Janet Jackson - Hair Stylist
For nearly 15 years, Toronto-born beauty expert and celebrity hairstylist Janet Jackson has owned JouJou Hair Studio. This award-winning salon specializes in hair care and artistry for all types of hair. But don’t let her years of experience fool you—she has no intention of slowing down. “I am a Black female entrepreneur and have accomplished so many things, and I’m still going!” says Jackson with her characteristic combination of positivity and confidence. “I have so much more to offer to the beauty industry!” When Jackson isn’t at JouJou, you might find her on the Marilyn Denis Show, The Social, or Cityline, touching up tresses. She’s also worked behind So You Think You Can Dance Canada, Canada’s Next Top Model, and as Iman’s hairstylist for Project Runway Canada. Other celebrities she’s worked with include Tracy Moore, Usher, Rita Ora, and Keshia Chanté. Her work has been featured in many magazines, including Elle, FASHION, and Flare and advertisements for well-known brands such as Cover Girl, Reebok, and Nike.
After studying at Seneca College, Jackson worked as a social worker while doing casual duties part-time at various salons. When she met Buster Berkley, one of her mentors, who introduced her to a hairstyling side, she didn’t know existed, assisting him on photo shoots and music videos. As more opportunities presented themselves, she made a huge career change, becoming a full-time stylist.
“I never thought I would end up in front of the camera,” says Jackson, who made her first TV appearance in 2009 on a MuchMusic show called disBAND. “It just happened! I consider myself blessed with all the opportunities I have been given and continue to receive. But don’t get it twisted, I work extremely hard, too.”
Jackson, who specializes in working with wigs and extensions, prides herself on transforming her clients into the best and most confident versions of themselves, including advocating for inclusion in the hair industry and holding people accountable. “Beauty schools need to do their part,” she says of a need for implementing curricula that equip new hairstylists with the knowledge they need to style hair of all types and textures. “Right now, our beauty schools demonstrate that beauty does not include Black people. This problem then trickles down into our community, basically teaching us that we are not beautiful.” She adds that brands and decision-makers within the beauty industry need to support more Black hairstylists so that people of color see themselves represented both in front and off camera.
“This was a challenge for me, not understanding my true potential in the beauty world,” she says of working toward something she “did not know existed.” I never saw anyone who looked like me,” she says of a time when she questioned whether trying to make it within the confines of the whitewashed beauty industry was a “complete waste of time.” Now she’s working to make sure that other young Black women don’t feel similar doubt.
“There are less opportunities for women of color in the beauty industry, so it leaves us constantly competing with each other,” she says. “Until the beauty industry changes, Black women will have to continue to work harder.” Jackson says she is always advocating for inclusion on television segments and photoshoots. “The fact that I have to mention it or suggest it becomes tiring.”
Shattering what she calls “hair barriers,” meaning the idea that there are limits to hair and its transformation, is evident in all Jackson does. Whether she’s styling an A-list celebrity or educating a salon customer on hair loss, she awakens confidence and helps her clients see their beauty. She says hair loss is a particular problem for women of color because hairstylists are not properly trained to work with textured hair, resulting in the overuse of chemical treatments, and improper care techniques that lead to brittle, broken hair.
People might see Jackson’s career as “fun and fabulous,” and it is, but she’s quick to add that it’s a lot of hard work, full of sacrifices and long days. “My job is not only doing hair,” she says. “It’s meetings, interviews, research, learning, and so much more!” As a creative woman, she loves that her job is constantly changing, allowing her to meet new people and travel the world. “I love what I do. Period!”
Jackson is committed to dedicating the rest of her career to education and mentorship. “Being a diverse hairstylist is a huge reason why I do well in this industry today. I realize that my story is the key that can unlock someone else’s prison,” she says. “It’s important for me to lift others as I rise.”
Tracy Peart - Makeup Artist
“Look around,” says Tracy Peart, exclusive makeup artist at CityTV’s Breakfast Television Toronto and Cityline, where she’s also a regular on-air beauty expert. “Do we often see anyone on magazine covers that even remotely looks like me? The answer is no. Black women are wildly underrepresented in the beauty world.”
