Why do so many black-owned haircare businesses sellout?

The fight for black ownership has been losing on the haircare front. Why?


Why do so many black-owned haircare businesses sellout? Astro Lola

Black-owned haircare businesses no longer being black-owned and operated after a few years or decades is not new. Nor is the quality decline in their products and sudden prioritization of white people, especially those without curly textures, after acquisition. It may as well be a tale as old as time. But why is that?

What spurred this reading was because this channel I casually watch said that the company Mielle Organics sold out. I never heard of this brand, but I wasn’t shocked. However, after doing my own brief research, I found this to not be completely true. According to Ebony:

Beloved Black-owned haircare brand Mielle Organics has been acquired by the consumer goods conglomerate Procter & Gamble (P&G). It will join P&G’s vast portfolio of trusted beauty and grooming brands such as Gillette, Olay, Bevel and My Black Is Beautiful, as well as Farmacy and Ouai, which were also recently acquired by P&G. Monique and Melvin Rodriguez, Mielle Organics’ CEO and COO of the brand, will continue to operate Mielle as an independent subsidiary of P&G. Under this new relationship, they will have access to expanding their brand’s offerings with an emphasis on providing healthy haircare products for Black women while retaining their autonomy.


As a part of this acquisition deal, Mielle and P&G have committed $10 million each to build out the brand’s non-profit Mielle Cares for greater impact. The charity will work to provide economic and educational opportunities to benefit Black and Brown communities. Once the acquisition is officially finalized, Mielle Organics will begin the work to expand to the U.K., South Africa, Dubai and Nigeria–wherever the diaspora’s needs are.

Emphasis mine

So, this is why your teachers told you to not quote/believe randos online lol! In either case, this is trend of selling out is concerning. From Carol’s Daughter to Shea Moisture, what is the deal? Especially when white companies (and I learned from doing this reading that this includes non-black companies of color as well!) seem so desperate to get into the market like with Pantene’s Gold Series, Suave Naturals, Cantu, etc. Black-owned haircare businesses actually have the advantage of being managed and created by black people over these white [and other non-black] companies. Moreover, their target demographic got them to the point of being seen as a threat/profitable to these big white companies in the first place. Why get rid of that and have them ruin your legacy in less than 2-3 years? We cry and cry about “generational wealth” and how “we don’t have nothing,” and yet the moment some money comes our way, that’s all out the window. Let’s see if we can find out why.

Why do so many black-owned haircare companies sellout to white people?

4 of Sticks (reverse)
The Grandchildren (The Star; reverse)
The Free Man (The Fool; reverse)
Mother of Coins
The Big Queen (The Empress)
6 of Sticks

I think the cards we got are very interesting. We have all of the generations of a family here: the parents, the child, and the grandparents. But the ones more symbolizing the child, or the legacy of a family, are in reverse: the 4 of Sticks and the Star in this deck. We also have the echoes of slavery here with the Free Man in reverse. I think many sellout because of the money and the ability to supposedly reach a wider audience. With the case of Mielle, we see this can be positive if the “selling out” is used to help the diaspora and the company is still mostly independently operated despite becoming a subsidiary of a larger white conglomerate. (Although it should be noted that Shea Moisture after acquisition was the same way with its original black CEO remaining. But even that still didn’t stop them from quickly turning on its black base!) However, when the mission all along was about getting more money, then the community turns their back on them. This is symbolized in the reversed 4 of Sticks with the Mother of Coins under it. In a way, you can see the 4 of Sticks as these black companies burying their “babies” (the card is depicting a couple burying the placenta of their child to attract good luck to it) in exchange for money. These white companies do offer these owners a lot of money for their business, after all. And as we can see with the Mother of Coins, a peace of mind, too.

When these people sellout, they no longer have to worry about the day-to-day operations, the marketing, and everything else that goes into running a business. That is now out of their hands, and they can finally relax or go to sleep. They can buy that nice house with that big bed that maybe they couldn’t have before. That may be enticing. I think it’s interesting that this Mother is trying to sleep. Perhaps these businesses are sold on the fantasy of what these white companies can give them if they give up their enterprise. But then we have the Star in reverse.

