You may not know Carla Farmer and Stacey Morris but you most certainly know their work! From Coming 2 America, Black-ish, King Richard and many more their talent is undeniable and has transformed the way Hollywood and audiences all across the world see and appreciate Black beauty.
Carla Famer most recently served as the hair department head of King Richard starring 2x Oscar-nominated actor, Will Smith. While 5x Emmy-Nominated Hair Department Head, Stacey Morris has been Eddie Murphy's personal barber for 25 years and also works as the personal barber for Anthony Anderson and Lil Nas X.
21Ninety caught up with the Emmy-Nominated Hair Department Heads about working in Hollywood, creating iconic looks on legendary actors, facing backlash and doubts and how they reached the pinnacle of success.
Liz Smith: I love to ask anyone I’m interviewing this one particular question and that question is, did the hair and beauty industry choose you or was it something you all dreamt about doing as little girls?
Carla Farmer: For me I believe it was always something I wanted to be apart of as a child. I got 50 cents from all the guys in the neighborhood to braid their hair because during that time you braided the hair to make the afro look bigger. I also use to do all my friends hair in the neighborhood. It was something I always wanted to do as a kid and I always dreamed about working in the film industry. It was two dreams merged together.
Stacey Morris: I feel like it chose me. It kinda happened serendipitously for me. I wasn’t quite thinking about doing hair or being in the entertainment industry but in a sense I was a product of my environment. I’m an industry baby, my mother was a model and fashion designer and my biological father, as well as my stepfather, were in the music industry so I was somehow always connected. I grew up with brothers in my home and I started doing hair and playing around cutting their hair and I realized I had a gift and people would ask “hey can you cut my hair?” One thing led to another and I ended up making a career out of it.
LS: I love your quote “Changing the world one smile & curl at a time". At what point did you know that your work was changing the lives of others around you as well as aspiring hair stylists?
CF: I started out with the church background and I was in ministry, so I feel like God kind of brought me into the industry as one of His agents per say. It seemed like I would be on certain assignments with certain people and the hair is part of it but it’s all inclusive to sometimes just speaking the word and being encouraging. At times a particular person might be going through something and I’m there to help coach people through it, especially young women. That’s where I lend my one curl and one smile at a time.
LS: Do you think Hollywood has finally realized the importance of having Black beauty experts like yourself on set? Why or why not?
SM: I think they are realizing it, I don’t know if they have quite realized it all the way but it also has to do with us as stylists and having the responsibility to push the envelope further. Yes, we’re being heard and we all have a mission to normalize our hair on-screen. When you see someone who looks like you on screen, the association does wonders, it’s empowering, you feel proud and things like that. Our hair, as Black people, is our unique identity so in a sense we are shaping the perspectives of ourselves and presenting looks on screen that people can relate to. It’s being noticed!
LS: You’re obviously not new to this but very true to this! So can you tell me about one of your most historical beauty moments while working in Hollywood? It can be a moment on set, at the red carpet, a movie premiere, anything!
CF: I have to go back to my first department co-head experience with Stacey when we did Dolomite. One day we just looked at what we had achieved and not only the hair story we were able to tell but we were able to employ a lot of our friends and they were predominately African-American. We had such a good time it was the combination of working with Eddie Murphy for the first time, to be with such an iconic force and to share a story about someone we didn’t really know about and we delivered I think one of the best movies we’ve done together.
LS: You know it’s funny Stacey because when I was a little girl I really wanted to grow up and become a barber! At that time it wasn’t the most popular thing for a little girl to say and I’m sure you’ve dealt with backlash and scrutiny at some point throughout your journey. It’s a field thats’s heavily dominated by men so, can you tell us about a time where you faced doubt and had to push through?
SM: I’m a little different and I have come to learn the true statement of “ignorance is bliss” because literally back when I started there weren’t very many women doing what I do. It is a male dominated territory so I really didn’t realize that I was spoiled in sexism, I was just doing what I do and going along with it. I did meet certain points in my career where people were uneasy or whatever but I never paid attention to that. I literally dealt with the people that dealt with me. I didn’t try to prove myself or felt like I had to go the extra mile because I’m a woman and organically those that were in doubt saw from a distance. I’ve always been independent and in my own lane and I’m glad I’ve been this way.
LS: Congratulations on all the success of King Richard! Has everything sunk in for you yet? Have you truly set back, processed and celebrated your achievements, growth and skill set? I believe it’s something for Black women and especially a Black woman like yourself, that represents for so many hair stylists, don’t do enough. Why do you think this is?
CF: Where my career has gone in that way yes, but outside of that I don’t feed into it that much. I’m not a person that needs that but at the same time I am very satisfied and proud of the work I’ve done. More so because I am able to have done so many iconic films about Black people and I’ve been able to be behind the scenes and push certain ideas that would’ve never been on screen. Those kind of things make me feel really good!
LS: I must say one thing I’ve always noticed about Lil Nas X is how crisp and clean his cuts are! What has that experience been like working with someone who’s extremely creative and not scared to push the boundaries of the music industry?
SM: It’s amazing! Working with an artist that gives you freedom to your art and that can provide a platform where you can just go! You have a language and you understand each other, working with him has been an amazing experience and I’m happy to be apart of his journey. I must say even with the difference of generations, I’ve learned things by watching him and it’s unexplainable.
LS: Before I let you two go, can each of you tell me something special about your 'hairmate'?
CF: For Stacey, I hope that I’ve been able to show her how much I appreciate her and how I think she is the best of the best. The co-department situation came because I wanted that to happen! I was like Stacey this is how we’re going to roll and her talent was in the shadow for so long. People didn’t really know and now people are finally getting to see how excellent a hairstylist extraordinaire she is! There’s nobody in the business like her!
SM: What I would say to Carla is, first of all thank you! For many, many, many years. Thank you for leading me earlier in my career and taking my hand when I was green and walking me through, exposing me and pushing me to let some of my talents that I hadn’t explored come out and be presented. She’s provided platforms for me and helped me learn the business side of it. Carla is extremely talented and I know she hasn’t hit her ceiling yet. I admire her and she empowers me. Together we’re so forceful.