I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Jane Carter, the founder of leading natural hair care company Jane Carter Solution. Though we could have talked nothing but hair (and indeed, that topic wove its way into the discussion), our conversation actually steered a bit differently – to blended race families and the impact that the new movie Black or White had on her.
Black or White is centered on Elliott Anderson (Kevin Costner) who, after his wife dies, faces the realization that he must single-handedly raise his biracial granddaughter, Eloise. However, the child’s paternal grandmother, Rowena (Octavia Spencer) feels that she is better equipped to take care of Eloise, and sues for custody. With their granddaughter caught in the middle, both Elliott and Rowena are forced to confront their true feelings about race, forgiveness and understanding.
The movie resonated with Jane on a deeply personal level, and she thought it presented an opportunity to continue a dialogue about a topic that’s not often discussed – getting through the process of raising a multiracial family.
“The U.S. population is evolving… and the whole concept of ‘blended’ is really relevant. How do you raise this little girl, who clearly doesn’t look like you, to be comfortable in her skin, and be proud of who she is? It’s a conversation that’s not had very often. Nobody really talks about the evolution of getting through that process, and being culturally grounded.”
Parallels to Her Own Life
Jane, who is African-American and Christian, raised two biracial daughters with her (now ex) husband Michael, who is Puerto Rican, Eastern European and Jewish. Her daughters are both fair skinned, one with curly locks and the other with straight hair, so it was important to Jane that they knew their full cultural background and identified equally with both sides of their family. They went to a predominantly African-American dance school, but also had opportunities like traveling to Israel for their bat mitzvah.
What struck Jane equally about the movie was both grandparents’ ultimate commitment to put racial beliefs (and misconceptions) aside and focus on what was best for Eloise. Jane herself fostered four young Haitian-American students whose parents unexpectedly passed away. There was not only the challenge of raising teenagers, but also of making sure they had a firm cultural foundation. The key was to do what any family should do – spend lots of quality time together, focus on education and opportunities, and instill values and cultural identity. Jane has opened her home to countless other young people who needed a stable, secure environment. “You put yourself out there and make yourself available, and I feel like all of those relationships have made such a profound different in my kids’ lives, as well as everyone’s who’s come through the house. There’s something energetic about being open and being willing to take on [more]. It improves the quality of everyone’s life and life experience.”
Hair Company Shaped by Personal Experience
Having integrated an all-white school as an elementary student, and knowing first-hand the effects of racial intolerance, Jane is committed to building a brand that focuses on diversity and acceptance. She opened her first salon in New Jersey with a challenge of assisting the needs of a diverse clientele. Since then she has successfully developed, launched, expanded and continues to grow her company – Jane Carter Solution – which creates natural products for ALL hair types and textures. Even as a brand, Jane Carter Solution has set up scholarship funds and matched donations for deserving young women. “It’s our responsibility, as a brand, to women, women of color, or whoever really needs the assistance, to really step up, take it on, and make a difference.”
For Jane, what it all boils down to is for multiracial, multicultural, and all children to be grounded, comfortable in their own skin, and sure of their own unique identity, no matter how varied it may be. “I feel strongly about us not burying our heads in the sand about what goes on and how people feel, and just really addressing it. It’s important to have the conversation [about cultural identity], and make sure they have people in their lives who are role models for them, from both mom and dad’s families.”
Black or White is currently playing in theaters nationwide. You can view the official trailer below.
About Jane Carter Solution…
The Jane Carter Solution is now one of the best-selling hair care collections at today’s renowned high-end, natural market, Whole Foods. The line is also available at Target, The Vitamin Shoppe, Earth Fare, Pure Beauty, Beauty First, Urbanbella, as well as health food stores and salons throughout the US.
Have your own experience being part of a blended race family? Please share and comment below!