The black hair story is inspiring, thought-provoking, regal and grounded in both pain, celebration and history. Black hair is both a matter of personal choice and personal struggle, as well as a symbol of strength, power and harmony. For generations, black hair has been central in conversation in black communities and the conversation unfolds between mother, father, child and grandparents as each decade comes around. What is so gratifying is that the black hair story is different to each individual you meet, but we all come together to understand and share the weight of its existence. Whether natural, braided, straight, under a wig or shaven, black hair is both a hearty and ever-changing conversation.
Photo:Tracee Ellis Ross
In 2020, the black hair dynamic is still a rather complicated one. Although it has come along in leaps and bounds as more and more individuals step away from the mainstream constraints and showcase their natural hair without a second thought, many still face discrimination and hardship for their black hair. An example of this was showcased at the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards 2020 when DeAndre Arnold was invited after being told he wouldn’t be able to attend his graduation in Texas, USA unless he cut off his dreadlocks. This still goes to show that hardship is still prevalent with black hair today, but there are numerous individuals that have stood away from the norm and are changing the conversation on black hair.
These are the 13 women, in particular, who I personally find really inspiring…
Founder of award-winning Gina Knight Design, who specialises in authentic Afro Hair Wigs, is working to not only celebrate Afro hair but to also break down the barrier and shame that is often tagged to hair loss in the black community. Big, bountiful and beautiful, Gina’s designs are a cut above the rest and eliminates the pressing concern between wearing wigs and “owning” natural hair.
Awa is the owner of Antidote Street, a platform that serves to educate and provide the black community on looking after black hair with both products and advice. Removing the confusion between what products to use, what techniques to apply and how best to look after black hair, she is making sure you fall in love with your texture and teaching you how to look after it.
A leading award-winning hairstylist, Charlotte Mensah opens the gateway for a quality salon experience every time you wash your hair. Creating a best-selling haircare line and with her book Good Hair being released later this year, Charlotte is treating, restoring and transforming one head at a time.
One of the first mainstream leading ladies to change the conversation around wigs from the start of her career is Beyoncé. Whether you love her music or not, her hair and wigs especially have made it easier for women to follow suit with an array of styles, finishes and colours. A full lace front, 360 degrees, glued down, closure or frontal, Beyonce’s wigs over the years have been added to many inspiration boards.
TRACEE ELLIS ROSS
The woman of the moment, Tracee Ellis Ross, struggled with her own black hair story for many years as an actress and by continually raising the topic in the comedy show Blackish, she is making the world aware of the black hair story. Launching Pattern Beauty in 2019, Tracee has created a community of hair lovers that can look after and wear their hair proudly in 2020 and beyond.
From 12 Years a Slave to The Black Panther, Lupita has represented black hair in its most beautiful form. Whether styled in a neat and tightly coiled afro or extended to regal heights for red carpet events like the Met Gala, Lupita has opened the conversation around black actresses being accepted regardless of their hair. With her latest project release, Americanah, set to release later this year, there is no doubt that black hair and the black community will claim its true rights.
If you haven’t seen Queen & Slim yet, then what are you doing? The cinematography, message and reference to the '90s black love story is a dynamic not to miss. Within the film, Jodie goes through the transition of braids to a bold shaven look as she sheds a former self through the hot pursuit. Although a small reference, her hair moment stood out as a reflection of black women coming into their own regardless of the backlash.
Regis and Kahran Bethencourt
Owners of Creative Soul Photography, this husband-and-wife duo are visual storytellers that created a display of images celebrating black hair on the younger generation. A love letter of sorts, this series attempts to change the conversation for young girls today and the pride they should feel owning their natural hair and not shy away from what society tells them to do in a way it has done with the black community in the past.
A woman I personally admire for her talent, hard work and humour (a hard-to-come-by trio). Issa is unapologetic when it comes to her hair and loves to experiment with styles and cuts that gives off a free-spirited attitude, a manner much of us would love to carry in our daily lives.
It’s as if Gen Z has it all together when it comes to rights, voice and opinion, and Yara is one of them. She stands tall as an actress and as she has come into her own over the years, she has paved a way for girls her age and younger. Every time she posts an Instagram or walks the red carpet, her faultless attitude means you can’t help but fall in love with her.
A creative director and stylist, I have followed Moshoodat for many years and her striking visuals get better and better. As a whole, her images personify the black woman and black hair as royalty and her inspiration clearly comes from re-linking black women back to their aristocratic roots.
Activist and founder of DaughterOrg, a non-profit organisation sponsoring travel for scholars of the diaspora who wish to expand their narrative. Outside of her activist work, Ebonee creates a space of celebration and harmony as she reaches the black community back to its African roots. Her hair story alone stands pride and place in her visuals as she illustrates what it means to be black and beautiful.