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Beyoncé investing in one of America's oldest Black-owned beauty schools

Beyoncé gives back to cosmetology in hometown Houston, 4 other major cities
Beyoncé gives back to cosmetology in hometown Houston, 4 other major cities 03:34

HOUSTON — The smell of a flat iron and the sound of clippers, words of wisdom and belly-deep laughter — beauty salons and barber shops have long been a sacred space for Black women and men to commune about everyday life.

For 109 years, one family has been investing in that space through the Franklin Institute, a barber and cosmetology school in Houston, Texas.

"'The Franklin way is the right way,'" says fourth-generation owner Ron Jemison Jr. 

The institute's roots date back to 1915, making it one of the country's longest-standing Black-owned businesses. Jemison's great-grandmother, Madam Nobia Franklin, founded a hairstyling salon in San Antonio and made her own hair products. Since then, the Franklin Beauty Culture School moved around to Fort Worth, Houston and Chicago before moving back to Houston in 1934.

Fast forward to 2024 and Jemison has put his own touch on the business, renaming it to Franklin Institute. He's also expanded it to include barbershop classes and diversified the racial makeup of students.

"This is the foundation. You're talented but you have to know the rules and regulations. You have to pass this test to move forward because you have people in your hands," he said. "You're actually putting chemicals on their hair that could actually have a reverse [effect] and all the hair falls out. So, that's why it's so important to go to school. We call them doctors, they're hair doctors."

Family ties

He says what makes the Franklin Institute stand out is a sense of family — but not just his own blood.

"It's that family love and feel that we give. It's how we know our students by name, not by number," he said.

One student you also probably know by name is Ms. Tina Knowles, who graduated from the beauty school in the '80s. Jemison refers to her as a pioneer in the industry and local community.

"She had a wonderful salon here in Houston. It wasn't that she just graduated from Franklin, she actually really impacted the Houston community with her salon," he underscored.

Headliners Salon was the first stage for Ms. Tina's daughter, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, performing for women in her mother's chair. Now, decades later the singer is returning to her roots with a new haircare line called Cécred, which she says honors a sacred space for the Black community. Ivy McGregor, executive director of Beyoncé's public charity BeyGOOD, grew up in that space, which she says feels like family dinners.

"It's where you will hear anything talked about. It's the conversation where you've got somebody that's hilarious and making everybody laugh. You've got some woman that's the tenured woman in the community that's offering everybody wisdom, right? You have all of these stories and everybody's in a safe space to share," McGregor shared. "It's an apex. It's a center of culture in our community."

The funding

As reviews for her haircare products pour in, Beyoncé is pouring $500,000 into the people who create those sacred spaces.
The Franklin Institute is one of five cosmetology schools across the U.S. chosen to be a recipient of the Cécred x BeyGOOD Student Scholarships fund.

"We wanted to recognize and tell this broader story of how cosmetology has been such a mainstay in our culture," McGregor said. "What a better school than Franklin Institute to tell that long-standing story, with a history of having served Houston and surrounding areas for so many years."

Other notable schools listed include Beaver Beauty Academy in Atlanta, Trenz Beauty Academy in Chicago, Universal College of Beauty in Los Angeles and Janas Cosmetology Academy in New Jersey.

The Cécred x BeyGOOD fund will also provide salon business grants in those same locations, which McGregor says were selected based on market research.

"It wasn't only based upon hair salons, but the concentration of cosmetology as a whole: cosmetology schools, cosmetology students, and then, also, the infiltration of licensed cosmetologists, as well," McGregor explained.

Each year, 25 students will receive $10,000 in financial aid scholarships and another 25 salon owners will receive $10,000 in grants through the Cécred x BeyGOOD Salon Business Grant. And these funds could be life-changing.

Continuing to support the cosmetology industry

Becoming a professional hair stylist starts with an average investment of nearly $14,000 in Texas, according to Beauty Schools Directory says the national average is about $20,000.

"One of the foundations of BeyGOOD is economic equity. And so to think about that, the underbelly is that there is an inequity," McGregor said. "We believe that everybody has the right to thrive. And so the thing that we're excited about, while our tenets are education and entrepreneurship, both of them converge through this program."

McGregor says cosmetology is a forgotten industry, but not for long.

"When you think about loans and things that are salvaging industries that have had challenges, we've never heard of there being this attention specifically to cosmetology and so we are excited to do be able to do that through Mrs. Carter's heart, to uplift this entire industry," she continued.

And she's starting with her old stomping grounds.

"In her hometown of Houston, her commitment has never wavered, right? Every opportunity to give, first on her list is home. And so we're super excited to have this opportunity to really make an impact that will be sustainable," McGregor underscored. "And that's part of the goal; not just to create a ripple that is just for now, but to create something that for years and years and years to come, we can look back and say, 'We started the fire, but the fire is still burning and the fire is still lit.'"

It's a full-circle moment, inspiring the next generation of hairstylists.

"I think the scholarship will definitely help motivate the young lady that's been dreaming of being a cosmetologist but just didn't know the steps to take," Jemison said. "And so to see somebody that they might idolize, somebody that comes from the same hometown as they do, that has made it, has used their platform to give back to the community and also show a statement of, 'You can do it!'"

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