Upright this card often indicates inspiration, hopes, and dreams. In reverse, you can feel hopeless, abandoned, and sad. We have the Empress under this card which is the mother of the tarot. Metaphorically, this card can show anything creative you have birthed as well. Maybe with these cards, some of these owners don’t think they can “make it,” whatever that means to them. Like, sure, they were able to grow from just making the products in their kitchen, for example, to maybe a small factory, but perhaps these people wanted more or had bigger dreams. Maybe they wanted to be a big company like L’Oréal, Pantene, Suave, etc. but instead they’re “just” a black hair company. Maybe some of them wanted the sort of “racelessness” that comes with these white brands. They didn’t want to solely be a black hair company but just a hair company period. I think that sort of what happened with Shea Moisture. Like, they had a disdain towards their target demographic for whatever reason and actually reveled in being purchased. Now, of course, that’s not every black-owned haircare business, but we can’t ignore that some unfortunately do feel that way. That their blackness, the very thing that made them, is what is “holding them back.”

With the Free Man in reverse, I think this thinking is clearly misguided and dare I say even stupid! With the 6 of Wands under this card, however, it does seem to be true that the “mainstreaming” of their black business seems to be a large factor in selling out. To be more than “just” a black business, to be more than “just” for black hair. I personally never understood this desire to not be black or exclusively associated with blackness when that’s the very thing that people are supporting you for, but I guess white supremacy is just that powerful. I can’t help but notice that the Free Man here looks rather white.

So, it does seem like some of these formerly black-owned haircare businesses want the “racelessness,” the “invisibility,” that white companies have. To be incognito or indistinguishable from the Pantene’s, etc. To be side-by-side with them instead in a specific aisle that makes it easier for black consumers to find. To have a semblance of power on par with whiteness often means you “made it” and have “a seat at the table.”

The 6 of Sticks in this deck talks about a cowboy (Nat Love) who was taken in by a tribe of Native Americans (the Pima people who were largely mixed) and was nursed back to health after a difficult battle. They adopted him into their tribe, apparently. This blending of races in a card about victory speaks for itself, I think.

So overall, many sellout because of the money and the supposed wider reach they can obtain. And while they do recognize that this often means us as black consumers will turn on them, that doesn’t largely matter in relation to the money and “success” they can achieve by selling. “Generational wealth” be damned. Sad, but not surprising.

Why do the new white owners always want to change the formula?

Over the years, former consumers of previously black-owned companies, or what some assumed to be black-owned (e.g., Cantu), have noticed a decline in the products they push out post-acquisition. And sometimes these effects are very dangerous, leading to everything from hair loss to cancer. What makes this so suspicious is that when these companies were black-owned, there were largely no complaints of this sort. (Although products targeted to black women/hair textures in general tend to have more harmful chemicals in them than those marketed towards white women.) Only after the heads of the companies were switched from black to white do we often see all these issues. And what seems to be the smoking gun is consumers noticing the change in the formula, usually in how the product no longer has an effect on their coily hair. So, what is the reasoning behind changing a formula that didn’t cause any problems before and was something consumers liked?

Ace of Baskets
10 of Knives
8 of Sticks
The Grandchildren (the Star; reverse)
The Free Man (the Fool; reverse)

When I first saw the Ace of Baskets I was confused, but when I looked at the water being poured into the basket, I thought it symbolized how these new owners dilute the formula by overusing water. Using water to “ration” or stretch your supply is not new to product making. When I was talking to my mom about doing this reading, she said that these people mess up the formula because they want to mass produce it. And with mass production comes cutting corners. We have seen time and time again with former consumers saying how the change in the formula explains why the products they used all the time no longer work for their hair. Another telltale sign is when white women are suddenly in the aisle as well lol. When I look at this Ace of Baskets, the basket is the product, the water literal water, and under it a classic symbol of a black woman with an afro (it’s a lodestone in actuality in this card). Although no Pentacles are out, I do think this water substitution is a way to cut back on costs as they mass produce the product.

