White Minneapolis Salon Drowning in Backlash After Telling Black Client Her Hair is ‘an Animal He Couldn’t Tackle’



Bianca Dawkins has gone viral on social media after sharing her unsatisfactory hair appointment at a white salon in Minneapolis June 10. Dawkins shared her experience on Facebook after her appointment. She writes when she tried to get her naturally curly hair straightened, a white hair stylist “flipped out. He said he didn’t have the time to do my hair and that my hair was like an animal he couldn’t tackle.”

She tells City Pages that beautician Justin Waltenberg called over five other stylists at the white-owned Denny Kemp Salon and Spa to see who could do her hair. None could style it.

“So, what? Black girls can’t come in here and get their hair done?” she asked.

Waltenberg replied, “Well, it isn’t the 1950s or ’60s, where we can just put up a sign in the window.”

She left and headed to VIP Hair & Nail Salon instead.

Salon owner Denny Kemp tells City Pages in a separate interview the last exchange was misinterpreted. Kemp said Waltenberg meant he was glad the business could not turn away Black clients.

When Kemp called Dawkins, she says on her Facebook page that she was unimpressed with claims that 30 people’s jobs were in jeopardy.

“He told me that everything that is happening was not fair,” she wrote.

Regarding the incident, Dawkins says she “really felt disrespected being that I had already called a couple days before to let them know I would need a two-hour window frame and someone who could do my hair. What hurts my feelings the most, is that today my hair was called an animal by a white man who knows nothing about black girl curls. I’m disappointed.”

In response to the matter, Denny Kemp salon posted a message on their Facebook page June 10.

“Though we believe that our stylist meant no harm and simply spoke inarticulately, his words were perceived as hurtful and completely contrary to what our salon stands for,” it said in part. “We have reached out to the client to apologize to her directly and spoken with our stylist in order to ensure that he understands that his words – intentional or not – were improper and offensive.”

As Dawkins’ story gained traction with many calling and emailing the salon, the former customer – who had visited the salon once when she used to chemically straighten her hair and another time to cut away the relaxed ends – said Denny Kemp had not issued an apology to her. Dawkins wrote on Facebook that the company stated they will continue to employ Waltenberg since “he’s a good stylist.”

Kemp confirms this in the interview saying he is “highly talented,” though he says Dawkins did not want him fired over the offensive comments. Still, the salon’s 5-star Facebook rating dropped to just 1.7 stars since the story has made waves, according to City Pages.

The company apologized publicly June 14 in a lengthy Facebook post describing how thankful they were to Dawkins “for insight with helping us develop an action plan to address and move past a highly regrettable episode in our salon history.”

The statement adds that the salon is “moving forward with education, awareness, and a renewed commitment to serving all people in our diverse community.”

Dawkins maintains she has never received an apology and in the last few days has been sharing a local area panel discussion on natural hair, which was inspired by her experience.

“The best thing I can do is forgive Justin and Denny Kemp Salon and Spa for the hurt they caused me,” she wrote June 15. “You won’t be able to heal if you don’t recognize that everybody isn’t perfect. Although I never received an apology, I will move forward by taking constructive action.”

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