Re: Henna, rather, Mehndi, on/for/by Indian women

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Posted by kenzi on October 24, 2002 at 16:25:29:

In reply to: Henna, rather, Mehndi, on/for/by Indian women posted by Lauren on October 24, 2002 at 15:21:44:

Lauren, you bring up an interesting issue, one I think about often.
In general, my belief is that everyone should be charged my
regular rate. I did some famous people in the last year and
some people asked me what I charged; I just charged my usual
rate because who am I to judge who is famous enough to
warrant a discount or deserves to be overcharged. I'm still the
same person doing the henna and my time is worth a fixed
amount. End of story. The flip side of that is when I am hennaing
regular nobodies (ha ha!!) I charge the same rate, and that
means I don't change my rates depending on someone's race or
origins (no, I am not accusing you of contemplating racism!).
Sometimes I get calls from people who "sound" "American" or
"white" (or whatever) and they turn out to be indian or afghani.
Who can know in advance? Do I charge a different rate from
people who "sound" Moroccan?

That is not to say that I never discount my services. Sometimes
a particular person really wants my services and can't afford it; I
try to work out a situation so that they can get some henna and
not pay a lot of money, either by having them come to me, or get
a little less henna etc. I often do things for free, though usually I
get paid in other ways: free advertising, entree into a community,
professional photos, an interesting and enlightening experience

Another thing to remember is the place of the henna artist in
some countries, like India, Pakistan, Morocco, etc. etc. Here in
the US the title and concept of artist is somewhat exalted,
whether deservedly or not, and tends to transcend social
classification. You tell people at a cocktail party that you are a
henna artist and they are fascinated. In Morocco (and I assume
this is true for other henna-using countries) the henna artist is
usually not middle class and almost never upper class; a highly
educated woman is not likely to be a henna artist or want to be
one. So, while their art is respected as art, they are still of a
lower class than most of their clients. And this is where I start
answering your question, the henna artist in countries where it is
a lower class profession, are paid according to their station, that
is to say not that well. For example, I am sure you remember
Catherine talking about how henna artists in India were often
paid for their services with a silver henna stick.

I don't know the answer to the following question and would love
to discuss it here and it will probably require more experiences
to answer it: will people from henna-loving countries living in the
US ever want to pay our full rates for henna, given how they see
the class of a henna artist? will they always see it as worth
$20/hour as opposed to $60/hour? And will henna artists from
henna-using countries, who live and work in the US, ever charge
more for their services to catch up to the rest of us?

I can make a broad generalization, based on my own
experiences and not meant to demean any group or race or
creed: usually the people who are originally from henna-using
countries but who have either been born here in the US or have
spent most of their lives here are the most willing to pay my
regular rate. The ones who have lived in their native countries
long enough to have had to pay a henna artist out of their own
pockets are not willing to pay my rates. I cannot blame them. I
regret that I probably won't get a lot of gigs in such communities
but I do get enough gigs in the communities of long-time
residents of the US to satisfy me.

In sum, I think that if you offer a lower rate for entree into a
community you might learn a lot at that gig, and that is
invaluable, but I personally doubt that it will lead to future clients
who will be willing to pay your usual rate.


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