Throughout her 15-year career in the beauty biz, Peart has worked with an impressive rolodex of stars, including Justin Bieber, Chris Tucker, Kelly Clarkson, and Bradley Cooper. However, her contributions to the beauty conversation in Canada are equally as impressive. “I’m a Black woman. I’m a dark-skinned woman. I’m a plus-size woman. All things that are excluded from the beauty conversation, whether it be makeup or fashion,” she says. “I’m not supposed to love myself. I’m not supposed to be vocal. I’m not supposed to be seen.”
Peart forges space for women traditionally underrepresented, or not represented at all, in beauty and fashion through her plus size fashion segments. “The sizing of models I have showcased just hasn’t been done on Canadian television before. It’s trailblazing,” she says. “I’ve gotten letters from women saying they cried the first time they saw one of my fashion segments because they finally saw models that looked like them. I’ve fought and continue to fight for larger bodies to be included in the fashion conversation, especially on daytime TV. The more we normalize it, the more it will be accepted.”
Initially studying film and television in college, Peart wanted to be a film director. She worked as a production assistant on music videos, where she’d see models arrive on set to be transformed in their makeup and hair trailers. “I was mesmerized at what makeup could do. I just had to learn what magic was going on in there. How to perform this form of sorcery!” She became obsessed with makeup, asking every makeup artist on set for tricks. She began to watch music videos differently. “I was now only paying attention to the makeup and not the cinematography as I did in the past. It was one year later I decided to study it for real, and I haven’t looked back since.”
Peart spent most of her early makeup career working in cosmetic sales at department stores. “Name the cosmetic company, and I probably worked for them at some point!” she laughs. She then began doing makeup for film and television.
The life-changing moment in Peart’s career happened when both Dina Pugliese of Breakfast Television Toronto and Tracy Moore of Cityline requested her to be their exclusive makeup artist. “I was so proud, and I’m forever grateful to them,” she says. Since then, countless people have sat in her makeup chair. She loves having conversations with every one of them. “It’s similar to being a bartender,” she says. “Being a makeup artist means people tell you many of their problems, issues, and secrets. This job requires a lot of talking and listening. Sometimes by the end of the day, you’re so tired that you don’t want to talk at all!”
Yet, Peart also finds time to initiate important conversations on her social media platforms, which she says she uses as a space for inspiration and hope. Alongside fellow Cityline fashion expert Iva Grbesic, she created the #ItFitsMeToo hashtag to celebrate retailers paving the way for inclusive sizing. Grbesic came to her with the idea to do a fashion segment with a plus-size model and smaller model standing side by side in the same articles of clothing but styled differently to accentuate the best attributes of each body type. It was something no one has seen on TV before. Real-life friends and relatives side by side, modeling on national TV. All shapes, sizes, heights, and ethnicities. “We decided to create a hashtag that everyone can use to tag in their posts on social media, as awareness for those retailers that carry a style and size that fit them. This way, we can give those retailers recognition, and our followers can learn about new places to shop.”
Peart is also using her influence to have uncomfortable conversations with those in power in the beauty industry. “I’ve had private conversations with makeup brands and inquired why they didn’t have darker colors. I learned which companies really didn’t even think about it, and which ones couldn’t care less,” she says, adding that she’s turned down collaborations with makeup companies because they don’t make foundations that match her own darker complexion. “The message that is sent to dark-skinned women our whole lives is that we’re not seen as beautiful, or even worthy of being represented. Dark skin women are rarely the leading lady. The desired woman. Even in our own projects.”
Peart says that one of the best ways she can influence change and break boundaries is to be herself, live out loud, and help people do the same. “Living by example is huge, because representation matters,” she says. “It gives others such strength to see themselves reflected back to them.” And that reflection is one of courage, love, and beauty.