Vector illustration of black woman with afro hair silhouette. Side view of African American woman with natural hair.

Now the 10 of Swords is very interesting. Who could have stabbed this man in the back? I think it’s very obvious. With the 10 of Swords, we often don’t see who killed/stabbed the person in the card.

The traditional 10 of Swords doesn’t show how the man got those ten swords in his back.

This guidebook names the culprit, but we again don’t see the act being committed. I think symbolically this represents how these new white owners stab the former black consumer base in the back. We often go to black-owned and created haircare companies because we usually cannot rely on white companies’ products to do our hair justice, especially when we are natural. Whatever they use in their formulas just don’t compare. So, when these black companies sellout, it is like a betrayal to us. But here I’m asking why do the new owners do this. It seems to be because they can, and they want to. Because let’s be real, all they have to do is follow the recipe and just keep everything mostly the same. For them to go out of their way to change it has to be intentional, obviously.

With the 8 of Sticks next to this 10 of Knives, it seems like these people do this rather quickly. That is, once they acquire these black companies, they are right to work in changing the formula. I guess if they are trying to mass market and mass “appeal” to everyone who isn’t black suddenly, this makes sense. The woman in this card is peeling bark from a tree that was struck by lightning. It seems like the new white owners really want to change the formula as quickly as possible. It’s almost like they want to rid the company of its blackness or black origins as swiftly as they can.

We end with the Star and Fool in reverse again. In this deck, the Star is represented by the grandchildren because it is often the grandchildren that can live out our hopes and dreams when it comes to black history. From slavery to freedom, we often wish our children’s children would have it better. But here the card is reversed. Like I was saying, it’s like in changing the formula, the black legacy is wiped away. There is no generational wealth, hopes for a brighter future, etc. if it is cut off at the parents’ line. With the Free Man in reverse, you can sort it see it symbolically in how the company started off black but then turned white. The tomb can be the former husk of the black company and the white passing man as the new face of the company. You can interpret the jar to be the products he will change soon.

So, to sum it up, these new white owners often change the formula of the products they’ve gained simply because they can and often because they want to show their dominance, I think. The 10 of Swords is a brutal card to get in any reading. It often depicts a murder. So, in changing the formula, they are killing the legacy. It is no longer black but white.

Why do the new white owners always want to suddenly market to white people, especially those with non-kinky hair?

Shea Moisture and the debacle that went down after they were purchased is legendary. They quickly released a set of new commercials that suddenly had white women lamenting about their “hair hate” alongside a rather ambiguous looking “black” woman with a loose curl pattern. To make matters worse, the company also released another awful commercial featuring an unambiguously black woman conflicted about how the black haircare products were separated from the white hair ones, which includes a white woman and her light skinned mixed child in the white aisle while a group of black women were in the ethnic/black one. To say Shea Moisture was dragged to hell and back for this mess was the understatement of 2017. Clearly, they were smoking something.


I never understood this desire to market black haircare products to white people, especially those not even with a limp or “wave” in their head. Why not try to pull non-black Latinxs or even South(western) Asians who have a similar texture to ours? These demographics already use black haircare products anyway and some have gone the opposite way and have acquired black-owned brands as well. Going in this direction makes far more sense than trying to get white people with straight hair. Moreover, do they not have enough products already? Many of these black businesses were and continue to be born out of a desire to finally have a selection of products that can work on our afro-textured hair. So, why, when the brand suddenly turns white, do they want to appeal to “everybody”?

