Did you know the most googled parenting topic is child modelling? That means every other mother and father next to you also secretly thinks their kid is the cutest kid out there and needs to be seen.
With mixed kids, the look is unique and online retailers are increasingly realising their advertising should reflect the world their customers live in. Children and babies litter online and retail advertising. So inevitably, child models of colour have been included in their search.
I have been meaning to write this post for a while to shed some light on these elusive but highly sought-after opportunities that many parents might hope (secretly or otherwise) their kids could land.
I say secretly, because there are many dilemmas that parents will go through thinking about child modeling and its impact on their kids, what it means in our society and what we are teaching them by suggesting that looks matter. On the other hand, it can offer opportunities for children to save towards their futures and it can be (not always though) a glamorous, enjoyable scene for children. As long as it’s genuinely the child who wants to do it.
Many children, my oldest included, enjoy being in the spotlight. They love being filmed, photographed and performing and even love trying on different clothing. I never engendered that into my dd1, it’s just the way she is. And so, it may not seem far-fetched to try your luck and see if child modeling is for them.
Of course, it’s not always so glamorous for parents. It takes time getting to and from castings and making sure there is childcare for siblings- often at the last minute. Although agencies and clients will try to schedule these out of school hours, it can still be a big commitment to travel across the city with only a day’s notice straight from school.
It’s not just cherubic looks that can score your darlings a paid gig, companies will have set criteria for what they are looking for- ranging in age range, different races, ginger hair, blonde hair, black hair or curly hair, the list goes on. If your little one is not what they are looking for, no matter how cute they are, they are not going to be called back.
So auditions or castings, as they call it, can be disappointing. Agencies will call you and say a particular company is interested. You need to show up, take a few photos and it may turn out that your child is not what they are looking for. You don’t get compensation for those hours of travelling to and from different auditions.
So what about the money? Earnings for babies and tots begins at about £50 an hour (or £300 per day) and rises with age to about £70 an hour for a 16-year-old. Money must be put into an account in the child’s name or in a trust fund for the child so forget about that dream home. Laws ensure the money is for the child. It can be a perfect opportunity to teach your child about the value of money and that earning can be fun.
Knowing that child modeling is not as easy as it may appear, you should also know it’s not always as glamorous either. Child models also need the right temperament to cope with the camera. A friend of mine recently told me about her experience on the client side working for a PR agency that had requested child models for their advertising. The shoot was going well but, inevitably, a 4-year-old girl began to fuss about wearing glasses. Although photographers, agency reps and the girl in question were all familiar with and understanding of the challenges that go along with working with children, at the end of the day, the job needs to get done. Luckily, the child’s parent stepped in and declared she’d had enough. This parent knew that the priority for her was that her daughter continued to enjoy it. As soon as it became a chore, she called it quits.
And that’s the most important thing to remember. If your child loves performing and has a cute face to go with it, being in front of the camera for a couple of hours may be something you’d like to try out. Just make sure it’s for them, not you.
The other day my husband of 7 years asked me ‘do you identify as ‘other’?’ His question was in response to a moment me and my girls had experienced earlier that day. I’d felt defensive and self-conscious while walking through the English countryside and being asked (multiple times) whether we ‘belonged’ there or… “are you lost????” definitely made me feel like an outsider. I knew it was too subtle to call it racism but it definitely felt uncomfortable and something I knew I wouldn’t have experienced if I was on my own.
The topic of racial fluidity has been raised several times in the last couple of years. Recently, Paris Jackson called herself black through her relationship with her tenuously ‘biological’ Dad Michael. And of course the controversial Rachel Dolezal, who has called for black identity to be ‘fluid’ and non-binary in the same way gender is. With more questions being raised about how identity is formed and racial constructs that lie behind it, the question whether it is possible to identify as something other than what you are through one’s relationships has intrigued me.
I am part of a multiracial family, the majority of whom are black, or who will be viewed as black by society. Apart from my daughters and my husband, I am the only white face you see in my family. So, not to feel any sense of identity by virtue of osmosis or relationship would be impossible. Or, at least for me.
I have heard of other spouses who have non-white partners who become sensitive to the subtle racism that their partners feel on a daily basis. The wake-up to white bias is shocking and infuriating when it comes to the ones you love.
The first time it happened for me was when we entered a jewellery shop early on in our relationship. Soon enough I noticed a security guard as well as the shop floor assistant following hubby closely while he perused the rings. I, on the other hand, was not even noticed. Or, shall I say, after a few minutes, they did offer to help me but completely ignored hubby-to-be apart from the stares. I felt defensive and angered as though it were happening to me.
