from Ghana to study in the 1940’s. He was an MP in Accra in my teens. I love telling the story of how my white grandmother was spat at and shunned by her family and friends for having mixed race kids (and seeing the shock on their faces). I love telling them that white people are capable of falling in love with black people and how successful that family can be in in adopting and embracing two cultures. I love telling them that my light skinned kids want to be darker like their Grandma. I love people touching my hair and asking questions so I can answer them and educate and inform them. I love it when people compliment my ‘tan’ and wrinkle free skin.  

What I don’t love is the eye rolling from white friends I get when I say how I was followed around the supermarket and beauty shop by security guards or how someone just racially abused me in front of my then husband and friends and they did nothing to defend me (I’m not married to him anymore). I don’t love how people are quick to say you’ve got a chip on your shoulder if you tell them about how the hotel door man didn’t bother to help you with heavy cases even though it was a struggle, but helped other people. I don’t love it my when I tell my white colleagues that I have just created an Afro hair course to train salon owners how to do textured hair, and then they tell me there’s no market for a black hair stylist in Putney/Clapham or Fulham etc.  

Women of colour live everywhere white people!!  

I’m training Oscar and BAFTA winners, and well-known West End salons are coming to me to train because beauty colleges and the NVQ haven’t made Afro textured hair a part of the overall compulsory training in hair cutting and styling, not feeling it was relevant!!... 

So ‘friends’ stop rolling your eyes and open them up to the need that is out there. I get it all the time but I guess I’ve just come to expect it.  

 
I have been a hair stylist for 35+ years now but over the last ten years I have been contributing to magazines and educating people about Afro hair. The Afro hair movement is massive and has gained a huge following of people wearing their hair natural and I’m so involved with that right now. I always have been but now it suddenly ‘matters. It seems The Universe has brought me a new family of support. Black actors, models, directors. A family that I’d been missing without really knowing it. I’ve finally started to work with people of colour in my industry because of my knowledge with Afro hair, it seems after all of these years of being the ‘only one’ in the room I now have company and I love it!! I’ll keep killing with kindness and enjoy not looking like everyone else. 

Session Hair Stylist, Mens Grooming and Afro Textured Hair Educator at K. F. Hair Styling Academy. She started her career working in the music industry where she has worked with artists such as Rita Ora, Jessie Ware and Ella Eyre. She is also regularly requested by A-listers from Willem Dafoe, Leonardo Di Caprio, Jake Gyllenhaal, Idris Elba & Chiwetel Ejiofor to Thandie Newton.

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