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International Woman's Day

International Women’s Day: 3 Trailblazing Women Paving the Way in the Hair Industry

In honor of International Women’s Day, we’re highlighting three inspirational women making their mark on the hair industry.

We honor the amazing accomplishments of women year-round, but they deserve an extra shout-out on International Women’s Day (IWD). March 8th, 2024, marks the 50th anniversary of the annual celebration, and this year’s official campaign theme is Inspire Inclusion. The IWD committee hopes to encourage a more equitable world by giving women a sense of belonging, relevance, and empowerment—because when women feel valued, everyone wins.

One area where women undoubtedly make an impact is in the hair industry. Ahead, meet three trailblazing ladies in the hair space who are breaking barriers, redefining success, and forging a more inclusive world. Read on to discover their stories and learn what makes them feel empowered this International Women's Day.

Good hair day by @cynthiaglam.

Cynthia Alvarez

Growing up as a young Latina in the Bronx, Cynthia Alvarez felt pressured to choose a stable career despite her passion for hairstyling. After high school, she decided she would enroll in the Air Force when a chance encounter altered the course of her life: A friend working as a wardrobe stylist exposed her to the glam world of celebrity hair and makeup. From that moment, Cynthia knew she wanted in.

She shadowed and assisted her stylist friend as he worked with big-name clients, and he quickly took stock of Cynthia’s talent. He encouraged her to turn her hobby into a profession—so that’s exactly what she did. Two weeks before being sworn into the Air Force, Cynthia signed up for cosmetology school instead (much to her parents’ objections).

Cynthia fell into the day-to-day salon life upon graduating; but she didn’t have a passion for it. She wanted to style models and work with other creatives, which she couldn’t do stuck stationary. A feeling of overwhelming restlessness overtook her until a new opportunity fell into her lap: A mentor recommended Cynthia as a lead hairstylist on a popular R&B singer’s world tour, and she landed the job. The tour gave Cynthia international exposure and became a catalyst for her flourishing career. Subsequent tours, collaborations with big salon brands like Biolage Professional, and star-studded clients were all to follow.

Throughout it all, Cynthia stayed true to her vision, even in the face of adversity and in moments of doubt. Today, Cynthia travels the world, showcasing her creativity on red carpets and stages. reinforcing the mantra, "What's meant for me is for me." And she’s just getting started.

Read more: My Life as a Traveling Hair Stylist Started In Bronx Salons and Now Takes Me Worldwide

Good hair day by @coveredncurly.

Muna Sheikh-Mao

Muna Sheikh-Mao is breaking the stigma that hijabi women don’t need haircare, although she wasn’t always so receptive to wearing a hijab herself. As a young Muslim girl, Muna didn’t feel beautiful with her hair covered. So, she put off wearing one.

Muna had a fraught relationship with her hair despite her hijab hesitations: She’d been relaxing her thick curls for years, believing her natural texture was too much to handle. It wasn’t until she began wearing a hijab full-time at 16 that she decided to give her strands a break from the harsh chemicals. Her hair growth reached new lengths in the subsequent years, prompting her to dedicate more time to learning about what haircare looks like for a hijab-wearer. Not to mention, she needed to find treatments and products that could help reverse the years of damage she had inflicted on her curls.

As her routine developed, she had a hunch that there were other hijabi women out there who needed the same advice. Muna started posting hair tips and tutorials on her social media accounts, and Covered ‘N’ Curly was born. Her following even encouraged her to start an Etsy shop selling handmade satin bonnets, and she plans to eventually introduce more products for Muslim women wearing hijabs.

Her hair platform continues to flourish without ever having to publicly show her locks. Muna attributes her success to her authentic passion for the content she creates and her desire to help and represent her community. These days, Muna says she feels 100% at ease in a hijab and, through her social media education, is advocating for other women to feel the same. She sees her hijab as a symbol of protection that allows her to retain her modesty while representing her Muslim religion. By honoring her faith, she feels empowered and beautiful.

Read more: My Natural Hair Journey as a Hijab-Wearer Led to a Thriving Business

Good hair day by @bycarlamarcelle.

Carla Marcelle

Ohio-based Mizani artist Carla Marcelle has worked in the industry for over a decade and specializes in textured hair and extensions. As a stylist and owner of Frē Salon, Carla makes women feel like the best versions of themselves; as a woman of color, Carla is bridging the gap between extensions and textured hair education.

It’s no secret that people are embracing their natural hair texture more than ever. But despite the shift, Carla says that many women don’t think of extensions as a viable option when looking for ways to enhance their hair. Limited textured hair options and fewer stylists who truly specialize in the art were the main barriers to entry into the textured extension world.

With this in mind, Carla collaborated with Invisible Bead Extensions (IBE) to create The Art of Texture course. The series of classes is available to IBE stylists and other licensed hair professionals looking to amp up their education in textured hair installation and management. The curriculum will upskill stylists on how to marry textured manes with extensions so they feel confident and qualified to service any customer who sits in their chair.

Carla has taken charge of fostering a community that celebrates the unique beauty of natural hair. She wants everyone to feel seen, safe, and heard in the spaces she creates, whether that’s at her salon or in one of her classes. Being seen for who she is gives her the ultimate sense of empowerment—an ideology she’s passing on through her teachings. The point of everything, after all, is to always be of service to one another.

Learn more: Redefining Hair Extensions: The Launch of 'The Art of Texture' with Carla Marcelle Pagán

Next Up: York State Passes Textured Hair Education Law

Header photo credit: @cynthiaglam, @coveredncurly & @bycarlamarcelle

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