The experience and many like it have rocked my understanding of our world. Yes I knew racism existed. I wasn’t that naive but when you experience it and you become the object of it through your partnership (that was later on), you start to identify with it.
Since then, my children and I have felt the oh-so-subtle effects of middle class racism. The stares, the indignant looks that you may not belong in ‘this’ park- nothing major but enough to waken me up to the some of the realities of being non-white.
So yes, I guess in some ways I do identify as something other than what I am. I still have white privilege and I’m not naive as to think I know exactly what it is to walk in the shoes of a black person. But by virtue of my relationship. Because my family is black. Because I am part of a black family. And because my identity is multi- layered, my identity as a mother of mixed race kids and as the wife of a Nigerian man is intertwined.
So, I feel your pain. Not the pain at having curly hair. Truly, I love their curls. I love how it looks, how it feels and most of all that it’s a part of their biracial identity- where they come from.
I love that each one is unique in how her hair falls- a lesson I am constantly reinforcing. Curls are amazing.
But what I didn’t love when I first stared at my daughter’s curls was how little I knew about how to care for it.
I have straight hair and before having biracial kids, I’d never heard of co-washing. I could never imagine sleeping on satin pillowcases, and putting ‘oil’ in my already oily hair was the last thing from my mind.
So I’ve had to do my homework and then some.
Is there a one-size fits all solution?
If you love your mixed kids, you’ll only want the best and time is nothing when it comes to doing it right. We’ve now gotten it down to a 20 minute routine (for all 3), depending on how cooperative my girls are and the hairstyle they choose. (I definitely hated braids in the beginning but am now getting better and faster at it).
Having said that, there is no ‘bible’ to styling biracial hair. Hair is different but add to that: curls that fall, coil, and frizz in different patterns and directions. That said, there are helpful tips that will get you on the journey faster than if you had to research it all yourself.
From identifying their hair texture, using the right tools on their hair, wash routines and moisturising. Getting these right can play a big part in how healthy your biracial child’s hair will look.
So, here it is. The ultimate guide to get you styling and caring for your child’s biracial hair. Complete with helpful curly tips, the best biracial hair websites, mixed race hair tutorials from the experts and helpful information to identify the best curly biracial hair products for your curly kids hair care routine.
Figure out their biracial hair texture.
I figured out early on there is a whole school of thought about curly girl hair type which, once identified, can open up all sorts of doors in terms of product recommendations and what would likely work on your biracial hair.
Porosity, thickness, coil type and more play into this. And once you can identify these, you will go onto getting some products recommended for you based on their curl type. So, to identify your biracial kids curl type, check out these sites:
One of the first things I learned about curly hair is that it gets dry. Dry and then frizzy. Curly hair needs moisture. And lots of it if you want to achieve the shiny, defined curls that most will crave.
3. Follow a 3 step routine
That means following a 3 step daily routine where you detangle soaking wet hair (don’t apply moisturiser to dry or just damp hair) and allow to air dry.
First, spray the hair with water and possibly a detangling spray with moisturiser and comb it out (with a wide tooth comb- the wider the space between the teeth, the better). Never, ever try combing or detangling dry hair. It will result in hair breakage and stress on the hair follicles.
Next, apply a daily conditioner, gel, custard or curl activating creme (see product recommendations here). ***Be generous with the amount of product that you apply. Do not follow the quarter size amount that often works with straight hair. Apply generously, coating the hair, section by section. (Click here for a step by step process here by a curly expert hair stylist). Work in sections, gently combing out the knots from the bottom up, holding the hair near the scalp to minimise pain. Work through the hair, tying up each section and moving onto the next.
4. Applying Oil
Finally, apply an oil. The amount of oil will depend on the hair. If the hair is fine and looser curls, a lighter oil may be better to just control the frizziness. If the hair is thicker and tighter curls (see my DD2 above), she may need more oil to achieve the shine and really hydrate the curls so they are defined and healthy. I personally love argan oil, shea butter oil and macademia nut oil. I wouldn’t recommend coconut oil but that’s just because it didn’t work for my girls hair. Others swear by it. I have tried a lot and it may be a trial and error process for you and your little ones. There are many out there which are incredibly expensive. You don’t have to go that route but do look for one that has pure ingredients.