Cindy Conroy - Stylist
Cindy Conroy didn’t begin her fashion career as an intern at Vogue, Elle, or FASHION. Instead, she earned a business degree, working her way up the corporate ladder as a successful marketing professional. “One day I realized I didn’t want that life,” says Conroy, now a regular on-air television personality, beauty writer, and in-demand stylist who built her thriving business without knowing anyone in the fashion or entertainment industries. “I made cold-calls. I networked. I soaked up knowledge like a sponge.” It was a gamble that paid off.
Among her many “pinch-me moments,” Conroy has been featured in InStyle and Cosmopolitan and appears regularly on eTalk and The Marilyn Denis Show. “I went from watching others on television and reading about them in magazines to being a part of those worlds,” she says.
Conroy isn’t the only part of those worlds. She’s changing those worlds, advocating for and inspiring a more inclusive fashion and beauty industry. “Often, in movies and TV, only light skin Black women are positively shown or viewed as beautiful. This powerful imagery subconsciously teaches people that darker women are less than. If you aren’t the same hue as Beyoncé or Jada Pinkett Smith, you’re not worthy of love and respect. The images are so disparaging because the media drastically shapes people’s perceptions of what a Black person looks like and how they act,” she says. She adds that it’s “tremendously problematic” if viewers only see Black people depicted as “basketball players, drug dealers, rappers, hip-hop artists, etc.” “Disproportionately skewed representations only tell one story,” she says. “They don’t show that we work at the highest levels and in various industries such as tech, finance, engineering, journalism, law, PR, physiology, the culinary arts, etc. It’s dangerous to hide these realities because they reinforce systemic racism.”
With a heart as big as her personality, Conroy has always known she wanted to live a life of service. Whether she’s serving food at a soup kitchen or traveling to Guatemala on an international volunteer trip to help people build, and gain access to, necessary infrastructures and agriculture, she has always helped people in any way. She says she’s on a mission to spread love, encouraging women love themselves and their bodies.
“I’ve made a point to show Black women of all hues in my TV segments. When these women wear my looks, I hope that others will see the beauty and, on a deeper level, dismantle unconscious biases”, she says. “Black is beautiful! I want people to believe it at their core. I want little Black girls, of all shades, to see themselves reflected on TV and film and know they are beautiful and loved!”
Until #BlackoutTuesday, earlier this year, Conroy had never spoken out about systemic racism on a large scale, worrying that joining the conversation would “torpedo” her career. “I had never discussed my personal experience with blatant and subtle forms of racism. Now I do because change needs to occur,” she says, calling for permanent change across all industries and brands. She is optimistic that a more inclusive fashion and beauty industry is possible, but will require ally-ship and real effort. “Boilerplate posts and donations aren’t enough to nurture change. Sharing Black Lives Matter content doesn’t end systemic racism. It takes work. Tomorrow, a month from now and indefinitely,” she says, urging everyone to use their voice and be an ally.
“Go beyond reading, watching movies, TV, and documentaries addressing racism and #BLM. Start having those uncomfortable conversations with your friends, family, and colleagues. You don’t need to know exactly what to say or have the perfect retort,” she says. “Just starting a dialogue is a game-changer. Don’t be scared. Relish in your discomfort. It means you’re thinking. It means the wheels of change have started churning!”
When asked about her job’s biggest misconceptions, Conroy says people think she sits and plays with clothes all day long. “Yes, I’m constantly around stunning jewelry, clothes, and footwear, but there’s a lot more to it. Behind-the-scenes I’m tinkering with tech, emailing back and forth, hopping on phone calls, creating my slideshows, etc.,” she says. “On any given day, I could attend an industry event, go on TV to showcase fun outfits, be part of the glam team for a model or celebrity, or style a magazine editorial or photoshoot. Then the next day, I might catch up on accounting work. It’s not always glamorous 24/7, but each responsibility is important, and the nerd in me loves it.”
What’s next for Cindy Conroy? She says she has a few exciting announcements coming soon. In the meantime, she plans to continue chasing adventure. “Because that’s what life is about!” she exclaims joyously.
Photo(s) courtesy of Rebecca Northcott Photography & Camila Pucholt Photography