Our curls and coils are not something that we can change and have every right to embrace. Our hair is beautiful and unique, and conformity takes that away. If other people of different hair types and textures are able to wear their hair naturally without fear of losing their job or punishment in school, then black people should be able to as well.
We want all of our black women, men, and children to understand that our hair is something we should be proud of and take pride in. As seen with the Crown Act, we think it’s wonderful that there are legal steps being taken to protect black people from hair discrimination by style and texture nationwide.
As a part of our series about “Five Things You Need To Understand About Hair Discrimination” I had the pleasure of interviewing Co-Founders of DreamGirls Tonya Thompson and Sharie Wilson.
Tonya Thompson and Sharie Wilson are healthy hair specialists and Founders of DreamGirls Hair, a results-producing beauty business that consists of two salon branches, and an all-inclusive hair transformative product line known as the DreamGirls Healthy Hair Care System for at-home hair care. DreamGirls has become a beacon of hope for all those who have suffered with damaged hair and lack of growth due to prior deprivation of proper hair care knowledge. With a strong desire to help women, especially Black women with their hair confidence, Tonya and her sister Sharie, worked from the bottom up and founded DreamGirls Hair salons in their hometown of Los Angeles, CA and Sacramento, CA.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit of your childhood backstory and how you grew up?
As Los Angeles girls who came from a middle working class family in the south side of the city, we didn’t always see a lot of wealth in our neighborhoods or even the possibility of what can be. As a result, we’ve always felt that we needed to see and do more. We want to bring our community with us on our journey and pour back our knowledge into others to help them achieve their goals whether it be for their hair, self-motivation, or running their own business, we want to help in any way that we can.”
Sharie: “When I was younger, there were some people who thought I wouldn’t amount to anything. They had all these assumptions of what my life would turn out to be and I wanted nothing more than to prove them wrong. This stuck with me, and I always felt the need to overextend myself through work. I later realized that the only people you need to prove anything to is yourself and God.”
Tonya: “I grew up inspired by the work ethics of my mom and dad. I did pretty well in school, but always knew that I didn’t want to be confined within the walls of a nine to five job. I was a natural expert with hair and did it throughout high school and college to make extra money, and even made my sister help me. I walked across the stage pregnant with twins as I received my B.A. in Journalism. After graduating from college, I started in sales for a large company, selling dictation and transcription systems to hospitals and law firms. When my daughters turned two, I purchased my first home, which led to my love for real estate investing. I bought, flipped, and held onto rental properties in my twenties. When my twins turned four, I had a vision of the children in our community learning at an accelerated level so that they would have a head start in their journey through school. I then decided to open a Pre-K through sixth grade private school, which turned into two locations and 17 years of service to the community. Since I was 5 years older than my sister, I pretty much pulled her into my footsteps and began to mold her when she turned 16. She went to college and did hair while in school. In the end, we came together in business and started Dreamgirls.”
Can you tell us a story about what inspired you to become a natural hair advocate?
We always wanted to help women. We would see our clients’ confidence skyrocket after styling their hair and it was an incredible feeling. We use our salon chairs as tools to uplift, motivate, inspire and praise women for their natural beauty, both inside and out. When speaking with our clients, we like to share positive thoughts about them that they may not always see within themselves. The goals of DreamGirls is to break the stereotype that black women can’t have long, natural hair, and to help build their confidence in knowing that they can do anything!”
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Sharie: I once had an older, racist white woman come into the salon and openly say that I shouldn’t be working in a white salon because I was black. Completely shocked by her statement and disgusted with the ignorance, I chased her out the salon with a pressing comb! However, later on she came back, she changed her views formed around her upbringing, and we became very close friends. I invited her into my home for events, and even gave her a place to sleep for a period in time. I was at her bedside when she passed away.
As an influencer, you have been blessed with great success in a career path that many have attempted, but eventually gave up on. In fact perhaps most people who tried to follow a career path like yours did not succeed. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path but know that their dreams might be dashed?
Just do it! Follow your gut! Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something or scare you away. Sometimes you can think your way out of doing something. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself and just get started! The first step is always the hardest but after that you keep going, adapt to change, and keep pushing forward!
Can you share 3 ideas that anyone can use “to feel beautiful”? (Please share a story or example for each.)
1. Choose wisely who you let in your circle. It’s hard to feel good about yourself if you’re surrounded by people who are negative and are constantly criticizing others. Spend your time around people who are confident with themselves and uplift others.
2. Have a positive mindset! Don’t corrupt your mind with negative thoughts about yourself or others. Don’t dwell on unpleasant things. Fill your thoughts with I can and I will not I can’t and I won’t. If your mind is focused on achieving your goals, you always will and there is nothing more beautiful than reaching your goals!