3. Washing biracial hair
First and foremost, do NOT wash everyday. Washing the hair strips curly hair of its natural oils and it will end up looking dry, dull, frizzy and unhealthy. This is the most common mistake most Mums and Dads do with their mixed kids’ curly hair.
Start with washing once a week and increase or decrease as neccessary. Ie. in winter, you may wish to wash less frequently, in summer, more frequently because of sweating etc.
Use a cotton towel to blot dry, never rub the hair. It will result in tangles and frizz. Then allow it to air dry if possible. Using a lot of heat on the hair, such as a hair dryer can also cause heat damage and dries out the hair. You will need to apply a heat protectant product to provide extra moisture if you need to blowdry the hair.
4. Conditioning the hair
Apply conditioner generously. This is so, so important. Some curly experts even recommend skipping shampoo completely and washing with conditioner (a process called co-washing). I personally use shampoo because I believe there are enough products out there nowadays that are gentle on the hair. Saying that though, applying a deep hydrating leave-in conditioner then becomes that much more important.
Once a month, apply a deep conditioner and leave it in the hair for at least 30 minutes. You can even put on a shower cap to encourage more conditioning for the hair. You’ll notice a big difference if you can do this consistently.
The best part about this is that there are a lot of resources for you to read more about routines and product recommendations. I’ve listed a few sites below that I would recommend.
5. Get mixed hair care tips!
I’ve gotten so many helpful tips from blogs and articles I’ve read online about biracial hair care. From co-washing to leave-in conditioner, to wetting my daughter’s hair every morning to activate the curls, start with these and you’ll feel like an expert in no time. The best part is that they’re not written for hair experts but cover the basics and give real, non-judgemental advice.
For morning routine tips and knowledge from other parents who can sympathise, visit: Curly Nikki
This Mama of biracial kids features curly girl hairstyles of the week and regular hair tips. Visit: Weather Anchor Mama
7. Styling your child’s biracial hair
There are lots of hair styles out there, even easy ones that you can start out with. I’ve compiled a gallery of easy biracial girls (and boys) photos of easy-to-do biracial hairstyles.
Bound hairstyles like ponytails, braids and twists are great and are a go-to for most curly kids’ Mums. They usually keep for more than a day or two and can protect the hair from tangles saving you time detangling everyday.
Be careful that you don’t pull too tight or do the same style repetitively as it can cause strain on the hair follicles and cause hair loss over time. Check the hair line in front to see if you notice any bumps which is a sign of pulling too hard.
Also, try not to use rubber bands or even hair bands that have metal on them. Use a cloth hair band ideally or a scrunchie if it holds it in place.
8. Get a good sleep routine
Before your kids go to sleep, take out their tight hair bands and styles. Plait the hair but try not to use any hair bands or braid it too tightly. Use a satin pillowcase or a satin nylon sleep cap to keep moisture in their hair. Or to reduce friction if they do have a protective style.
9. Use YouTube for hair tutorials!
If you’re more visual and crave that hands-on lesson, try these Youtube channels. (And of course there’s a load more links on the right side for you to browse:
Although we all wish it was just about the amount of research you do that equals success, it is actually about trying, trying and trying more… And, then, just because it works on one biracial child’s hair, it may be different for your other child.
Because biracial kids curly hair care will depend on the season. The weather, the thickness, length and curl size of each hair type- not just their hair texture. For reviews and recommendations for different curly girl hair products, go to:
Nothing beats a recommendation from a friend or someone you know. Make sure every time you see another child with curly hair and you like what you see, ask the Mum or Dad what their hair regime is. Mums love talking about curly hair as do curly haired girls themselves I’m learning!
Particularly if the child has hair similar to your ds or dd, make sure you ask them what products they use, what kinds of hair styles they do and what hair salon they go to. (It’s not every black hairstylist that can do mixed curly hair and the same goes for upmarket European hair salons- they may be expensive but curly hair has its own rhythm and texture).
12. Finally, and most importantly: Embrace the curls!
“I embrace my kids’ curls through praise and curly hair education. It is important to me that they love their hair. So I constantly tell them how beautiful and amazing it is. I never speak negatively about their curls or allow myself to show any frustration when I’m doing their hair.
I make it a point to teach them about the products I’m using and why I am using them. As well I am letting them help me add their conditioner and styling products in anticipation of them one day managing their curls by themselves.” – See more at: Curly Genes: Meet Two Moms Who Embrace Their Kids’ Curls