Destinee Steele’s a JEDI trainer. No, not of the Star Wars variety. She recently completed her first theatrical JEDI training tour and shares the story!

If you don’t know her yet, Destinee has an MFA in wig and makeup design. She is the CEO of The Beauty Menagerie, LLC. She is also a Founding Board Member of Black Hair and Makeup United. Let this multi-talented theatre maker fill you in on her JEDI training tour and the work she’s doing. You’ll be inspired!

What is a JEDI trainer?

First, let me tell you why there’s a need for a JEDI trainer. There is a common problem in theatre hair and makeup rooms: BIPOC talent often suffers at the hands of artists that lack proper training with textured hair and makeup applications for deeper skin tones. I was a touring wig and makeup supervisor by profession when COVID-19 hit. It turned out I had about 18 months to figure out how I was going to help change this industry for the better.

The JEDI training I did was a super cool job that was born out of necessity. NETworks Tours™ agreed that all talent should have all their hair and makeup needs met by trained hair stylists and makeup artists. They hired me as their first “Just Equity Diversity and Inclusion trainer/consultant” (a.k.a. JEDI!). I traveled and trained all their wig and makeup supervisors for the season. I made sure that they had the information, products, skills, and support that they needed to move forward in a safer way with BIPOC talent on the road.

On tour, I am a voice for the actors, a consultant for the designers, and a resource for the supervisors. The most important part of my job is advocating for the performers. Sometimes those are tough conversations to have, which is why many people don’t even have them! As an unbiased third party, it is my job to be a creative problem-solver. I report back to the company what issues are being dealt with and the plan of action.

I visited touring productions at the beginning of the rehearsal process while initial wig fittings were taking place. I helped assure the performers that NETworks Tours™ is committed to taking care of them this season. Part of the training involved taking the wig and makeup supervisor to the local hair store to shop for products and tools for the performers’ needs for the show.

Destinee Steele (center) is a JEDI trainer. 2 Black women smiling and 1 white woman smiling

Destinee Steele (center) with friends in JEDI training. A trip to the supply house stocked the right products and tools to manage all of the performers’ hair textures.

The Top 3 Hair & Makeup Misconceptions

Misconception #1: Pin curls are the only way to prep hair for all performers.

The way we address wig preps for all is by asking: How do you like to wear your hair on a daily basis? From that answer, we work backward. Some of this season’s performers have natural afros, and they like to wear their hair in a twisted protective style during performances. So, we equip the supervisor with the information, skills, and jargon to walk the performers through new hair preps.

It’s important that the performers trust their supervisors, as they will be traveling together long after I’ve gone. It’s also equally important to know that the supervisor can execute this new concept in my absence.

Misconception #2: Deva Curl works on all textured hair.

A couple of the tours that I visited only carried Deva Curl in the road boxes for their BIPOC performers. I love this brand as much as every other licensed cosmetologist, but the performers want to see items in the product drawer that they use and recognize. We kept the Deva Curl because there are people on tour with curly hair who are not BIPOC and EVERYONE deserves to be catered to! And we went shopping at the local hair store for more common brands used by the BIPOC performers. Win/win!

Misconception #3: Using the performers’ own hair is cheaper than wigging them.

Sometimes this is true. Most actors prefer to be wigged to protect their hair from over-manipulation throughout the run of a show. If the production chooses to use the performer’s own hair, it is my job to relay to the designer what that actually means in the form of maintenance, time, and money.

I talk through all facts with all parties involved. For example, if the actor will have locs (a.k.a. locks or dreadlocks) for the duration of the tour, then we have to consider the cost of a monthly retwist, products to maintain the hairstyle in between maintenance, and how to modify pins/hairstyles within the production itself. Using a wig or the performer’s natural hair are two viable options. We all just need to be on the same page with a safe plan of action moving forward.

Who did you teach on the JEDI tour?

Actors, supervisors, and designers were my students. The most diverse group was the actors. The theatre industry is putting together more inclusive casts. It is exciting, and an honor to bear witness!

Typically, designers are white males. The same is true for every boss I’ve worked with in this industry. Not much diversity there. Supervisors are typically white females, so not much diversity there either. I hope that as the industry continues to move in an even more inclusive direction, we will integrate more BIPOC designers, supervisors, and creatives.

What advice do you have for theatre students?

  • If you are interested in any part of the theatre industry my advice is: Never stop learning. The industry, technology, and our whole world is constantly evolving. People who are set in their ways usually get left behind.
  • Learn from everyone, even if the only takeaway is how not to do something.
  • Jump on every opportunity to turn your passion into a paycheck! I have a heart for teaching and helping artists better the conditions in their wig and makeup rooms. This JEDI training tour with NETworks helped me fulfill that dream. If no one has told you today, I believe you can do it too!  ♦

Destinee Steele, a Black woman with red hair in blue jean shirt with wigs on styling heads.

Destinee Steele is a regular content contributor to along with being a JEDI trainer. To learn more visit Destinee at

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