CAMPAIGN | HER DIFFERENT STORY
The connotation of afro hair more often than not runs towards a negative light, inevitably vilified as an antithesis against white hair styles. Highlighting black hair – spiced up – with an artistic edge, Black Salon opens doors to black joy and its liberation.
From a notorious style to a wildly celebrated motif, black hair has come a long way to receiving accolade – the ‘cool’ style leading the trend of self-love – among all. Embedded in the untamed, if not natural, afro hair, is the manifestation of empowerment loaded with an exceptional long history. Gird your loins to tumble through the aesthetics and symbols of the afro, as the virtual artistic parlor, Black Salon, walks you through cooky, exaggerated, over-the-top hairstyles.
“Black hair is liberation, a statement, an aesthetic of self.”
Black hair is the new black. As we see an array of afro styles taking center stage, wherein hordes of celebrities have enlisted the afro wave as of late – the likes of Alicia Keys, Solange and Naomi Campbell –wearing ‘fros in an array of styles ranging from short-length, medium-sized to the classic voluminous sculpture. In retrospect, however, black natural hair is synonymous with shame, for the black population could but assimilate into the white-dominated society straightening their hair.
“Nappy”, “wooly”, and “unprofessional” are some of the words associated with the afro, especially, tracing back to the 19th century (though, today, it hasn’t evolved much from then only in the eyes of white supremacists.)
To offer up an overview upon the ascent of black hair, it goes all the way back to 1906 when Madam CJ. Walker introduced the hot comb to the market, which entailed a tremendous crave for this holy grail in every black household. Just so black people could hold up to the Euro-centric beauty rubric, they bent over backwards to destroy their hair with chemicals, regardless of the abject, excruciating pain.
A frenzy of black Hollywood stars and singers, too, turned their noses up at their natural hair. And it wasn’t until the Civil Rights Movement they embraced with glory their hair at its most natural form.
“I’m as free as my hair.”
Angela Davis comes to mind, as one of the figureheads of the Civil Rights Movement, wearing her big round afro hair that later became the collective middle finger to racism. Hammering home the liberation of the ‘fros, the iconic hair style was however perceived more as a political statement than an aesthetic choice.
Having been misunderstood for decades, the afros deserve a proper appreciation – instead of the means to unleash the ire towards racism – platformed in the campaign Black Salon, alongside the second wave of hair liberation in the name of beauty and uniqueness.
Back into the set of Black Salon. It was almost enthralling to see the transformation on Jessica, Nadia and Nadege while they were getting ready for the shoot. As hypered as the crew, they looked into the mirror at themselves with an extravagant makeover done by Ada, our hair stylist. The models walked into the studio with flattering style and rocked up to the set with boosted confidence. An undervalued genre of art; black hair has been metabolizing its deepest cultural beauty through which the myriad styles, no doubt, deserve a place in the museum.
“With my natural hair, it’s more me.”
“Afro hair means strength and culture,” says Nadia, “it’s all ‘bout customs and where we come from, ‘cause it has a lot to do with what we’ve been through in history, and how we take care of our hair, it’s very unique and beautiful to us.” As soon as her towering braids were done, she was already blasting selfies into her Instagram stories. “I’m keeping my hair natural because I’m proud of my culture, and it’s different – it’s not what you see in the media all the time.” Indeed, the joy and the power that hair brings to a woman, is by no means an understatement.
“Natural hair or braids, I always get excited of what I could do with my hair.”
Perhaps that’s the secret power of black hair, a coalescing force bringing the models together even though it was just their first time meeting each other. Their laughter filled the gaps of butter-like R&B and underground hip-hop tracks playing in the background, chattering about almost everything, and, of course, their hairstyle splendor.
While nodding to the pulsating rhythm of the classic banger Throw Your Hands Up, Nadege was, at the same time, vibing with her radiant hairstyle. “To me afro hair means something I identify with. Because when it comes to me, I always think of my hair.” She picked up the gold heart-shaped necklace, finishing off her look, “It’s such a big part of my life. Growing up I was bald, but when I got older, I wanted to be more like a girl. So I grew my hair out,” she giggled, “my hair is my identity, not who I am, but more like where I came from.”
Posing on the barber chair in the middle of the set, Jessica radiates her most defiant with her spiraling braids. “Black hair means identity, it means how I connect with not only myself but other black people around the world,” says she while making the pearl necklace in place. “If I were to confine to the white beauty standards, it doesn’t separate me from anybody else, and it puts down my own cultural identity.”
“Unique, indifferent and beautiful, that’s my hair.”
Strains of empowerment, culture and identity interweaves at the heart of Black Salon, making it not only just a campaign but a black, cathartic expression. To put another way, it is a manifestation of black identity in all its complexities engaging deep history and knowledge. Afro hair is many things.