Salon owner voices need of diversity within Boston salons

By Temi Adeleye



While Boston features resources for its ever-growing diverse population, some Bostonians believe the basic need of hair care is catered only to the white population.

The concern of appearance seems to be an important factor in the lives of everyone. For devout Muslim women, hair care is just as important to them as the next person.

More than 41,000 hair salons serve Boston area residents but only two adhere to the specific needs of devout Muslim women.Faron Salon, owned by Faron Fares in Cambridge’s Porter Square, is one of these salons. The hijab- friendly salon caters to all women and has a private studio in the back of the salon for Muslim women.

Many Muslim women wear hijabs to veil their hair from outsiders. “The hijab is to show modesty, said. Shahidah Uthman, a Muslim woman. “In Sharia Law, we are not to show our hair to people besides our family and spouse.”

“I think some women go to salons because they want to go out but still want that privacy,” said Uthman. She believes that the idea of having more of these salons would be beneficial to the Muslim community.“ Having the option would never hurt, it would make more Muslim women feel more comfortable about themselves.”

Enough Salons for Different Races/ Ethnicities

Faron Fares, owner of Faron Salon said, “At the end of the day it seems like I’m the only salon in Boston doing this.” She added that it’s important to have salons for people of color as well as those with different beliefs. “There should be more. Women should stand up for one another and uplift one another to create this [diverse and welcoming] environment.”

But Fares noted it isn’t easy. She spoke about receiving over-the-phone threats after opening the salon. “When the Boston Globe wrote a story about the salon, I would get death threats telling me that I should go blow up myself, that what I am doing was illegal.”

Fares also received threats to her salon that she considered threats to her livelihood. When she called the police to report the threats, she said their response left her disheartened. “The Cambridge police said people have the right to have their opinion and his quote to me was ‘This is not like its North Korea.’”

Conservative women in the Muslim community have their hair done in private areas because they cannot reveal their hair to people outside of their immediate family.

“Fares said, “Every woman deserves to feel beautiful and cared for.” She added that it is important to have salons for people of color especially when over 50 percent of the Boston population belongs to racial or ethnic minority.

However, this is not the same for salons serving customers with different backgrounds. Although there are many hair salons for people of color throughout Boston, it may not be enough to serve the steadily growing population.

Ismelda Ramos, an instructor and stylist at East Boston Beauty Academy, said there are not salons in East Boston for African American people. “I don’t know about around the whole Boston, but on East Boston there are not enough.” Her business caters to people of all races but mostly Hispanic/ Latino people, due to their high population in East Boston.

Ramos believes the best way to create more salons for people of color is through education because she believes they are important.

Data Shows Diversity 

The Boston Indicators show a racial/ethnicity map from 2010, displaying where the most white, black, Latino and Asian populations are centered in Boston. The page reports that, “As of 2010, 53 percent of Bostonians were people of color compared to just 32 percent of the population in 1980.”The information shows a sizable difference.

 This year’s quarterly diversity report, provided by the City of Boston, shows that people of color account for 55 percent of the city’s population. The information also showed that women account for 52 percent of the city. Half of consumers in Boston are either women or people of color. 

Executive Director of The Board of Registration for Cosmetology and Barbering, Brian Bialas said “According to the latest annual report, which covers July 2015-June 2016, the Board issued 1,533 new cosmetology salon licenses (which covers hairdressing, aesthetics, and manicuring) and 133 barber shop licenses.”

Bialas said the board does not ask for demographic information so it is not possible to know how many stylists, manicurists, barbers and aestheticians belong to a specific group. Unlike most standardized applications, the information on demographics is not available. With this lack of information, it is impossible to see how many stylists there are of a group and whether they can do hair on another hair texture different from their own.

After filtering salons that were out of business, expired and needed license renewals there were 376 current licensed salons in Boston.  The data derived from the Board of Registration for Cosmetology and Barbering originally contained over 41,000 salons. However under these “salons,” were nail salons, spas and other skin care services, which were categorized. 

With their being 376 salons, the best way to categorize which ones were specified to a specific group was looking into their website photo galleries. While it may not be the most accurate method, galleries and listed services were analyzed to decipher which salons catered to which groups.

Salons with predominantly white models were classified as “white salons,” those with predominantly black models were classified as “black salons,” and so forth. Galleries with models of different races were classified as multi meaning they catered most or all races.

Of the 376 salons, a sample size of 25 percent or 94 salons, were taken from the list and mapped out on Tableau. When they were mapped, it showed  37 were centered on white people, 18 for multiple races, 13 as Asian-centered salons, 12 as African-American centered and nine were Hispanic/ Latino centered.


About Temi-tope Adeleye 4 Articles

Temi Adeleye is a multimedia reporter who enjoys telling the stories of others. She is versatile in most multimedia elements but photography is her favorite. As a graduate student in Emerson's journalism program, she has learned about the importance of in-depth research. She strives for objective reporting and has realized that this element heavily resides in both text and visuals. In the future, she hopes to be an on-air reporter at a local news station. However, she is open to applying her knowledge in whichever areas they are needed.