ASU grad student receives MLK Jr. award

When Simone Bayfield, a young graduate from Johnson C. Smith University, a historically Black university in Charlotte, North Carolina, moved back to California and started a career in retail management for L’Oreal, she never could have known how soon she would be changing her plans to pursue her passion for beauty &mdash and changing lives along the way.

Simone Bayfield

Bayfield had always been interested in the beauty industry, but coming from a family where graduate degrees were the norm, she never thought that dream could be her reality.

One day, Bayfield decided to leave her job and go back to school to pursue a cosmetology license. Soon after, she founded Simone Bayfield Beauty.

It was not just a love of doing hair and makeup that inspired her to start her beauty business, but also the realization that there was a gap in the industry of providers who knew how to serve clients with multicultural hair and skin.

“Funny enough, one of my first professional jobs was at Los Angeles Fashion Week,” Bayfield says.

It was very interesting to me that all of the models of deeper skin tone had to bring their makeup with them because, so oftentimes, the makeup artists that were hired for these shows didn't know how to work with their skin type, didn't know how to match it.

"I was just like, OK, there needs to be education, there needs to be more advocates in this area. We need to have more representation of artists that look like the models and look like the talent and be able to provide everyone with a service, not just certain people.”

As Bayfield’s business grew, she found herself doing wedding makeup for a Broadway star and saw her work credited in People Magazine.

Her instinct to serve others never changed, though, and Bayfield would routinely volunteer at women’s shelters and homeless shelters in Los Angeles. By offering her beauty services to women — many victims of domestic violence — she gave them “a new lease on life.”

“When I was in beauty school ... the school would authorize these vouchers to the local homeless shelters, so that some of their residents could come in and get free haircuts and it was practice for us, as part of our training,” Bayfield explains. "You could see these people come in with their heads held down, and they didn't want to look you in the eye and they weren't sure what to say. And then, to see them come out and kind of straighten their back and put their shoulders back and look in the mirror and kind of reignite that spark in someone's eye, I immediately knew like, OK, this is something that I can do basically for free, and it's not costing me anything and something that I know is going to make a huge impact.”

Bayfield continued her work at the shelters, helping women who were ready to transition into the workforce get “mini makeovers.”

“Again, it was like, seeing these women that ... felt kind of worthless, and felt broken and beaten down and didn't feel worthy of love or feeling like they deserved to feel pretty, and seeing again, that kind of light be reignited,” Bayfield says. "And then also, realizing that it was so much more than just a haircut or so much more than just makeup. You were giving people a new lease on life and feeling like they deserved to be happy. They deserved to be seen as more than just a statistic.”

In 2018, Bayfield decided to go back to school once more and pursue a master's degree in business administration. At ASU, Bayfield has continued to serve others, though in a different way than with her beauty business.

“It was pretty apparent to me when I first started the program that there weren't a lot of people that looked like me,” Bayfield says.

I was the only African American student in the entire program. And while that was an amazing experience, it was also like, OK, but what about our students here? Why aren't we attracting more talent from our local community? You know, where's the disconnect there?”

In addition to seeing the lack of representation in her program, a summer of protesting against police brutality toward Black Americans was the tipping point for Bayfield to do something in the ASU community.

“I think everything exploded in the summer after Breonna Taylor and George Floyd,” Bayfield says. “And there was kind of a little bit of outrage from me and some of my classmates that the school wasn't addressing it, and that it was taking weeks for a statement to come out. And it ... very much felt like there wasn't a support system. And I was like, OK, myself and one of my other classmates started talking, and we felt like now is the time, people are more open to change, because of what's going on.

"This is the first time that we're going to be able to have these open discussions. And people are kind of finally accepting and acknowledging the fact that there has been this systemic oppression in our country, and it's part of our history, and that we need to make a change. You know, why not us? Not why us but like, why not? Anyone can do any small change and start anything and just helping one person is going to have a trickle-down effect, right?”

Along with her peer, Daniel Valdez, Bayfield co-founded Accelerated Leadership for Underrepresented Minorities (ALUM). The student organization is “a pipeline” for students of color to move into high-power positions in the business world.

“We started talking about how we wanted to get this organization started,” Bayfield says. "We wanted to have a place for all of the students of color to be able to come together to support each other, to create networks, to make sure that we have the resources that we need to be successful. With diversity now being such a hot topic, we needed to take advantage of that and make sure that we were providing opportunities that maybe we weren't getting from the school to build these pipelines with these companies that were looking specifically for hiring diversity.

"And so, we started working over the summer doing some research in our class and seeing how people felt about the issue, brought in some of the other Hispanic students and started working on creating this organization so that we could not only bring awareness to the topic but make sure that there was a community in place for ourselves and also for any future students.”

Bayfield hopes that ALUM will move to other MBA programs across the country. Her dream is for ASU’s organization to be a “strong model” and “that we have a strong enough community that any student feels welcome and supported when they come.”

Bayfield says being a servant leader is about being there “to serve your constituents and serve your community.

“That's what the purpose of a leader is, is to not be the one who's necessarily the face of an organization, or the person with the most power or the most money, but it's about who's helping make the biggest change,” Bayfield says.

So, to me, servant leadership is a leader who stays embodied in knowing that they're there to work for the people they serve, not the other way around.”

Bayfield’s advice to those who may not see themselves as leaders is to think about “what small thing you can do to make a positive impact in the world.

“Martin Luther King Jr. ... was bringing awareness to issues that people maybe didn't want to talk about,” Bayfield says. “And so, by continuing to bring awareness to those issues, whatever they may be ... we need to remember that most of all we're all united in the fact that we are the human race, regardless of anything else, and that we need to always be looking out for the marginalized groups and making sure that everyone's voices are heard, regardless of who they are, what they look like, or what they believe in.

"So, to me, that's the best way to honor him. You don't have to be a leader to make a change. Let your voice be heard. Have an open mind. Participate in uncomfortable conversations. Talk to someone different than you, and try to see their opinion. Continue to be empathetic to other people's feelings and use that to form your opinion.”

Read about Teniqua Broughton who was also honored with the 2021 ASU Martin Luther King Jr. Servant-Leadership award at asunow.asu.edu, where the full article was originally published.

By Lauren Fountain

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