9 of Coins
Dem Bones (Judgement; reverse)
Father Simms (Temperance)
The Free Man (the Fool; reverse)
Miss Ida (the High Priestess; reverse)
9 of Sticks (reverse)
The Grandchildren (the Star; reverse; bottom of the deck)

Money. While us black people are a strong consumer base for pretty much everything, you can make even more money when you market to white people. It’s basic math lol. We see this symbolized in Father Simms pouring the two waters together. 1 + 1 = 2. But I do think it’s interesting how we only have one Pentacle card out. The rest of the cards seem to be talking about black people’s negative reactions to moves such as these where white people are suddenly catered to or prioritized in a black space.

We have Judgement in reverse and with the imagery of this card, I think this represents us being in disbelief. I think it’s the disbelief that the company sold out and seeing how that has affected the marketing. To see a white person in a commercial or ad for products that are, or were, made for us and our unique hair texture is usually a shock. With the High Priestess under it, it’s like the cat is out of the bag. It’s like the new white owners have shown their hand. They don’t care about the black audience they have acquired; they care about getting all of the money, and that often means catering to white people at our expense. I feel like this isn’t that shocking to most, however. Maybe the first time it happened, it was a wtf moment but after that point, it’s almost to be expected. Perhaps that is why the 9 of Sticks is out.

We want to fight back, however, we really can’t. As much as we show our support to the founders of these black companies, it is still ultimately up to them if they sellout or not. Our cries, disbelief, and anger really won’t change anything. Maybe this is why the 9 of Sticks is reversed. We want to be territorial but again we don’t really have that power here. We often talk about boycotting brands and the power of the dollar, but I feel like in this case, that doesn’t really matter. These black-owned companies will unfortunately sellout and even if we abandon the brand as well, these white owners have their new white target demographic to push product on. For them it’s a win-win situation and for us a lose-lose.

The Star came out again as did the Fool. The Free Man is clearly talking about how the pursuit of more money, white money, is an awful decision because it’s not sustainable. Usually when we find out what happened to our beloved black brands, we dip. And with that dip is a dip in these new people’s revenue. Although I feel like these people don’t care about that because they may just dump the brand all together the minute it’s no longer profitable, it’s true. Taking a black brand and turning it white or white-friendly is the beginning of the end for it. But I feel like these people buy these companies just so that they can make a quick buck and then let it die anyway. It’s almost like a get-rich-quick scheme.

They had no intentions of managing the brand long term. Having a monopoly on any business is the easiest way to cull and choke out competition. That’s just the name and game of capitalism. If you have a strong, long-standing black haircare business, that theoretically means you have less share of the market and thus money. Buying it, destroying it, while also expanding it to white people, can secure your spot in the market because your personal brand is never affected or touched. It’s chess, and these white owners are filling up the board with their pieces.

Why do white people even buy black haircare businesses in the first place? What are their intentions?

Is it not suspicious that a demographic who has historically never given an ounce of a fuck about black people in any fashion unless it was about using us for “free” labor suddenly wants to buy up or “partner” with black haircare businesses, especially all the while we are fighting to wear our natural hair in public and private spaces without animosity and “curiosity”? What do white people ultimately gain from buying up black haircare businesses?

Son of Knives (Page of Swords; reverse) --> Dr. Buzzard (Justice; reverse)
The Garden (the World)
Daughter of Sticks (Knight of Wands; reverse)
Father of Baskets
8 of Knives (reverse)
7 of Coins (reverse)
4 of Baskets
The Free Man (the Fool; reversed; bottom of the deck)

We got interesting cards here. The Son of Knives is noteworthy because this card often shows gossip and I have seen many readers say it can represent a spy as well. But in this guidebook, it is depicting a knife fight that is about to happen where the other family can’t act in retribution based on the outcome. With Dr. Buzzard or Justice clarifying this card, I think all my talk about killing these black businesses is largely true. I think these white companies do want to destroy these black companies from the inside out, but they of course don’t present it that way. With the Father of Baskets under these cards, these powerful white people try to come across as caring and wanting to “help” these black owners and their businesses. They’re for “equity” and “diversity” when they’re really not. It’s a ruse.

