Muncie Education in Biracial Hair class aims to change the beauty industry

Erica Robinson Moody laughs while doing her son Brooklyn's hair Jan. 27. Erica's mission statement for her classes is "bridging the cultural gaps in the beauty community," and she is very focused on cultural hair education. Maya Wilkins, DN
Erica Robinson Moody laughs while doing her son Brooklyn's hair Jan. 27. Erica's mission statement for her classes is "bridging the cultural gaps in the beauty community," and she is very focused on cultural hair education. Maya Wilkins, DN

EDITORS NOTE: The original version of this story incorrectly stated the name of Erica Robinson Moody's husband. His name is Mel Moody and the mistake has been corrected.

In a room attached to the kitchen of Erica Robinson Moody’s home sits two salon chairs. A cabinet is filled with different colored hair dyes, an apron hangs on a hook near a large mirror and products stand in single-file lines on the counters. 

Her son, Brooklyn Moody, sits in a salon chair where his mom said he often falls asleep, while she takes a comb, twirls it tightly on a small section of his hair and creates a tight, springy curl an inch or two in length. Dozens of these curls lie across his head.

Brooklyn’s hairstyle takes 45 minutes to style this way, and the style only stays for about a week —  a reality for biracial hair.

Erica is a stylist and, while styling Brooklyn and her daughter Ayreonna’s hair may seem painless now, it hasn’t always been this way. During Brooklyn’s youth, Erica didn’t have as much education on textured hair, with only a chapter of her textbook in beauty school focusing on it.

“There’d be times where I’d be like, ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry’… as I’m yanking on their heads trying to get their hair,” Erica said. “They’re screaming and crying, and I feel bad.”

After learning how to style biracial hair through advice from co-workers and family, educational resources on the internet and experience with her own children, Erica decided to lead a new class at her salon. Her first class of An Education in Biracial Hair Feb. 17 will focus on families and how to style textured hair of biracial family members while future classes will help biracial people style their own hair and teach stylists how to style textured hair.

Through their own research, Erica and her business mentor, Heather Roundtree—who Erica met at a Women in Business event— noticed there were typically only white and Black salons in Muncie, but no salon that could do all types of hair. Erica’s husband, Mel Moody, noticed this as well.

“You go into a Black barber shop, and you ask [the Black barber] to do a certain style, and [they say, ‘I can’t do that style’] because they’re not good with scissors —  they just use clippers,” he said. “You go into a white shop to get your hair done, and they don’t know how to use clippers because they’re just using scissors.”

Mel said he believes the only way to make everyone — such as biracial and foster families — feel comfortable and at ease to ask questions about hair is to “have [the hairstyling] all under one roof,” with stylists able to work with different kinds of hair.

Kristopher Nevings, a previous beauty student of Erica’s and one of the people helping Erica with her classes, said he learned the bare minimum about textured hair in his textbook at beauty school.

“It's 2022, and we still haven’t seen any kind of change or [diversification] in what beauty standards and beauty schools are being taught,” Nevings said. 

Erica said when she had biracial children, she felt “in the dark,” despite being a hair professional. She said she thinks having a place to talk about biracial hair, ask questions and not feel judged will help people feel more at ease.

“White people are scared to ask Black people how to do hair. Black people are not necessarily willing to talk to white people about it,” Erica said. “They’re also scared to ask white people how to do certain types of things with hair, too. There is still this block where nobody’s communicating with each other.”

For Mel, he feels the Black community holds a sensitivity when it comes to their hair. When he was growing up, it was common to hear that if a Black person allowed a white stylist to touch their hair, the Black person’s hair would fall out, Mel said.

“What they got that from though [is], normally, if they went to somebody who was Caucasian and got their hair cut, [the Black person] would say, ‘Just cut this much off,’ and [the white stylist] would cut it all the way up … because it was a different texture of hair [and would curl up],” Mel said. “So it became, ‘Don’t touch my hair.’”

Ayreonna said she’s “uncomfortable” with people touching her hair, and Brooklyn said people touch his hair “all the time.” He said that he, along with the Black community as a whole, doesn’t like people touching his hair, but that those people— in his experience, white people — don’t care.

“‘Oh, your hair’s poofy. Can I feel it? Oh, your hair is pretty curly. Can I feel it? I’ve never felt a black guy’s hair before. Can I feel it?’” he said, acting like the people who try to touch his hair.

Erica said when her children were babies, some people went to touch their hair before even asking to hold them. 

Nevings said this was “intrusive” when he experienced it in his childhood.

“When I would sit [in my grandmother’s] salon, most of the people sitting around were older white men, and they would just gawk at my hair … they would go in and just touch it without asking,” Nevings said. “Even as a kid it bothered me, but I didn’t know how to articulate that.”

Nevings believes loved ones being able to do their biracial child’s hair contributes to parents’ ability to teach their kids to love their hair, as his grandmother did for him. He wants to be a part of these classes because they allow him to help other biracial people with their hair — help he said he didn’t have growing up with a process that was difficult for him.

“[My hair] would get so matted. I was just going at it wildly and getting angrier and angrier as it got more and more matted,” Nevings said. “I remember growing up I wanted to have my hair cut a certain way, but I couldn’t because I didn’t have the same texture [of] hair as someone else in my class, and that was frustrating to me.”

Erica said that Ayreonna specifically has struggled with not having a lot of kids that look like her at school.

“I’ll find kids and they’ll either be Black or white. I’ve only seen a few mixed kids and they’re mostly boys,” Ayreonna said.

Erica wants her classes to be a place without judgment where people can ask questions. She said when she was learning, she didn’t want to feel stupid when asking questions and she didn’t want people to judge her, thinking she should know how to do her kids' hair. 

“I am in a lot of Facebook groups for mixed families  … but, even on there, I see people who will put, ‘Please no negative comments’ or ‘I just need positive reinforcement,’” Erica said, “because some people will talk crap about their first time doing a hairstyle or the learning process, or they think they should’ve used a different product or a different tool.”

Roundtree saw how “very emotional” the struggling biracial families were about their stories. Being a mother herself, she’d feel “like [she] was failing a little bit” if she couldn’t do her children’s hair, and she finds the hope Erica gives to the families most impactful, she said.

“To see the excitement and the hope that she’s giving people in something [as] small as being able to fix their kids' hair … makes me tear up every time because if you can give hope to somebody … you can change their entire life,” Roundtree said.

Along with the two other versions of the class, Erica plans on continuing her effort to change the beauty industry by learning how to do the hair of “as many people who don’t look like [her] as possible.” She said the biracial hair classes are “just the tip of the iceberg.”

Contact Elissa Maudlin with comments at or on Twitter @ejmaudlin.


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