Authors: Sandra Garcia, Marissa McHugh
The beauty of natural hair is often overlooked in mainstream advertising and the professional workplace. Advertisements are designed to target women, which excludes other genders from feeling like they can benefit from the products. The portrayal for hair care advertisements is often smooth, straight hair, which is not the reality for people with natural hair. Often, certain textures and styles are deemed as more acceptable than others. This can include larger styles like afros, or protective styles like locks. These issues can all benefit from being explored. We created a lookbook to address these issues, that features hair routines and experiences of a diverse set of models.
Often, those who wear their hair naturally, experience discrimination based on the style that they choose to wear their hair in. In the article “Don’t get it twisted: Untangling the psychology of hair discrimination within Black communities” Afiya Mbilishaka addresses some of the issues that black individuals face in school and the workplace. Afiya describes hair discrimination as a social injustice characterized by unfairly regulating and insulting people based on the appearance of their hair (Mbilishaka 2020). She found that hair texture, length, style, density, and product choice were all factors in how natural hair was discriminated against. People with natural hair often choose to wear their hair in protective styles to help with hair growth and health. In 2019 The CROWN Act was created by Dove and the CROWN Coalition to ensure protection against discrimination based on race based hairstyles by extending statutory protection to hair texture and protective styles. Hair discrimination is a real issue in the workplace, with styles like locks and afros seen as “unprofessional.” We want to create more exposure to different hair styles, and go against the idea that hair has any determination on work ethic or professionalism. We aim to raise awareness about these issues in our lookbook through exposure of models with this type of hair, and information on why change is needed.
The belief that curly/natural hair is seen as unkempt and unprofessional, has been normalized by a source that we trust most: Google. In Safiya Umoja Noble’s book, Algorithms of Oppression, she explains that “search results reflect the values and norms of the search company’s commercial partners and advertisers and often reflect our lowest and most demeaning beliefs…” (Noble, 2018, p. 35–36). This signifies that the inherently discriminatory search results are what the algorithms believe we want to see. Therefore, people may begin to agree with the results. If Google suggests that curly hair is messy, then this allows for the normalization of hair based discrimination within our society. Due to this, curly haired people disassociate from their natural beauty, and conform to normative standards. These ideals are the response of the racial discrimination and stereotyping against minorities, who have been misrepresented in the media for years. Noble informs us of this discrimination, by holding Google accountable for their partaking in this issue. In response, we decided to provide a voice, and a safe space for the misrepresented individuals that identify with this issue. Providing representations of men and women with curly hair will hopefully diminish the negative messages that search results have normalized.
Many struggle to find products that work with specific hair types. It is a trial and error process that people usually figure out for themselves. The natural hair movement inspired the formation of the Curly Girl Collective. They strive to educate the public on hair maintenance, especially for kinky/coily curls. But the events that they host cannot be attended by everyone. There should be no barrier to figure out how one should style their hair. Therefore, we created our project to provide readily available hair care information. Our lookbook will help with this, but the challenges that people face are still complicated because hair care brands are not very descriptive with what curl types are best suited for their products. With this in mind, people struggle to find products that are clean, and that will not damage their hair. Within the past year, controversy has erupted regarding the safety of styling products. Earlier this year, stories were shared about hair loss after years of using DevaCurl products. A class action lawsuit was filed against the brand, after the betrayal that loyal users experienced. With this controversy in mind, we consciously researched which hair care brands will not damage the integrity of curls. One brand that particularly stood out, due to the clean and sustainable nature of their products, is Bounce Curl. Their social media mostly caters to women’s hair, but they impressively inform us on what hair types are suitable for each product. This makes it easier for consumers to find products that work with their hair. To alleviate this struggle, we created a lookbook that provides the hair care routines of multiple models. These routines are ways for people with curl types similar to the models’, to style their hair and learn about different products that are best suited to their needs. More importantly, these routines are simply recommendations to guide curly haired people on the path of embracing their natural hair.
In the natural hair community, there are many websites that focus on informing viewers about how to care for their specific hair types. Websites like Afrobella, Naturally Curly and Loved By Curls contain blogs, videos, product shopping, and more info on how to maintain curls. There is one section that caters to men, but overall the website is targeted towards women. An article titled “Embrace Your Natural Hair Texture” written by Team Project Inspired informs people about different hair textures. It validates all of the different types of textures as beautiful. We utilized this same type of information to form our graphics about the hair care for each curly type and texture, but we recognize that only providing hair routines designed for women excludes men and other genders from engaging in the hair care routines suggested. Hair care routines should be tailored to fit the needs of different genders and hair types.
We have created a lookbook that highlights the beauty and diversity of natural hair. The lookbook features models with different genders, hair textures, and hair styles. This pushes back against the idea that hair care is only for women and that natural hair is only acceptable in certain styles and textures. The lookbook aims to be an inclusive space meant to inform both individuals with natural hair and those without, about the discriminatory issues surrounding natural hair.
This project will have a large area of impact because a lot of people struggle with wearing their hair natural, whether it is wavy or curly. Many people may not know how to properly care for the natural hair, and instead straighten it, or are not happy with how it looks. The lookbook will inform people on how to care for their specific hair types, regardless of gender. It will encourage viewers to embrace the beauty of their natural hair, no matter what texture it is. Using social media will increase the reach and area of impact that this project will have, as it can easily be shared and sent to friends.
