I had the opportunity to speak with Dianne Hudson, former Executive Producer of the Oprah Winfrey Show, past President of the Angel Network and currently partner in Andre Walker Hair.
I’m also proud to thank Dianne as a contributor to my book, Women Like Us. Together… Helping Women Change the World and a participator in our documentary, Women Like Us. One Journey. Three Missions. To Change the World.
Our talk today centered around her newest career with Andre Walker Hair and specifically around the conversation of the expectations and pressures black women have historically faced regarding their hair.
Pressures for hair conformity in the 70’s.
African-American women couldn’t get a job if their hair wasn’t straight. You couldn’t leave the house if your hair wasn’t done and straightened. Afros became popular on college campuses but were considered to be revolutionary and radical. And with radical hair, came risks in those times. Companies had rules about hair for African- Americans. One rule… no afros. Another rule… showing up in braids would get you fired.
We accepted it because we needed work. The battle for us at the time was to get a good job. Getting fired in corporate America could be as simple as what we did with our hair; so we conformed. We did what we had to do.
Fast forward to today, things are changing. Women are evolving into their own selves, standing up for expressing who they are, and liking it. And Dianne stresses that she’s a firm believer that the stereotypical past attitudes are changing toward naturally textured hair which most African-American women have. How powerful it is today that women are standing up to express that their hair is a proud identity of who they are and how they have evolved in these times of change.
Dianne sees this as an evolution for women. Not a revolution as i the past but an evolution. Revolutions come and go. Evolution is pure and lasting.
Enter an all new career with partner Andre Walker.
Dianne was ready to retire, but not unready for new experiences. She had been producing a talk show every day for 30 years when the opportunity to combine her production abilities with the talents of Andre Walker, a longtime friend and very talented hair designer who was Oprah’s exclusive stylist for nearly 30 years.
Dianne shared with me parts of her personal life which included divorce after 35 years, an urge to find her way to the next level and stage of her life but she never imagined that working in the hair business would be the turn. She acknowledges that starting the hair company, Andre Walker Hair, saved her life. “As some women know who have had a marriage end after many years, it can be a heavy blow. We lapse into low grade depression and a sadness that we think will never end. Some women give up. They think “I’m older” and they give up.” said Dianne.
So, Andre and Dianne dug in to create a new hair line primarily for textured hair types…primarily African- American, Latin and some Caucasians. Hair types that are curly, coily, kinky and highly textured.
“We started off educating women about caring for this hair type so that it stays healthy and easy to style,” Dianne says.
Even though Dianne confessed that many days she woke up and wondered why she took on a new path in the hair business, she knew it was the right approach for her. And she admits still that the path of a new business is hard, but her passion for it was worth the risk. She feels alive again and the motto Make Peace with Your Hair resonates with women everywhere.
Dianne’s advice to women starting over.
When it’s your passion, and you find your passion when you recognize something you believe in deep in your core, you get up every morning ready to go again…You’ll be energized, re-engaged with life and have a first-hand look at what you, yes you, can do.
When women get to a certain age, it’s common to want to do something else that’s meaningful, exciting and it’s how we talk to ourselves. You want to have a purpose. Maybe you find your purpose, raise kids, and make that purpose in a stage of life. Maybe you’re still in your marriage maybe not. We tend to put a period on that sentence and don’t think about being open to what can be next as a kind of work that feeds us and grows us. But I don’t see why we can’t have more than one purpose. Why does it have to be called re-inventing yourself? We’ve been here all along. It’s not re-inventing…it’s simply bringing to the forefront what has been there.
We can be multifaceted and have multi purposes. Evolution at every turn. Our whole way of living and being in the world is evolving.
It’s just not true that it is too late to start something new. As women we must embrace that and value the experience we bring to the table. For example, in politics where we look at Nancy Pelosi it’s hard for me to hear the things women say about her age. She’s too old! Really? Yet there will be 15 men her age and older standing around her and no one comments on their age. Why would you give away to a man or younger woman all the experience Nancy brings to her job?
And she’s right! Rock on, Dianne. Rock on.