For the Black community, hair is so much more than just hair. Hair is history, representation, and a form of expression. The embrace of Black hair has revolutionized into a powerful form of pride, self-love and appreciation. In recent years, many opt for relaxed and chemical-free hair. However, a lack of representation in a market defined by White washed beauty trends has generated a pushback in the celebration of textured hair. Derogatory connotations have long clung to Black men and women’s natural hair, with many models and celebrities facing daily discrimination and emotional strife for which the fashion industry is partly responsible. From editorial spreads to magazine covers, brand campaigns to runway shows, diversity and representation have historically been remiss; with relatively few people willing to understand and celebrate textured hair.
In an effort to elevate the conversation around natural hair in fashion, CR sat down with five Black hair stylists who share their journeys as figures who are changing the game when it comes to kinks, curls and coils in fashion. Showcasing textured hair in all its gorgeous glory, these looks are history in the making.
“I think it’s important for me to be able to start the conversation with understanding how to actually love our actual texture. What that means for me is I had to understand that everybody has a different texture. So, every canvas requires a different skill set. I really like building character behind texture. That to me connects everything together.
Some of the ways that I emphasize Black beauty is referencing my grandma and my mom going to church. Understanding my ancestry of what hairstyles look like before they became glamorous. I think it’s important for me to always reference back to those things that are to my core.”
“The embrace of natural hair represents strength, because for so long, our natural hair wasn’t able to be on the forefront of beauty. It was something that had to be changed with a relaxer or some straightening system to be “beauty.” I think embracing natural hair is empowerment. Being able to walk into your workplace now with an afro, braids, or something that is textured, I think that allows women and men to be empowered in their own natural right.”
“I didn’t have the representation that I wanted to see when I was starting out in the business and as a young person. To see more people that looked like me, that had my hair type and texture, on covers of magazines, and on the red carpet. It’s been really exciting for me to be a part of this conversation of shifting the way that hair is perceived, especially, [for] Black women, we’ve been told for so long that the way that our hair grows out of our head isn’t as professional or isn’t red carpet worthy. So it’s been really exciting to collaborate with the clients that I have that have given me the space to really showcase that. Through that trust, we’ve been able to shift the conversation surrounding what beauty looks like.”
“I just love. I mean, I’m a Black woman, I love being Black. I can’t imagine being anything other than a Black person. I feel like all people are beautiful, but I just love the way that I was made, I love emphasizing it through my work, because I’m a storyteller. So I love being able to tell this beautiful story about my relationship with hair through my work.”
“Shifting conversations and perceptions wasn’t something that I intentionally set out to do but identified a need for early in my career”
“Many years ago when I was looking for an agent, I was overlooked so many times by professionals who couldn’t see the commercial value of the model’s hair textures within my portfolio. Part of my calling has always been to champion individuals with these hair textures, to say—“you can, you will, and you shall”
As a hairstylist my goal is always to help my clients recognize, feel, and be their own beautiful – whatever that may look like – no matter their heritage, hair texture, age, gender, sexuality, religion and so on. If you feel beautiful you will radiate confidence, positive energy, and naturally be attractive. I emphasize beauty through kindness and education, showing how hair’s true texture is unique to the individual, it’s part of your identity.”
“Wearing hair in its natural state opens up people’s minds and can be a conversation-starter that gives them the opportunity to spread love and embrace whatever it is that they’re embracing. There are elements of courage as well as vulnerability that sit within that, and strength.”
“I feel like I’ve become sort of a poster child for creating really cool and definitive looks for the culture. Luckily, I work with a diverse group of women that have fallen into the category of wanting to really live their freedom and their truth out loud in terms of their texture versus conforming to what ideologies of what beauty has been deemed to be. That’s taken a lot of work, but very little convincing actually. Collaboratively, I’ve been able to really represent what we stand for and we want to celebrate within ourselves. It’s been amazing and I’m just proud of the work that I’ve been able to do from Lupita [Nyong’o] onto so many others, Gabrielle [Union]. So many people that really embraced their textures and I’m proud to lead that charge. To be that voice, and to be somebody that these girls can depend on to really amplify and elevate texture in a very regal and cool, and modern way.
“I grew up in a generation where processed hair; pressing, getting Jheri curls to carefree curls, the perm set. You know, all of those things that I was taught to be deemed beautiful had to be relaxed. That’s been really interesting for me as an artist, I talked to a client last night for a big shoot and she saw the references and she’s like, “that’s not me, I’m not a straight haired wig girl.” We have to revisit this creative. I say, we’re not just saying yes because we’re accepted today, we’re not saying yes because we got invited to the party. We’re saying yes, we want to come to the party, but under our terms, and that’s what texture exemplifies to me in my process. I love that I didn’t have to push the client to be adamant about not doing something that she isn’t passionate about. As a matter of fact, I’m not doing it. No. I love that it’s coming from the top, and I’m able to just support the movement in that way.”
“I try to do embrace Black beauty by showcasing our natural textures and just really being as vocal about us in the beauty space as best as possible. No matter what platform I’m on, no matter what I’m talking about, no matter who I’m working with, I just had to make sure that I’m able to use my voice and let it be known that we are the blueprint and we are the standard.”
For me, I just love that we’re able to show the kinks of what we come with. For so long in order to get a job, we had to make sure we walked in with the straightest hair in order for us to feel like we’re “accepted,” you know it’s been a struggle. So, I think embracing what we naturally have and embracing our natural beauty and what we have to offer is something beautiful, and it’s something that’ll show generations to come after us that again. We are who we are, and we stand with what we are because this all started with us.”
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