When I go to get my hair done, it is rare that I step into salons that offer a beautiful interior, a welcoming atmosphere and quality Black hair care. When I visit the African braiding salons, they are cluttered, messy, outdated, have mismatched furniture and are sometimes roach-infested. I even have to arrive with my hair washed and conditioned. When the hair braiding experience starts, I have to caution them to not braid my hair too tight, something I shouldn’t have to do. But this can be disregarded considering there may be three people braiding your hair at one time in a rush to finish your hair style so they can get to the next head. After eight to 10 hours of styling, my braids are beautiful but my scalp feels tight and I wake up the next day with a throbbing headache.
Growing up, I frequented the Dominican hair salon in my Queens, New York neighborhood. I loved getting a good wash and set, but the process was so uncomfortable. Not only was there a language barrier and a significant wait, there was never a time where my scalp wasn’t burned while my hair was blow dried. Neither of these types of salons offer good hair care for Black women and this isn’t an experience specific to New Yorkers. So when entrepreneur Brittany Barnes opened her GoodBody Salon in Oakland, California, her goal was to offer Black women a quality, luxurious experience.
“This started as a venture focused on black woman, focused on the fact that black women are really often disregarded and dismissed from the beauty industry, especially when it comes to upscale, you know, luxury services,” Barnes told MADAMENOIRE. “And I, as a Black woman really could identify just all the different experiences I’ve had whether I walk into a salon, nobody talks to me. I have no idea who my stylist is because they don’t come and introduce themselves or, you know, I have an appointment and it’s supposed to be two hours and ends up being eight hours because there’s working on five heads at one time. It was a very clear thing that Black women experienced. And I when I say black women, I mean, black people who identify as women. So I started with that in mind.”
GoodBody Salon is a self-funded, Black-owned beauty bar that opened in May of 2020. Unlike other demographics, Black women don’t have the luxury of walking into any salon on the street and getting quality hair care from a skilled beautician. Our hair requires special treatment, so when Barnes established GoodBody, it was to ensure that Black women had a place where their hair experience is understood and respected.
While Barnes’s priority was Black women when opening GoodBody, she said she also wanted it to be a gender-inclusive space.
“It’s really just not Black women who are kind of marginalized, marginalized in this market, she added. “It really does cross over to Black male identifying clients or Black non-binary clients who are looking for a haircare experience that can be full service, a singular destination, and they don’t have to go to the barber shop for one thing, and then you know, find something on sale seat for the next.”
Another priority for GoodBody is wellness. Yes, their main focus is hair, but Barnes believes in taking a holistic approach to the beauty routine. So when working with one of their stylists, it’s not all about picking out a trendy hairdo. When you visit GoodBody, after receiving a warm welcome you will get a hair consultation. This consists of stylists asking a series of questions to identify your hair needs, your problem areas regarding hair care and how to keep your hair healthy. Before the customer even steps foot into the salon, a questionnaire is sent out to fully assess what you need.
“We’re not necessarily just here to have you walking out of the salon looking cute. We want you to feel good from the inside out. And what that means is we have to take more time and more focus to you know, address The needs that present a holistic approach to how you see and how you take care of your hair and self care routine.”
GoodBody also offers an aesthetic that I’ve never seen in a salon. The high ceilings, curved seating, LED-lit arched mirrors, earthy color scheme and mid-century design are sure to amaze you upon first glance.
“When I was creating GoodBody, the self-care portion, the wellness portion, really started with creating a beautiful space. Because in my experience, when I step into a beautiful space regardless of what why I’m there, whether I’m there to shop, whether I’m there to get my nails done, whether I’m there to get a facial whatever it is, that is where my that’s where I either transition from self care, or I just got to get this done.”
Barnes opened GoodBody during a fragile time for the Black community. Along with the COVID-19 pandemic happening, it was a time of racial tensions, vandalism and protests throughout the country. Offering a safe space to Black people during a time of social unrest was a driving force for Barnes opening the salon in 2020.
“I could just be like, Okay, this is not going to work, there’s too much happening. But how important is a space like this, in the midst of these times, where Black bodies and Black people are so disregarded? How important is it for us to refocus sometimes and focus inward, and find the things that speak to us, as a people, find the things that unite us and bring us together? And help us appreciate who we are, and each other as a people? And I mean, I think that anybody, any Black person understands that, in so many ways, the beauty salon does that.”
Barnes doesn’t want any customer to come in and feel like they have to tolerate anything less than they deserve. With Black folks already having to deal with so many microaggressions and oppressions in society, she wants us to have a high-caliber experience from start to finish and leave feeling good not only on the outside but the inside too.
“It’s not your job to to tolerate, it’s not your job to make yourself smaller, so people feel more comfortable. Anyone for that matter. So, I think that this plays in on it like we’re not just here to respect your hair and your hair care and your beauty care and self care routine, we are glorifying and thriving in that.”