Pride month is very important to Josh and I. Both as individuals who identify proudly as gay and as co-founders of Josh Wood Colour. Not only is Pride a reminder for everyone to be kind, tolerant, inclusive and loving of others regardless of who they are and how they choose to live, but also a reminder to ourselves of who we are, how we treat others and the values that are close to our hearts. Because, for us, Pride isn’t a month, it’s a lifetime and we strive every day to create a safe space where those who join us can be their true selves, are accepted without question, respected for who they are and have the freedom to express their creativity however they choose. Inclusivity is not a word we bandy around to tick a commercial box, it is at the core of who we are as human beings and as business owners. Everybody is valued for their contribution and standing beside our JWC family makes us feel pride every single day.
Choosing to be and becoming a colourist was, for Josh, a way of finding acceptance. Growing up gay in Yorkshire in the 80’s had been difficult and he had been ridiculed for being “different” and felt misunderstood. His options seemed limited and he longed for acceptance and understanding and to find a community of like-minded people wanting to live as their true selves. Hairdressing gave him a way out where he found inspiration and a passion for colour, allowing him to express himself through his creativity. Because of this Josh has always wanted to support people that feel marginalised or may have found early life more challenging. He believes that the richness of diversity is the way in which his career and business have flourished and although at times it may not be easy, fostering a safe and nurturing environment for people to grow and be themselves, providing opportunity and a platform from which others can find success and explore their creativity has always been so important to him and is central to everything he and JWC stands for.
Before founding JWC with Josh, I had been a school teacher in schools across London working alongside some of the most incredible and dedicated people I have ever met and think of this time with great pride and fondness. However, there were occasions when I experienced homophobic behaviour towards me and others. Like the time the PE teachers threw things at me in the staff room to, in their words, “prove gays can’t play sports” or the time I had to listen to a Geography teacher announce loudly that gay people shouldn’t be allowed to teach children. These experiences left me feeling humiliated and afraid to be honest about who I was, sending me back into a closet I had bravely stepped out of. But it made me determined to never allow anyone to feel that way and to create spaces where young people could feel safe, devoting myself to anti-bullying campaigning and educating others that our differences are what make us so special. I feel exactly the same way about founding and running a business. That we should all be celebrated, that we have the right to live as we choose and that bullying and discrimination of any sort have no place in what we are building together.
Josh and I love our JWC family, celebrate them every day and are proud of every one of them. Their happiness and well-being are the most important things to us. We could not have achieved all the things we have without them and thanks to them we have not only survived but thrived this most difficult of years and for that we couldn’t be prouder.
Happy Pride. With love.