Moira Frazier’s relationship with hair began in her mother’s hair salon in Toledo, Ohio. It was the nineties and as a self-described “shop baby” (a term she says is used to refer to children who grew up in or around hair salons), Frazier spent many days watching her mother interact with her clients. What fascinated her the most, she tells 21Ninety, was the care she brought to the hair of the men and women who came in each day. And the fact that, although they rarely brought pictures to show what hairstyle they wanted, they somehow always left the salon with a smile on their faces. 

“Throughout those years of me watching my mother,” Frazier says. “It made me want to do the same thing and transform people’s lives.”

Over the years, Frazier has gone on to do just that. She started braiding hair when she was just eight years old, practicing with cousins and family members who often paid as low as $2 for her services. Over the years she has run her own hair salon and operated her own wig line. She continues to develop hair care products that serve a wide range of hair needs through her brand Fingaz Beauty. Frazier’s client list includes stars such as Sheryl Lee Ralph, Quinta Brunson and Nicole Byer.

Recently, Frazier, who serves as the department head hairstylist on the hit show “Abbott Elementary,” earned herself an Emmy Nomination in the Outstanding Contemporary Hairstyling category. It is her first nomination. She tells 21Ninety she received the news with surprise and felt a sense that her efforts to make hairstyling in Hollywood reflective of everyday life, had reached a crowning moment. Frazier says on “Abbott Elementary” inclusivity was key. Her efforts included working with over 100 wigs, using safe products that account for the needs of every cast member, refusing to use glue when laying a wig, and providing scalp massages and pre-wig installment treatments. Frazier’s work reinforces the importance of providing authentic hair care for Black actors.

Frazier talked to 21Ninety about working on Abbott Elementary, making hair care inclusive, working with characters like Janine and Ava and where Hollywood needs to go next with caring for Black people’s hair.

A Conversation with Moira Frazier

21Ninety: In the second season, we see the characters take some different directions with their hair, what was the motive behind that decision?

Moira Frazier: Yes, so in season two, I was able to completely reimagine what these characters would evolve into over the course of the summer because I was looking at it from an approach of everyday life and everyday people. If you’ve ever been to school, once you finish that school year, you’re gonna take that summer to do you and get yourself together. And when you go back into the new year, you wanna come back a new person. You want to come back with a new attitude, a new hairstyle. That’s why sometimes you see teachers who may cut their hair or even students who might get little braids or whatever the case may be. But everybody comes back on that first day fresh. 

21N: Janine’s character development was very evident in her hair, it was often easy to tell that she was in a phase of self-discovery no matter how many other parts of her stayed the same, what was it like working on a character like hers?

MF: When I look at these characters, I relate them to my everyday clients. Because I envision Janine’s character to kind of be a do-it-herself person, she doesn’t really go to the salon. They’re at home, on YouTube, what can I use? ‘Ooh, let me try this honey mask.’ And you forget to rinse out all the honey. And then you walking around with sticky hair and then you wanna come to the salon, wondering like, ‘why my hair’s sticky and why I’m getting attacked by bees and flies.’ I imagine that and I imagine her only sticking to just a few hairstyles because it fits her personality, and that’s what we wanted to convey. 

21N: Which of the character’s hair did you enjoy styling the most?

MF: I love styling and creating styles for Ava. One of the members of my team, Christina Joseph does an amazing job keeping up with those styles for me. But as far as designing the looks and things of that nature, Ava’s character will be the one because she gets to convey that hood, Philly girl.

21N: Like Janine, Barbara rarely ever changed her hair, what does that say about her character?

MF: Barbara can wear anything whether it’s a long bob or a short bob either way she still means business and she still maintains the integrity of the character. Even though it’s simple it’s also not so simple because you have to carry that hairstyle with posture and dominance and confidence and Sheryl Lee Ralph does that so well when she represents Barbara Howard. 

21N: What was it like working with a predominantly Black cast on a show as huge as Abbott Elementary?

MF: It felt like being in the hair shop and it is so cool. It literally felt like a family where everybody looked out after everyone. 

21N: What does it mean for you to be able to provide another avenue for proper hair representation in Hollywood?

MF: To have that representation on set and understanding hair textures and understanding where we come from, it just means a lot. 

21N: How does it feel to have been nominated for an Emmy?

MF: It’s an amazing feeling because sometimes as a stylist, you get to a point like ‘Do people even care? Do they care what these girls look like? Do they care if this bob is bobbing? Do they care if this hair is flowing? Do they care if this color looks fire on TV?’ But they really do because I feel like the audience and the people who watch see a little bit of themselves or people that they know. Everybody knows somebody like Barbara with that hairstyle. Everybody knows somebody like Janine with that hairstyle. And we all got a cousin named Ava with that hairstyle. So, you know, and Melissa too. I’m just grateful and thankful for the ride, for the journey. 

21N: What do you see for the future of Black hair in Hollywood?

MF: As far as our industry goes, I feel like there should be more representation. A lot of people who come into the industry do not have knowledge of all textures. The first thing they’ll say is I can do textured hair. Well, baby, what’s textured hair, honey? But as a hairstylist, It’s your responsibility to educate yourself on all hair types, period. You have to educate yourself. Because if you don’t educate yourself, then what are you?