3. Express gratitude. Be grateful for everything you are and everything you have. The handful of complaints you may have is nothing compared to the blessings that are constantly around you. Immerse yourself in your blessings, and it will transform you from the inside out.
Can you share with our readers some of your techniques to style natural hair?
Ponytails, buns, cornrows, and twists are cute and easy hairstyles that can be worn on natural hair. These hairstyles help control the sweat and is easier to maintain when your hair is not in your face. Make sure the ponytail isn’t too tight as many people suffer from mid-hair breakage from tight ponytail bands. We recommend using a fresh scrunchie only tied around twice. In addition, make sure your ponytail holder is not too thin to avoid it cutting into the hair.
Can you share some of your techniques about how to best maintain natural hair?
We highly recommend using our TLC Comb-Out Treatment to prevent breakage, excess shedding and hair loss when combing out your natural hair, in addition to our True Essence Oil Treatment, which is formulated to stimulate hair follicles and promote growth in thinning areas.
Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can help articulate to our readers your “Five Things You Need To Understand About Hair Discrimination”. If you can please share a story or example, for each.
- We’ve had many clients that work in corporate America that wear their hair straight because of the stigma that it is unprofessional to wear your natural hair in the workplace. Now that places of work have transitioned into work from home, we’ve seen many more women wearing their natural hair more now that they don’t have to be in front of their counterparts who judge them for wearing their natural texture.
2. Hair discrimination unfortunately runs deep in our society. The look of “approval” has always been straight, tamed hair, which is most similar to that of Caucasian hair. In African American culture, we wear protective styles such as braids, locs, and weaves, due to the sensitivity of our hair to various elements and because it’s protecting our hair from damage.
Sharie: I personally have not been discriminated against regarding my hair, because I have been self-employed. However, I have had clients who come into the salon, rushing to redo their weave or braids to cover up their natural hair, so it would be in an “acceptable” straight hairstyle because their workplace required it, or they needed it to get a job. It’s beyond unfortunate that our natural hair is widely corporately categorized as “unaccepted.”
3. It comes down to being more informed on black culture. Few people understand that the protective styles we wear are to protect our hair. We also wear our natural hair not because we’re trying to draw attention to ourselves or cause a “distraction” in the workplace, but because we simply just want to. Just like anyone else. Conforming our hair to fit a certain look by relaxing our hair, or frequently putting heat on it to straighten it, is not only damaging to our natural hair, but it can be costly to maintain, especially since women of color, are already disproportionately paid less than their colleagues.
4. Our curls and coils are not something that we can change and have every right to embrace. Our hair is beautiful and unique, and conformity takes that away. If other people of different hair types and textures are able to wear their hair naturally without fear of losing their job or punishment in school, then black people should be able to as well.
5. We want all of our black women, men, and children to understand that our hair is something we should be proud of and take pride in. As seen with the Crown Act, we think it’s wonderful that there are legal steps being taken to protect black people from hair discrimination by style and texture nationwide.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Sharie: “Always give it your best, regardless of the situation.” Years ago, I started as an apprentice at AnotherLook Salon in Sacramento with no experience, and I’m now a co-owner alongside them at Mixed, a black-owned cosmetology school in addition to owning DreamGirls with my sister Tonya. I wasn’t always treated the best back then. But I didn’t let those things bring me down, I refused to let it affect my work efforts or my attitude. If I had let that affect me, I probably wouldn’t have received a call 5 years later to open Mixed cosmetology school. Remember you’re doing it for yourself and not for others and people will remember you for the hard work and effort you put in.
Tonya: “Just do it.” Don’t procrastinate when it comes to any of your goals. While you’re waiting and thinking about doing something, there’s someone already taking action. Don’t let your precious time pass you by when you could be starting on the opportunity now. You’ll be surprised by what you can do when you decide to just act on your goals and dreams instead of waiting. Living by “just do it” has gotten me very far in life and is a major reason for my success.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you’d like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
Sharie: I would love to sit down and have a conversation with Tyler Perry, Jim Carrey, Eric Thomas or Toby Wigway, because their stories inspire me. Most of them have a background where they lost everything and started from the bottom and it was just straight faith that got them to where they are now.
Tonya: Michelle Obama is someone I would love to learn from. She’s strong, incredibly smart and an inspirational leader to all women, especially women of color. She’s relatable, so being able to have a conversation with her and hear about her life experiences would be amazing!
How can our readers follow you online?
They can visit our website www.dghair.com and follow us on social media!
@dreamgirlshair — DreamGirls Hair
@iamshariewilson — Sharie
@hairbytonya — Tonya
@healthyhaircaresystem — Healthy Hair Care System
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.