Jada Pickett Smith as Jeryline in DEMON KNIGHT – 1995
Alex Datcher as Anne in BODY BAGS (THE GAS STATION segment) – 1993
Ndi Igbo Jikotanu Aka Volume 3
Not much seems unusual about Judian and Kadeian Brown’s storefront in a tidy plaza off Church Avenue in Flatbush, Brooklyn, a neighborhood where every block seems to have its own African hair-braiding salon.
Posters of African-American women with long, sleek hair fill the window. Round jars of shea butter belly up to slender boxes of hair dye on the shelves. Wigs perch on mannequin heads.
What makes Black Girls Divine Beauty Supply and Salon’s visitors do a double-take is the skin color of the proprietors. “I go, ‘Look at all the faces on the boxes,’ ” said Judian Brown, recalling other shopkeepers’ and customers’ surprise when they realize she is not an employee, but the owner. “Who should be owning these stores?”
The Brown sisters’ is one small shop in a multibillion-dollar industry, centered on something that is both a point of pride and a political flash point for black women: their hair. But the Browns are among only a few hundred black owners of the roughly 10,000 stores that sell hair products like relaxers, curl creams, wigs and hair weaves to black women, not just in New York but across the country.
People have been circulating a mislabeled photo that claims to be Esther Jones, whose singing style inspired the popular animated character Betty Boop. Despite the connection, this doesn’t make Betty Boop black.
“The shadow life. He saw it everywhere—it was a kind of second sight—but what use was it? He looked back at his passenger, her face anxious, turned away. Her window misted, a single cloud. What could she possibly see?”