These Black Women Are Sharing Their Hair Stories — & It's So Inspiring

There's a reason why Black hair salons have been called recession-proof: It's just one example of the importance of hair to our community. The stories behind our braids, blowouts, Afros, curls, kinks, and coils are often beautifully complex, and because of that, #Hairties was born. No, we're not talking about elastic bands from the drugstore. Hairties, in this instance, is a way to describe the people in your inner circle who have influenced the way you style your 'do.
Antonia Opiah, co-founder of Un-ruly (you know, the site behind the You Can Touch My Hair short film and exhibit), teamed up with Smooth 'N Shine to explore individual relationships between Black women and their hair in a seven-part video series.
"Hairties showcases the idea of connectedness — how we as Black girls and women can connect through our hair, and not be divided by trivial differences," Naomi Grant, who's featured in #Hairties, tells Refinery29. "We take an introspective look on generations, and how we will carry what are mothers told us to our daughters and so on, suggesting the tie can never be broken."
Opiah expanded upon the message in an interview with Yahoo! Beauty. "In the film, image activist Michaela Angela Davis explains that most black women start off wrong when it comes to their hair, referring to the fact that we’re immediately trying to change our hair because it’s something that’s not considered acceptable or beautiful," Opiah said. "That was certainly the case for me growing up, and I thought: What if that doesn’t have to be the case for the next generation of brown girls?"
Now, it's important to recognize that straightening your hair is not wrong, no matter who you are or how old you are. However, it's equally as important to understand that society's norms are finally being expanded to celebrate the beauty of textured hair worn natural — and we're so here for it, which is why projects like this are so important.
"When it comes to Black hair today, there is still an overwhelming sense of policing that goes on," says Grant, who helped create blog Look At My Black Beauty. "I experienced this at school, during the time I was taking care of my own hair and [wore it] as an Afro."
The video series also includes the story of Marian, who got her hair pressed (not flat ironed) for special occasions while growing up in the '50s, and graduated to the hot comb when she got older because "nobody wanted to have nappy hair." Meanwhile, another woman named Dupsy, who grew up in Nigeria, was forced to cut her hair at a very young age in order for it to look "neat" in grade school, eventually using a relaxer that damaged her texture. Noticing a pattern within the stories yet?
"No matter how much we try not to care what other people say, it’s part of our nature," Opiah told Yahoo! Beauty, noting that real change must come from within the communities. "How people respond to you has a greater impact on what you do and believe than the images we might see in the media. The media might say, 'this look is beautiful,' but boys liking certain girls because they have that look or girls making fun of other girls who don’t have that look is what’s going to make you believe what the media says."
It's a small step in the right direction, so every young boy and girl can make a personal decision about how to wear their hair — instead of believing one way is right or wrong. Because, after all, there's no better hair than what grows out of your head — and that's a message that's priceless, no matter what decade we're in.
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