“The shrinkage is real,” Lana, my 15-year-old cousin, complained showing me pictures of her natural hair on her iPhone. Just like me at her age, she is choosing to wear protective style braids until she reaches her hair goals. “Trust me I know,” I assured her fingering my own wash-n-go style “girl let me tell you about my natural hair journey,” I gushed proudly as I launched into my favorite product recommendations and natural haircare advice. I hope she was listening. Probably not, though.
Still, I smiled on the inside. Unbeknownst to me, we were forming #hairties.
What Is #Hairties?
#Hairties, a new 7-part video series created by curlfriend Antonia Opiah of Un-ruly.com in partnership with Smooth N’ Shine, is reshaping what women today and those who come after them consider beautiful as it relates to their hair. It’s a collective trip down memory lane that follows six women across three generations and three continents, and the people that influenced how they view and do their hair.
For many African American women a certain standard of beauty has been unattainable, rife with colorism and respectability politics. But it has been our mothers, sisters, friends and kitchen beauticians that truly have shaped our crowning glory.
Aunt Valerie, Lana’s birth mother, was the beginning of my own hair story — my first hair tie. See everything I know about hair is grounded in the lessons my late Aunt Val taught ME as a teenager. And here I am now 20 years later teaching her daughter. I will forever treasure her memory. It lives on in my bomb rollerset technique.
I can still see her in my 13-year-old mind perched in the living room with a bag of hard rollers, a squirt bottle full of Lottabody, a towel draped around her neck peering into the slim wall mirror. She gave me the confidence to master styling my own hair. Just like she did.
It’s that confidence and self-care I want to pass down to future generations when it comes to hair. Wear it as an accessory, embrace it, love it and most of all have a hair party and have a good hair day!
Tell Your Hairties Story
Have your own hair story? You can add your stories to the #Hairties project by posting your submission here and this June the #Hairties pop-up exhibit in New York City will take visitors on a collective trip down memory lane, through a curated selection of photos collected through the project.