When someone touches your hair without permission, feels happen — and not just the physical kind. It's uncomfortable. Unwarranted. Rude. Weird. Demeaning. Scary. It's easy for people to ask "what's the big deal" about the whole ordeal when they haven't experienced it themselves... and no matter how hard you try to explain why grabbing a fistful of a Black man or woman's 'fro is so wrong, there are people out there who still just don't get it. Momo Pixel, the art director of Wieden+Kennedy advertising agency, is breaking it down for the baffled masses with Hair Nah!, a travel game with a retro look and a message that needs to be heard right this second.
In the game, character Aeva's objective is to pass through four levels (her apartment lobby, the cab, airport security, and the plane) to reach one of three destinations where her girlfriends await her. If this seems anticlimactic to you, then you try getting through TSA checkpoint without getting your curls ruffled by an officer at least once. "Everything in the game is based on truth," Pixel tells Refinery29.
Clearly, there are plenty of folks that relate: Her tweet about Hair Nah! has been shared by Shonda Rhimes, DeRay Mckesson, Jenna Wortham, and more. And, as of now, over 60,000 people have logged on to play it. "From Black woman to Black woman, our experiences are universal," Pixel says. "And Black women as a whole are my inspiration." Ahead, the creator speaks on the message, the response, and — of course — the hairstyles in the game.
Regarding the name, what does "nah" mean to you? And how is it different than "no?"
"It's one of my favorite words. It can mean multiple things, depending on my tone. I just use it to really put my foot down and protect my space. So Hair Nah! made sense because I would say 'nah' before I say 'no.'"
Who is Aeva modeled after?
"So many Black women. Twitter users I've seen, Meagan Good, Nia Long, Teyana Taylor — and then a little Solange, who was the first person to put a voice to this. Ultimately, Aeva looks like any Black girl you could know."
Why did you choose those hairstyles and skin tone options? There's so much variety.
"Sounds silly, but when I was thinking of various hairstyles, I kept imagining which styles Twitter would clown me on, and which they would be hype about. There's one style that's made to look like Maxine Waters. One to look like ya auntie. One that looks like Meagan Good. One is the big chop. And then there are ones that are classic to us, like Bantu knots and the Afro. I mean, you can go through them and just get your life."
Who are the invaders? The hands in the game are white.
"Yeah. It's always white people."
Have any people who've invaded your space in the past reached out with a response to the game?
"People have apologized, which is great. I kind of feel bad that I had to make a whole game for them to realize how bad it is to do that, though."
How do you stop people from touching your hair when they try in real life?
"I'm still hesitant to speak out. When it happens, you're in shock, and then you don't say what you want to say. Now I'm conscious, and I try to speak out more. But as Black women, we're taught that we have to be respectful, assimilate, and be quiet."
In a perfect world, what would your reaction be if you had no hesitations?
"No. Nah. Bye. Or just be able to just walk away."