Black hair has long been a lucrative business in the United States for black entrepreneurs, from Madam C. J. Walker, the first female American self-made millionaire, to former BE 100s companies such as Johnson Products, SoftSheen, and Pro-line. These companies created a market, opening the door for a score of black entrepreneurs who dominated the ranks of the nation’s largest black-owned businesses in the 1970s and ’80s.
Major corporations such as L’Oréal and Alberto-Culver also realized the value of this lucrative niche, and made inroads into the market in the 1990s by using their financial and distribution muscle. The black firms fought back through such organizations as the American Health & Beauty Aids Institute and placed a “Proud Lady” logo on brands produced by black-owned firms as a means of increasing support among African American consumers. However, the black firms did not have the resources to compete with the monoliths and were eventually acquired by these firms and turned into divisions of the majority corporations.