Rhonda O’Neal is an Emmy-nominated and Actors’ Guild award-winning Hollywood hairstylist who teaches professionals from the actor‘s union hair texture diversity. With a passion for building relationships and diversifying the union, she founded the organization Beyond The Combs Academy to alleviate limited hair and makeup options while on set.
O’Neal shared what sets her apart from other hairstylists and what inspired her to launch the academy.
What sets you apart from other hairstylists in the industry?
[Well] when I moved from Houston to California and I worked in the salon, I worked there for a time and it was only for a period of gaining my actor for me to go on set with her. After that I took what I learned in my salon to the set, to learn how to communicate with people. That’s what I like to hone in on is communicating with your actor, communicating with the producers, and communicating with each other. So, when I did that, I headed a department coming right into the union. Once I did that, I wanted to start helping others learn how to navigate in that way, especially us as Black people, because I noticed that [thre weren’t] that many of us in the union. So, I wanted to hone in on helping to relate that and let people know that it’s not always about doing hair or makeup. It’s about the relationships you build with people and how you get along with them.
What inspired you to create Beyond The Combs Academy?
I knew I wanted to have an academy when I was the hair craft president of the union. Which means that I educated all the hairstylists in the union. Doing that was great, but I noticed that in the union, they were seeing that I was breaking records on attendance. So many people were coming to my meetings, and seeing all the demonstrations that I would have. But I noticed that it wasn’t that many Black people at the meetings. When I say hardly any, I mean, five out of 120 people or more. At first, I was upset and I was like, “Oh my God, why aren’t we here? Why aren’t we in this space.” We could either be at work, we could be with family, and they always were held on Sunday. So I said, we got to do better than this. There’s something that has to be done. It’s mainly that we need to have more of us in the union, we have to have more of us. So, when the pandemic hit, I said, it’s my time to try to make a difference. That’s when I opened Beyond The Combs Academy. People started traveling from all over the United States and coming to the classes to learn textured hair and darker skin makeup. It was [for] everybody; Black, White, Asian, and Hispanic. I knew it was needed for this industry because in cosmetology school there is only one chapter on textured hair being taught. So, I’m now teaching coloring, braiding, weaving, as well as quick hairdos on Black people.