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“I Decided To Formulate My Own Identity”: Three Women Talk Hair & Heritage

The creative expression of identity through hair has long-standing importance for women. This can be especially true for women with kinkier or curlier hair, who for so long have had to assimilate and tone themselves down for a society that deems their natural hair offensive and unpolished. Though hair discrimination is still an issue, many of us are now feeling more empowered to embrace our natural hair textures, opening up a new voyage of self-love and self-expression. And experimenting with colour is helping us on our journey to being bold and unapologetically ourselves.
From candyfloss pink to the bleached blonde framing highlights trend, there are no limits. With the countless options Schwarzkopf LIVE Colour provides for all hair types, as well as more awareness than ever before about how to protect our hair from heat and colour damage, the world is truly our oyster. Our hair has always had the power to set trends and tell powerful stories. And in an act of defiance and empowerment, we are finally breaking free from society's Eurocentric rules and conventions.
We sat down with three like-minded women of mixed Caribbean heritage to chat all things hair, identity and self-expression – and how LIVE Colour has helped them on their journey.
For Morgan, experimenting with different hairstyles and fashion looks has always given her a sense of freedom. Taking fashion inspiration from her Trinidadian heritage and love of Carnival, she gravitates towards bright hair colours, particularly “sparkles, sequins and vibrant colours like yellows and blues”. She has previously been blonde and even shaved her hair last year during lockdown, which was a “spontaneous” decision and raised £500 for charity. “I had no hair,” she laughs. “But I thought, you know what? I don’t mind it, and it sets me apart from other people.”
“It makes me feel empowered that I have the confidence to change my hair and not have inhibitions or hold it back. Because a lot of people would never dream of shaving all their hair off – they'd hate it. Having it blonde was great for the summer as well, and I really enjoyed it.” Growing up, Morgan found comfort in box braids, which she wore often. “I liked it because it was something different to my natural hair and it stayed neat for quite a long time. Plus, a few of my friends had [box braids] as well.” Currently sporting LIVE Colour + Moisture Twilight Black permanent hair colour – a range specifically developed for dark hair and all hair textures – Morgan is relieved to have a colour that is easy to maintain. “As much as I loved my hair blonde, it’s such an upkeep to keep it that way, especially when the roots grow out,” she admits.
Like Morgan, Skye enjoys the feeling of empowerment and freedom that comes with switching up her natural hair. “I wanted something that was bold and something that was going to help push me to continue to experiment with my hair,” she tells us, referring to the vibrant LIVE Intense Colour Mango Twist permanent colour. “It also brings out my freckles, is my second favourite colour and just goes with everything.” Skye is no stranger to bright hair. “I was a teenager [the first time I coloured my hair] and I coloured the underneath layer red. And then for the next six or seven years I experimented with different colours. I’ve had it bright pink, orange and black as well. I’ve also shaved the sides – and then shaved all my hair off and dyed it blonde when I was about 19.”
Skye describes her identity as her “armour”, with her love of experimentation coming from being displaced from her birth parents and growing up in south Wales where no one looked like her. She was often told that her hair was “disruptive” to the learning of other students but refused to let that stop her expressing herself.
“I spent my formative years in a very white area, where there were no reference points for me to get inspiration for anything to do with my identity,” she tells me. “So I just decided I may as well formulate my own identity. I find safety in that because I already knew I was different. So for me, there was no point trying to conform to look the same as everyone else because I knew even if I tried my hardest, they were still seeing me as different. It was an outward expression of the personality that I had and what I’d experienced in my life.”
Morgan can relate: she also went to a predominantly white school where she didn’t see women with hair like hers. “As soon as I started getting more into musical theatre at college, I was the only person of colour in my cohort. There wasn't much racial diversity, which can be tough at times because you want to go somewhere where there are other people who look like you – and sometimes there isn’t.”
Skye’s style was always heavily influenced by her Saint Lucian heritage and other hot countries she experienced. She spent time in Indonesia, India, Thailand and Australia when she was young. “I travelled lots growing up. Up until the age of seven, I only spent a couple of months in England. I was always in hot countries so my style was influenced by that and all the time I spent around the world. With Saint Lucia, the boldness and the brightness of the island and the culture really influenced my style. Growing up in Wales, I would thrift a lot of my clothes and find them at charity shops or flea markets. For my hair, I did lots of braiding styles using beads, headscarves and lots of bright colours.”
Now living in south London, Skye is inspired by style she sees every day in areas that are heavily influenced by Caribbean culture, like Brixton. “Areas where there are lots of hair shops always make me really happy because I know I’m gonna see other people like me,” she smiles.
For Alex, whose mum is Dominican/British and dad is white British, her hair journey wasn’t always easy. “I grew up in north London, in Finsbury Park. So it was pretty central with lots of different communities, and the school I went to was really multicultural too. But when I was at school, wearing your hair naturally was definitely not fashionable at all,” says Alex. “The thing to have was a pair of straighteners and have poker straight hair which I think really [negatively] impacted my confidence to wear my hair out. Now I’m in my 30s, I feel much more comfortable with wearing my hair down and curly and can see the beauty in that.”
Though Alex has experimented with hair colour in the past, taking inspiration from the vibrancy of Dominica, her hair is currently a dark natural brown: LIVE Colour + Moisture Truffle Temptation permanent hair colour. “I love the opportunity to use colour to just enhance your natural features and give yourself a bit of a confidence boost.” Alex started to embrace her natural hair about 18 months ago, mirrored by the increase of representation of different types of women across film, TV and social media. “Seeing lots of people using the curly girl method and going on a journey really encouraged me.” If there’s one thing Alex wishes she could tell her younger self, it would be this: “Everyone has their insecurities, so the person you're wishing you looked like is probably looking at other people and wishing that they could change themselves. The most important thing is just to accept yourself and love the things that make you, you.”
Inspired by Morgan, Skye and Alex's hair looks? We recommend Schwarzkopf LIVE Colour + Moisture in Twilight Black or Truffle Temptation for a natural colour with vibrancy. Or go bold with Schwarzkopf LIVE Intense Colour Mango Twist like Skye.
*Remember to always ensure you do an allergy alert test with any colour 48 hours in advance, even if you’ve never had a reaction in the past.
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