With the 8 of Knives, it’s like once these black owners sign, they’re trapped. They can’t back out or even voice their concerns because their businesses are no longer their own or largely their own in other cases. These white owners want to slow down the ground these black companies have been able to cover in such a short time with the Daughter of Sticks in reverse. Again, many of these black enterprises start out as little things in one’s kitchens before they turn into multimillion dollar operations. At that stage, they’re a “threat” to other companies on the market.

I use scarce quotes because these smaller black-owned businesses are really not intimidating to these giant white conglomerates that have their products quite literally all over the world. But even the most insignificant of threats is still one in the game of capitalism. Someone else making money means you get less money based on this stupid game. So, to guarantee you get all of the money, you have to take out your competition. But it’s funny how we got the 4 of Baskets and 7 of Coins in reverse in relation to all of this.

The 4 of Baskets or Cups often means you are disinterested in something being offered to you. The 7 of Pentacles usually means that something is being sowed and won’t really pay off until later. Reversed, however, that time may never come. With these two cards together, we get the sense that these white companies may not even want to buy these black brands to begin with. They may see them as an investment that is doomed to fail or something that isn’t even worth their time. But then that begs the question, why do they even bother lol.

With the World in reverse, it is simply because they don’t want black businesses to succeed and become powerful. This is a tale as old as time. How many black towns and businesses have been historically burnt down because they were successful within their own communities? Even when were literally segregated from white people, us thriving in any way had to be stopped. It’s no different now. It doesn’t matter that they ultimately don’t care or even want what we have. What matters is that we have anything at all.

What will be the state of black-owned haircare businesses in the future?

8 of Knives
Dr. Buzzard (Justice)
Pa (the Moon)
Dem Bones (Judgement; reversed)
Father of Knives 
Aunt Caroline (the Wheel of Fortune)
10 of Knives
3 of Baskets (reverse)
9 of Baskets (reverse)

It seems like this largely depends on the owners. Some may feel like they have no choice but to sell even if that causes us to be shocked or side eye them. With Dr. Buzzard and the Father of Knives, however, I wonder if these white companies have some sort of legal upper hand, or they may allegedly threaten legal action if these companies don’t sellout to them. Again, this wouldn’t be surprising given the history of black-white relations when it comes to business. They may have a strong legal team or at least some sort of “legal representative” that can scare them into selling with their jargon or “legal talk.”

With the Moon, though, we may not know what the future may hold. But it’s curious that we got the Wheel of Fortune under it, perhaps the most auspicious card of the tarot. But in this deck, notice how Aunt Caroline is being photographed by a mysterious person with a lighter complexioned hand. Can this represent how these white companies acquire these companies but still try to keep up the ruse that it’s still for black people and how even sometimes still made by black people? Or is it the media coverage surrounding these companies selling even if they may have not wanted to behind the scenes? I’m not really sure but the Moon showing up at all usually suggests funny business.

With the 10 of Knives out again, we can know for sure that we can expect more betrayals, AKA sellouts, whether they are allegedly so or not in reality. And with that will be another exodus of black consumers with the reversed 3 of Baskets. Our faith in these companies will continue to wane with the 9 of Baskets in reverse. It’s like we can’t have anything. I think many will grow jaded and either stick to the few remaining black-owned and operated lines they know of or just make their own products all together. I feel like it’s a cycle, a “same shit, different day” type of exasperation. Cycles and things turning is usually the energy of the Wheel of Fortune upright and reversed. Again, under the Moon, however, there is a lot more to this trend than we may know. So, I guess that’s important to keep in perspective.

In any case, that’s all I have for you all. How do you feel about black haircare businesses selling out to bigger white companies? How do you feel about Mielle’s situation which is slightly different? I was going to ask if we will ever have a long-standing black line but changed my mind. I think it’s possible but clearly these other companies are hard at work to stop that. Regardless, do you think it’s possible to have a black hairline that is 100-years old and still completely black owned and operated? Why or why not?

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