Receiving a life-changing visit from the Fab 5 is the ultimate dream for Queer Eye fans, but nominees with textured hair miss out on the full “more than just a makeover” experience. In every episode, the five lifestyle gurus apply their top-notch expertise to transform an area of their client’s life — and most importantly, they do the work themselves.
Karamo Brown talks them through their personal barriers and trauma, Bobby Berk personally shops for and designs their renovated home, Antoni Porowski cooks a meal that’s personal to them, and Tan France takes them along for a desperately needed shopping spree to round out their wardrobe.
Jonathan Van Ness, as the show’s go-to grooming expert, does the same, cutting and coloring the client’s hair before drafting a new beauty routine on their behalf. He typically does this with his own two hands — except when the client has textured hair. That’s when he brings in loc experts or barbers comfortable with styling kinks and curls. But after five seasons, it’s about time he learned to do the work himself.
The lack of textured-hair training in the cosmetology industry has been an issue for virtually all recorded time. Many programs either gloss over the natural-hair segment or leave it out completely, turning Black hair care into a specialty area. Black women with coarse, kinky hair — especially those with 4c curls — are often charged more for salon visits, with stylists citing the extra work as reason for the discriminatory fee. Even salons geared toward curly-haired clients can freeze up when a glorious ‘fro walks in the door.
It’s gotten to the point where Black clients only trust Black stylists to treat their natural hair. But as more and more Black individuals embrace their natural hair in the workplace under protection of The CROWN Act, a reckoning with the industry is soon to be on the horizon.
With years and years of experience in the beauty industry, Van Ness has become a household name. He is a fabulous hairstylist, but he won’t be an expert until he learns to style all types of hair — not just the ones he’s familiar with. In a season five episode, Van Ness excused his recruitment of a locs expert with a joke about how he hasn’t touched locs since beauty school. He always praises Black clients for loving their natural curls and cultural locs, but if he truly respected the look, he would have learned to style it.
Queer Eye‘s touting of Van Ness as an expert stylist reasserts the harmful notion that white stylists do not need to be proficient in Black hair, as if Black hair isn’t in the canon of beauty. However, this logic doesn’t work the other way around, as Black stylists are expected to serve looks to their white clients alongside their Black ones.
White stylists are capable of joining the natural-hair movement if they’re willing to learn. Until Van Ness takes that next step, he’ll be an expert with an asterisk reading “type two and below.”
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