Last month, the United States’ largest African-American beauty show turned 70. The show is held at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia and sponsored by the hair product company Bronner Bros. At Vinci Hair Clinic, we’re celebrating the long history of black hair care and fashion in America by sharing their story.
While the show’s name, the Bronner Bros. International Beauty Show, sounds masculine, it was started by a league of black women who overcame Jim Crow laws to lay the groundwork for the black beauty industry. According to NPR[i], the event isn’t just a competition; it is also intended to provide “the best and the brightest educational experience.” The Bronner Bros. International Beauty Show offers classes in hair weaves and straightening, but it’s best known for the beauty competitions. Its “hair battles” attract national attention each year with innovative styles and inimitable creations.
The black women, both stylists and clients, inspired the Bronner Bros.’s company founder Dr. Nathaniel Bronner in the 1930s. His son, James Bronner, told the story to NPR:
“The KKK burned down their home twice, so, when he came to Atlanta, he only had $20, so he started out delivering newspapers. He, one day, began to take hair products from his sister’s salon on his paper route. He looked at his sales and said, ‘Hey, these products are selling more than the newspapers.”
After he decided to sell hair products, Dr. Bronner turned to the female stylists on Atlanta’s Auburn Avenue for inspiration. Ricci deForest, curator of a neighborhood museum for African-American female hair care, told NPR that in those days, people had to prepare themselves for the experience of walking on Auburn Avenue, “because it was that significant in terms of style and culture.” After spending time with the women there, Dr. Bronner pursued an education at a local beauty college. He and his brother, Arthur founded Bronner Bros. in 1947, and it has been a significant player in African American hair care ever since.