How a Toronto stylist is expanding the city’s knowledge of ‘inclusive beauty’
(Above) Solange Ashoori owns and operates the Ziba Style Bar on Dundas Street, Toronto. It’s designed specifically as a safe space for Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) clients looking for hair, makeup, and lash services. NICK MENZIES PHOTOGRAPHY
Solange Ashoori remembers the day in 2006 when she tagged along with a friend to a hair appointment in Toronto. The friend had gone into the salon asking for 4C curls,—a well-known style of tightly coiled hair strands—but much to the astonishment of both women, the stylists threw up their hands at the request. They said they weren’t equipped to handle it.
The moment shook Ashoori, then working in the corporate world, to the core, but it didn’t come as a complete surprise. As a curly-haired person herself with a strong passion for the beauty industry, she was more than frustrated with the lack of diversity and inclusion for “everything from the neck up.”
For Ashoori, the incident with her friend—one of many—was the final straw. It illuminated how narrowly defined “beauty” in her city had become, and how she could make a difference.
Cut to 2020. Ashoori has long since left her job in corporate Canada and is running Ziba (Farsi for “beauty”) Style Bar, her own salon and a safe space on Dundas West catering to the full range of hair types, makeup, and lash needs.
Most importantly, she’s become a torchbearer for the inclusive beauty movement, lobbying to mandate Black and textured hair education in Ontario beauty schools, calling out the industry on its outdated hair education standards, and decrying the “Europe-centric” training that stylists typically get. She launched an online petition on this topic only a few months ago, and it has already been signed by almost 10,000 supporters. The comments are impassioned: “I’m signing because this should’ve been implemented a long time ago and it’s time Black people are hired to teach these skills that every single hair stylist should have,” wrote a Toronto woman named D'Andra Montaque. Meanwhile, Ashoori says the response from provincial officials, to date, has been “vague.”
In the wake of COVID-19, keeping her clients safe and adhering to new public-health policies is a top priority for Ashoori and her team of stylists. NICK MENZIES PHOTOGRAPHY
Dedication to this movement brought Ashoori to the attention of TELUS and its #StandWithOwners initiative—a nation-wide campaign aimed at supporting Canadian small businesses and their owners through direct revenue, marketing, and expert industry advice as they struggle to adapt to the coronavirus era and physical-distancing measures put in place to control the pandemic.
“The Canadian economy needs a thriving small business community to persevere through the COVID-19 crisis,” said Roi Ross, Vice-President of Marketing, TELUS Business. “Owners not only drive the economy forward, but their businesses are also the heartbeat of our beloved neighbourhoods. The #StandWithOwners campaign celebrates and promotes this critical role that owners play in our local communities from coast to coast.”
“I love the #StandWithOwners campaign launched by TELUS, and I truly appreciate when such big companies go above and beyond their call of duty to create a healthy community,’’ says Ashoori, now a campaign ambassador.
As she rebuilds her business in the wake of COVID-19, keeping her clients safe and adhering to new public-health policies is a top priority for Ashoori and her team. But she remains unwavering in her commitment to improving industry skills, educating stakeholders, breaking down barriers, and coming back strong when the pandemic is conquered.
The beauty industry is, ultimately, all about confidence.
“I think there is a natural sense of comfort that comes when you see hairstylists who look like you do your hair, and this is the sole reason why inclusiveness at the workplace is one of our core business practices at Ziba,” she says.
“Moreover, I very firmly believe that beauty is about working inwards. No matter what you do, if a person isn’t confident from within, they would never feel good about themselves. Seeing more people who look like them in magazine covers, runways, and social-media posts would be a paradigm shift in the mindset.”
Learn more about #StandWithOwners, and how you can support small businesses in your community.