When you look good, you feel good, you do good—this mantra is central to the work of Appleton’s hair care professionals, who you may see on campus from time to time.

As part of a larger Diversity and Intercultural Center (D&IC) initiative to partner with local salons and barbershops in order to provide accessible services to students of color, an initial meet-and-greet between students and potential barbers, stylists, and braiders was held in October. And on Feb. 17 and 18, in advance of the Black Excellence Ball held on campus on Feb. 19 and Cultural Expressions coming up on Feb. 26, several hair stylists set up shop in Memorial Hall as part of the Hair Care Initiative, organized by Lawrence’s Black Student Union (BSU) and the D&IC.

The hope is for these community partners to bring their services onto the Lawrence campus on a regular basis.

The idea behind the initiative came to Dr. Brittany Bell, associate dean for diversity, engagement and student leadership, during conversations with students who expressed a need for professional hair care and difficulties navigating the city of Appleton to find stores that specialize in their individual needs. The D&IC has several local businesses on board.

Eder Bellegarde looks up at a small mirror being held by Elle Tolan of Taperz Barber Shop.
Eder Bellegarde, a Lawrence senior, checks the mirror held by Elle Tolan, with Taperz Barber Shop, during the Hair Care Initiative. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

According to the organizers of the initiative, having adequate hair care is about more than how we look. Taking care of our appearance and health translates to how we feel, and losing access to these outlets for self-care can negatively impact a person’s life in significant ways.

“Sometimes we forget to take care of our own personal needs, and I feel like when you don’t take care of your own personal self, you can’t do anything else,” said sophomore Monique Johnson, the program coordinator for the D&IC. “If you don’t prioritize your health and your care, then you’re not going to be able to do everything else that’s on your schedule. I think that this is a very important thing, because it allows people to actually feel good.”

But it’s not just about the individual—the D&IC hopes that this initiative will help foster connections between students and community members. After all, the relationship you have with the person who cuts or styles your hair is inherently intimate. You trust them with your appearance, with a part of your body, and you can spend hours with them in a one-on-one setting.

“We create a relationship with our customers and our clients, and they become kind of like family,” said Daniel Gilbert, a barber at A+ Cuts who goes by “Gilbert.”

“Some people come in for a haircut, but some people come in for an experience, some people come in for an event, some people come in for a little build of confidence,” Gilbert said. “That’s really why I love my job, it’s not just about cutting hair, it’s about the impact that we have on people.”

The initiative also speaks to Lawrence’s efforts to build connections with the wider Appleton community, while also bolstering existing communities on campus and making Lawrence more comfortable and convenient for students.

According to Bell, a relationship with a stylist can play a significant role in an individual’s feelings of belonging within a community. She hopes this is a feeling that can be fostered at Lawrence, students’ home away from home.

“Going back to our homes and communities, this was a part of self-care; it was part of building up the community,” Bell said. “Your barber, your stylist, your braider is not just the person who’s giving you service. They really are someone who becomes a part of your life. They’re someone who checks in on you, and they’re someone who ensures that you feel a part of the community.”

Cultural Expressions on Saturday will close out a big week and a busy month for BSU. The annual talent show is all about unity. Inspired by the 1993 Queen Latifah song, “U.N.I.T.Y.,” the show provides an opportunity for the community to come together and unify. A dinner begins the festivities at 3 p.m. in Memorial Hall, followed by an art exhibition at 6 p.m. and the talent show at 7 p.m., both in Warch Campus Center.