When was the last time you walked into the beauty supply or down the aisles of a drug store and saw hair products with a little Black or Brown boy on the packaging?
For me, it’s never happened, and I’ve spent my fair share of time scrutinizing the products at both stores. Cora Miller is a mom and visionary who saw the gap in haircare where curly-haired boys should be, and did something about it by creating Young King Hair Care.
“Everything is female focused, female designed, female marketed or made for a grown man and I didn’t want my son smelling like Egyptian musk, you know?” Miller jokes.
“We’re either using our products on our son’s hair or resorting to just cutting it off because we don’t know what to do with it. That bothered me for a lot of reasons. Just this idea of representation being so important for young boys,” she continues. “Even when you look at cases like Ahmaud [Arbery] and what’s happening right now—this idea of not celebrating or acknowledging our boys, how they show up in the world every day, and what that means for them. So, I literally told my husband, ‘I have this crazy idea. I want to start a brand with products and grooming tools for our boys.’”
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This is hard for us because we are Georgia based company and we have a young black son who we want to feel and be safe in this world, regardless of what he decides to do in his free time. The fact that there are too many hashtag for us to post this on IG is a problem! Black people are so tired. 😓 We can’t go jogging (#AhmaudArbery). We can’t relax in the comfort of our own homes (#BothemJean and #AtatianaJefferson). We can't ask for help after being in a car crash (#JonathanFerrell and #RenishaMcBride). We can't have a cellphone (#StephonClark). We can't leave a party to get to safety (#JordanEdwards). We can't play loud music (#JordanDavis). We can’t sell CD's (#AltonSterling). We can’t sleep (#AiyanaJones) We can’t walk from the corner store (#MikeBrown). We can’t play cops and robbers (#TamirRice). We can’t go to church (#Charleston9). We can’t walk home with Skittles (#TrayvonMartin). We can’t hold a hair brush while leaving our own bachelor party (#SeanBell). We can’t party on New Years (#OscarGrant). We can’t get a normal traffic ticket (#SandraBland). We can’t lawfully carry a weapon (#PhilandoCastile). We can't break down on a public road with car problems (#CoreyJones). We can’t shop at Walmart (#JohnCrawford) . We can’t have a disabled vehicle (#TerrenceCrutcher). We can’t read a book in our own car (#KeithScott). We can’t be a 10yr old walking with our grandfather (#CliffordGlover). We can’t decorate for a party (#ClaudeReese). We can’t ask a cop a question (#RandyEvans). We can’t cash our check in peace (#YvonneSmallwood). We can’t take out our wallet (#AmadouDiallo). We can’t run (#WalterScott). We can’t breathe (#EricGarner). We can’t live (#FreddieGray). We’re tired. Tired of making hashtags. Tired of trying to convince you that our BlackLivesMatter too. Tired of dying. Tired. Tired. Tired. So very tired. (Repost. Original author unknown)
Young King Haircare is only 4 months old, launching in December 2019, and is still taking off in the midst of the current health crisis. Big names like Target already see the potential, tapping the newbie company for their beauty brand accelerator program out of 400 plus applicants.
The program’s previous picks, like Black-owned Honey Pot Company, eventually found themselves on the shelves of Target so Young King could be headed in a similar direction.
This is probably because a plant-based natural haircare line intentionally crafted for our Black and Brown boys is unheard of. In fact, Young King was birthed after a simple Google search for “natural hair care products for African-American toddler boy” that came up empty when Miller was searching for something for her then-baby boy, Kade. Now, her three-step system for styling is the one filling that void.
“Apply leave-in conditioner to wet hair to moisturize, next apply the oil to make sure that you’re nourishing and giving it shine and then add curling cream to really define those curls. That’s it,” she instructs.
A hair regimen created specifically for these young kings may start with packaging, design and scent, but Miller stresses the impact it leaves.
“I think for girls, especially Black females, when we’re small it’s kind of instilled in us, that you always have to maintain your hair,” she explains. “Whether your mom was doing it or she’s taking you to get your hair done—that was just a part of your daily routine. I just think that same energy hasn’t always been placed with our boys.”
Yeah, it’s about the hair—what it means to wash it, to manage it, to maintain it—but instilling that in our boys matters to them more than we may realize.
As for those who might argue that they can just use the same products girls and women use, Miller challenges, “Wouldn’t it be so great to have something that actually feels like it was made for them? Like if you think about it, vice versa. If women only had men’s products that had that Egyptian musk smell and that was all we had to choose from we probably would be giving it a side-eye.”
The mompreneur wants to leave moms with this necessary call to action post-Mother’s Day: “Invest as much time as we do into our daughters and pouring into them about the importance of self-care and haircare.”
Miller is redefining male grooming for the next generation and we can’t help but root for her, not just because she’s Black, but because she’s showing all the boys that look like Ahmaud Arbery that they are seen.
We see you, young kings.