On Saturday, Dec. 5, the Teen Vogue 2020 Summit took place virtually, in which they had multiple keynote speakers talking about the beauty and fashion industries. Tracee Ellis Ross was one of those speakers discussing her brand, Pattern Beauty, with Lindsay Peoples Wagner, editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue.
Having naturally tight curls, finding products that work and don’t damage my hair was a struggle. Many hair products that are marketed towards Black women are often made to do the bare minimum. Many products are heavy and weigh down our curls, when many of us love our volume, just not the frizz. Over the years, we have had to settle on products, but in 2019, Ross announced the release of her new brand that she had been working on for 10 years.
Pattern Beauty is for curly, coily and tight textures, as Ross’ brand proclaims. Since its launch into Ulta stores just days after its initial website launch, I have been purchasing Pattern Beauty products. Upon the second launch in June of styling tools and products, I invested in the shower brush and hair pick and I am excited to continue playing with the brand.
Pattern Beauty is a game-changer for the natural hair community. A very big issue we curly girls have when investing in products is that most brands make a “one-size fits all” curly hairline. These brands completely forget about the very diverse Black community. A product that may work for one hair texture will most likely not work on the next. Ross saw this issue and took it on head first, knowing it’d be a challenge to introduce a brand marketed towards the lost community to the beauty industry, but she didn’t give up.
The idea of making a curly hairline came up when Ross found out women wanted their hair to look like hers, rather than finding love within their own. Those 10 years of working on her brand were constantly met with the industry pushing back.
During the summit, she explains the beauty industry wasn’t receptive to helping and celebrating the mass market of curly hair. They simply took their time, but within this time Ross built up her information and now her website has a glossary for people to refer to when learning about natural hair terms such as damage, 3a-4c and kinky.
Photo credits: Tracee Ellis Ross' Instagram
As a mixed girl, I grew up using my mother’s hair products that were definitely not made for curly hair, box-relaxed my hair every few months and wore my hair in a braid because my mother and I didn’t want to deal with the knots. Brands like Pattern Beauty are companies that I look up to and thank every day I do my hair. Listening to Ross’ keynote, I felt connected to everything she was saying about curly hair and the struggles we face as natural curlies.
“We became chemists in our own bathrooms,” Ross explains when discussing how there were no real products for curly hair.
People with natural textures mixed products to make their own conditioners that moisturized and detangled, shampoos that clarified their scalps and styling products that tamed the frizz without dragging the curls down. This is an unfair process that many Black women had and still have to deal with while white women have products that are specifically made for their every wish and need all down the women’s hair aisle.
“‘Bouncin’ n behavin’.’ My hair wasn’t bouncin’ and behavin’. I put it somewhere and it stayed there!” Ross recounts the fact of how her hair behaves and I believe many Black people can relate to such a short and funny, but very true statement.
In elementary school, I would watch my peers put their long, straight hair into buns and ponytails and then later take them down, where their hair just needed a small tousle and it looked perfect again. I thought there was something wrong with my hair since every time I shoved my curls into a bun and then 10 minutes later pulled my scrunchie out (with a bit of a fight of course, because my hair liked to eat scrunchies), my hair would stay up, looking like a volcano.
Through the process of her brand being made, she learned important lessons that she shares with young entrepreneurs. One of them is that things may take longer than you expected, but it doesn’t mean you’re doing them wrong. All good things come in time, and the long haul will be worth it in the end.
She also goes on and explains how businesses often succeed when there is no one else already doing it, but it can be hard getting started on something not as well discussed. When she started creating Pattern Beauty, she ran into the fact that the beauty industry was majority white, and there wasn’t really a space for Black beauty creators. She had to work hard and push for her company to see the light.
Her advice to young business starters is, “If that table isn’t creating space for you, build your own table. Build your own community.”
Ross hints to everyone that there were be a third Pattern Beauty launch down the road. I am so grateful that I got to experience the Teen Vogue 2020 summit and excited to see what Ross has in store for Pattern Beauty.