Kalpesh Dave on Breaking Gender Stereotypes and Barriers
Crown The Brown : The exclusive on Kalpesh Dave. It’s not everyday that we meet someone fighting towards breaking gender roles and barriers. Born in Louis Trichardt in Limpopo, Kalpesh Dave has had quite an interesting life. Kalpesh started finding a keen interest in the beauty industry at the early age of 13 when he became a hairdresser. It was a passion worth sharing and he soon moved to Johannesburg to bring his passion to life, especially since he loves traveling as well!
Kalpesh has become a staple to many in the Indian community as he has always been vocal about gendered norms. He has most certainly shown that gender has no name and that equality rules over it all. We were quite intrigued by his love for Bollywood and his way of life. This is what Kalpesh shared with us!
Hair guru, eccentric and known for breaking barriers, how would you describe yourself in three words? What are three things that people don’t know about you?
Dynamic, Consistent & Insightful. 3 things that people don’t know about me; I may come across as outgoing but I’m actually selective with my circle and what I share about myself (quality over quantity) but I love meeting new people and forming new connections! I’ve learned to be quite intuitive with people. My first impression is usually spot on because I find people to be very much “on the surface” these days. And a fun one – I love driving fast!
You have been a hairdresser since the age of 13, what inspired this love for hair and adding glam to people’s lives?
If I have to think back – I started by doing family and close friends’ hair and it was simply to make them feel beautiful and to do something for them they couldn’t do for themselves? My hobby then became a talent and the money I earned at my weekend and vacation job in high school became pocket money. This has really added to my hard-working and consistent work ethic as well as value for money.
Online, people know you as someone who often fights for equality and working towards breaking barriers, what are some of the barriers you have experienced as a South Asian male in the beauty industry?
Coming from a small town where most people were narrow minded. I did experience a bit of prejudice from time to time but at the end of the day my talent spoke for itself and the people loved me for it. I was also fortunate to attend a very forward-thinking private school so any bigotry was taken with zero tolerance. In the industry itself. I have found that I could be my more authentic and true self. Moving to the city and being a hairstylist has really paved the way forward for me as an individual.
You are very vocal about gender barrier between men and women in traditional Indian culture. You continuously strive towards breaking the norm between what is considered masculine and feminine. In your own experience, what do you consider gender equality to be?
Completely and totally. I have come to the conclusion that if you feel good and comfortable as an individual then that is all that matters. This is the way that I choose to express myself. Gender equality for me is simple. Each sex should be treated the same. By nature I am a consistent person so I see that people should be treated the same. At the end of the day if something can be done by either sex in the same manner and with the same caliber. Why should anything else matter?
How do you fight against the idea of toxic masculinity in our South Asian societies? What do you think us as a community can do to certainly teach our children better?
I think that more people need to come forward and be their true self. Recently, I have been learning and trying to look at things from every angle and try really hard to put myself in the other person’s shoes. Ignorance is a huge thing – you only know what you are taught. People who can see the bigger picture and see the toxicity that is happening need to address it. Silence is an enabler.
Also people need to come out with who they are! Expressing yourself in a certain manner does not make you “less of a man”. The more people step forward and live their truth then the more “normal” it becomes and the shame falls away. This is a big journey though but it starts from within.
You are an avid Bollywood lover, what do you love most about Bollywood and how has Bollywood inspired the work that you do?
It’s quite funny because as a young child I loved Bollywood through and through and then growing up and as a teenager I sort of strayed away from it and it is because of people’s reactions around my differences as an Indian individual. I somehow thought to myself “I don’t fit into this box so I’m going to close it and open up a western box” but as I got older I saw that I do in fact fit and rediscovering things I loved as a young child (my culture, tradition and Bollywood fun) has been amazing!
What are some stereotypes that you have faced as a South Asian male in terms of how you represent yourself?
I think that because I work in an image based industry people tend to assume that you, yourself are very “image conscious”. In a way it is true – would you trust a dentist with bad teeth? Or a dermatologist with bad skin? It most certainly comes with the territory. People also tend to assume that you are weak because you may come across in a more feminine manner than most men.
I have also experienced a lot of being looked down upon in that I’m JUST a hairstylist so I must be dumb. I was a good academic in school and I gave university a shot but early on in life I realized that there’s a difference between having the capability of doing something and actually WANTING to do it. This is something the youth need to see as well. If you make what you love your job – the success will follow because your passion is there!
We have all experienced hate online as well, what advice can you give to others who try and break old traditional views regarding gender roles and stereotypes?
I would say block out the hate in a way that educates them better. Like I said earlier; people only know what they are exposed to and taught. Also get yourself out there on awesome pages like Crown the Brown!
How do you use your platform to encourage more South Asian representation and gender equality?
I try to address things that need to be spoken about – such as what has been going on with regards to gender based violence. Talking about the topics that need speaking about. I also try and push the barrier in my expression to the point where the line of masculinity and femininity is blurred – such as having facial hair but wearing make-up and wearing traditionally “feminine” things.
What do you think the biggest challenge for South Asians are at the moment and what do you love celebrating the most about your culture?
I think the biggest thing is prejudice. Prejudice against genders, races and which country you are from. I love celebrating the festivals! Coming to the city has shown me that this is a time where people come together – regardless of the gender or how you choose to represent and express yourself!
The traditions and auspicious days are also so important because of the powerful significance and meaning that it holds. I always take an interest in learning more about our heritage and that of others too! I also love the glamour to be honest! The fashion and the dressing up! I have an upcoming India trip later this year and I cannot wait to further discover my roots, culture and heritage!
Furthermore, it is no surprise that Kalpesh is surely making a big difference in our society. Old traditions need some spice and Kalpesh is definitely serving it at the table! We are ready to pull out the chair and join his journey towards breaking these barriers! Be sure to follow Kalpesh on instagram @thekall_d .