The design of this lookbook is gender neutral, because we noticed that most hair tutorials and product lines are catered towards women. The inclusion of men in the narrative allows for more inclusivity. The pressure to abide by societal beauty standards is felt by all genders. Therefore, we have created a welcoming space to inform people about curly hair, where men feel like the information is relevant and applicable to them as well.
One of the lookbook’s areas of intervention is in the mainstream hair care advertisement narrative. Advertisements that are traditionally seen in the media show hair care for people with straight hair. After using a conditioner, the models are shown with shiny, flowing hair which is the opposite of what natural hair looks like. Our lookbook puts a new version of haircare into mainstream media that is applicable to a large percentage of the population that doesn’t identify with the traditional hair care shown in advertising. For years the media has perpetuated the idea that straight hair is the embodiment of true beauty. The cycle of buying straightening products still continues. We strive to encourage people to embrace what they have, by contradicting the toxic messages that mainstream media portrays regarding hair. Our lookbook also highlights the voices of minority groups that have largely been misrepresented by the media. It includes testimonials of their experiences with curly hair. These shared experiences emphasize that people within our communities have hidden their struggles with their hair for far too long.
We recognize that there have been various campaigns that aim to show the beauty of natural hair, but not all of them reach the level of inclusivity that we are striving to reach with this project. A photo series that stood out to us was the Natural Heir project. The series shows the beauty of wearing your hair natural. It is a visual pun that encourages others to embrace the beauty and diversity of African American hair. The project is focused on the beauty of a specific hair texture, and only includes women as models. Although this is not a negative thing, we are creating a space that highlights the beauty of all textures. We used male models to create a lookbook that was inclusive of more genders. Often campaigns and brands only use women as models, which promotes the idea that hair care and products are only relevant to women. The Dove Love Your Curls campaign was created to get young women to embrace their curly hair. It was one of the main brands to challenge the traditional narrative of hair care advertisements seen in the mainstream media. This campaign also only used female models, which pushed the idea that this is the demographic that the products were designed to work on. Hair products should be marketed towards everyone, because hair care is for everyone.As traditionally seen in mainstream hair care advertisements, the focus of ads tends to be on adult women, with straight or wavy hair. This trend has been challenged by artists who strive to create a space for people from diverse backgrounds, with a variety of hair types. The AfroArt Series does this with their portrait series, by celebrating the beauty of natural hair, and empowering children from a young age to embrace what they were born with. Our lookbook expands on this idea, and is catered towards a diverse audience. People from all age ranges struggle with styling and embracing their hair. So we decided to provide recommendations, and personal experiences for our audience, since this is what the AfroArt Series is missing.
Download the lookbook here.
This project came about as a result of both of us having curly hair and being aware of issues of discrimination that the community faced. It was natural to intervene in a space that we were both familiar with and passionate about. We had a large scope of what type of information we wanted to include in our project. We aimed to include portrait photography, personal experiences, hair routines, product recommendations, and information on discrimination based on race and hair styles. We decided that a lookbook was the best way to keep the content both interesting and informative.
Our mutual interest in photography is the foundation of why we created a lookbook. The goal was to make our portraits the focal point of each page. Though, there are different components that went into the finished product. First, we began the process by recruiting models, and scheduling times for photoshoots. We reached out to people that we know, and appreciate their willingness to participate. Due to Covid-19, we shot outdoors for every session. We wore masks while shooting to abide by CDC guidelines. Then, we edited the portraits on Lightroom to enhance the beauty of each model’s curls. Next, we gathered personal experiences and hair routines to include in the lookbook. Canva was utilized to create our final product. Each page of the lookbook displays one portrait, personal experiences, and routines of each model. All text and images are balanced equally on the pages.
Our goal for this lookbook is to create an inclusive and educational space for people with all hair types to learn about some of the issues that people with natural hair encounter. It also includes personal experiences about growing up with natural hair, and individual hair routines and product recommendations for various hair types. Some of the issues talked about include how hair is portrayed in mainstream advertising, and how products are marketed towards women. The lookbook features models with different hair textures, ethnicities, and styles, which creates an inclusive space where no one style is seen as better than the other. We created a lookbook that highlights the beauty of natural hair in all its forms. We hope that this lookbook opens the door to more conversations about discrimination based on how someone chooses to wear their hair.
This project came out of the course COM 367 Multimedia Production & Digital Culture at North Carolina State University in fall 2020, taught by Dr. Noura Howell. More posts from our class:
Gender Gap in Pro Sports: Jonathan Hudson and Tommy Delaunay
Toxic Task Force (Content Moderation): Madison Neeley, Ashley Mullins and Alex Koonce
Sexism in Television: Madison Mallory, Chloe Campbell, Jenaye Gaudreau, & Greer Gorra
#NoWomanLagBehind — TJ & Lucas
Misprint — Aaron Kling
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Bounce Curl. “Video of Defining Butta Review.” Instagram, October 21, 2019. Accessed November 10, 2020. https://www.instagram.com/p/CGnIy_lH6-6/
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Team Project Inspired. (2019, May 13). Embrace Your Natural Hair Texture. Project Inspired. https://www.projectinspired.com/embrace-your-natural-hair-texture/
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Why Choose Us. (n.d.). Bounce Curl. Retrieved November 10, 2020, from https://www.bouncecurl.com/pages/why-choose-us