Being the only black person in the small town I grew up in had its upsides and its downsides.
As children, we are all just trying to find our niche, our group, our squad but when you so visibly stand out from everyone else that crisis of identity takes on new meanings and brings with it different challenges.
So, a bit of background for context - I was born in Glasgow in 1968 to a Ghanaian father and Scottish mother. I was fostered by a white Scottish couple, the Coopers, who then went on to adopt me. I grew up in the mining town of Lesmahagow (the 'Gow'). My parents went on to adopt another child a few years later and my sister Gillian and I were...literally.... the only black people in the town.
I remember, vividly, my mother struggling with our hair - despite being a hairdresser herself. And I can remember deciding to take matters into my own hands and figure out my hair and its issues myself. It is definitely part of what drove me to hairdressing. I needed to know how to work with my hair and make it do what I wanted. My daughters laugh now at the various photos I have of all the hair style phases I went through. The 80's have a lot to answer for!
But it was trial and error. Learning my hair's limitations but also loving it's versatility. My love of curls comes from that early relationship with my hair and how it helped me define myself in an environment where I wanted to control the reason why I stood out from the crowd. I wasn't Scott the black guy, I was Scott who knew about hair and knew about style and would do everyone's hair to make them look good!
Before I knew it, I was the youngest franchisee of, what was then, Scotland's largest hairdressing group and my career was on its way.
Back then the choice of products and access to information was really limited. I had to create my own hybrid products by mixing setting lotions and gels together etc. Now the curly hair industry is massive and you don't need to go far to find an online tutorial or method to work your curls. I love the access to all of this. People are enjoying their curls and embracing their natural texture in all it's glory.
The only thing I would say about that is to remember that each curly head is entirely individual. Not all products, methods, techniques are going to work the same on every head. Which is also an ethos I try and bring to my chair. It's not one size fits all - every curl client is very different. Even the curls on one head can be a different texture from front to back, side to side, hair line to nape!
I had to embrace what was individual about my hair before I could really experiment with my look and enjoy it! And I want all of my clients but especially the kids, who are maybe struggling to work with their natural texture, to learn to embrace their curl. Embrace the individuality it gives them. And learn that once you figure out which products, which method, which techniques work for you - based on where you are at the moment - you can start to really have fun with your look! And learn to use that as an expression of who you are, not as a reminder of your difference.