For more than twenty years Kiala Wesley was one of the few professionals in the Black hair industry in Alaska. She not only ran a salon in Anchorage that catered to Blacks, but also manufactured wigs and installed them.
It wasn’t easy to retire. In a state with a small Black population, Wesley’s skills were in high demand. Today, she keeps a very low profile, because many of her customers simply refuse to accept that she’s out of the business.
But Wesley was coaxed into being a guest on Culture Rich Conversations, hosted this week by Sherry Patterson, her daughter Christina Michelle and her son, Michael. Together they explore the tangled history of styling Black hair in America, which has its roots in the slave trade.
Culture Rich Conversations is produced by the Black Awareness Association of Juneau. It airs on Thursdays at 3:00 p.m. on KTOO Juneau 104.3 and rebroadcasts at 7:00 p.m. You can also listen online at ktoo.org.
Reflections from a former Anchorage salon owner, who discovered that Black identity and Black hair are often one in the same.