If you haven’t heard of chic Viola Desmond, you are about to learn a little about a woman who is a real Canadian hero (our very own founder, Amy Nicole hails from Canada as well, so we have an extra sweet spot for Canadians). The culture of beauty and the cult of beauty owe very much to this woman born in Halifax, Nova Scotia. We wouldn’t have a thriving professional makeup school at Chic Studios NYC and LA if it wasn’t for her doing. Because of Viola’s perseverance, we’re able to teach students the history and the art of makeup in our Basic Makeup 101 class!
In 2016, The Bank of Canada announced that Viola Desmond had been chosen to appear on the new Canadian ten dollar bill that will be released into circulation in 2018.
Viola Desmond is the woman who opened the first beautician school in Canada to welcome women of color and women of African descent. This is the first time that a Canadian woman has ever appeared on a Canadian bank note.
Viola Desmond was born in 1921 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Viola Desmond had a dream to further her education and become a business owner in Halifax.
She applied to all of the local beautician schools and was told that she could not attend because she was a black woman. No school would accept her.
For Viola Desmond, those rejections signaled an even more urgent need than pursuing her personal goals. She went to beauty schools in Montreal, Atlantic City and New York. She then returned to Halifax to open her very own business, a beauty school, in 1930. Viola Desmond‘s beautician school was the first beauty college in Halifax to welcome black students.
The year was 1946, when Viola Desmond took her seat in the theater that she had paid to attend, she was immediately approached and asked to move to the balcony section of theater reserved for non-white people. She refused.
She was forcibly removed from the theater, spent the night in jail and faced criminal charges. She was convicted on the charge of tax evasion for the one penny difference between the price of the two seating areas. She paid the fine and returned to Halifax to fight the injustice in court. Sadly, she was not successful.
In 2010, Viola Desmond became the first person in history to have a been granted a posthumous pardon by the government. She is no longer to be labelled a criminal in any way; quite the opposite, she is celebrated as a Canadian hero.
The following are a few of the other honors bestowed in memory of the beautiful courage of Viola Desmond:
• In 2000, Desmond was the subject of two documentary films, Journey to Justice and The Long Road to Justice: The Viola Desmond Story.
• Cape Breton University established a scholarship in the names of Viola Desmond and Wanda Robson
• Her sister, Wanda Robson wrote a book called Sister to Courage. Desmond was also the subject of a children’s book, Viola Desmond Won’t Be Budged by Jody Nyasha Warner.
• In 2012, Desmond was portrayed on a commemorative stamp issued by Canada Post.
• In 2016, Viola Desmond became the first black woman to be remembered in a Heritage Minute.
• In 2016, a Halifax Harbor Ferry was launched bearing her name.
• In 2017, Montreal named a street after Viola Desmond, and Halifax announced that a street will be named after her in Halifax also.
Viola Desmond reminds us of what we mean by both beauty and chic.