Have you ever seen a Black woman’s hair? The stories it tells are so amazing! When you see a black woman in her glory you experience an essence of beauty, strength, strategy (deeper history of how braids were secret maps), and creativity. Just for a moment, let’s take a trip down memory lane. Remember those long nights of getting your hair pressed before Easter. Those salon girl talk! Those childhood memories sculpted our sense of pride in our hair. And when you encounter a black woman you get all of that! But when you see a black woman in her glory she experiences backlash and the fear to express herself fully and unapologetically. And you would think in 2021 that black women would have more opportunities to freely express themselves through hair without the judgment of society and places of work… but it’s 2021.
So how do we affirm black women to wear their beauty with pride? How do we affirm them to show their glory unapologetically? To invite people into their experience and respect it? Simple. Connect with Visual Artists, Entrepreneurs, Mothers, Alisha Brooks and Elizabeth Austin-Davis. These two creatives have taken Atlanta by storm with The Black Hair Experience. This interactive pop-up installation showcases the evolution of black hair with the engagement of photo-worthy activations, all inspired by the beauty, stories, and culture of Black hair. And now they are expanding to Washington D.C. to create a 20,000 sq. exhibit that will include: a beautifully handcrafted swing with handles made of large braids and twists, a Back Wall that captures the essence of Black childhood experiences (like mentioned above), relatable displays of trips to beauty supply stores and salons, self-affirmations that every little Black girl needs and so much more. The beauty of this is two Black women are taking back the story of what makes Black women so unique and diverse in their style of hair. This gives hope to those young girls who are pressured by society to look a certain way.
I had the privilege of speaking with both Brooks and Austin-Davis. Check out the interview below.
Ashley Shaunte June 8th is National Best Friend Day, and before we jump into the meat of what you ladies do, I would love to get some tips on working closely with friends. I am the production manager for an upcoming show and my friend is the producer. At times, I want to pull my hair. What are some tips that you would give to ensure a successful business endeavor with a friend?
Alisha – The best advice we can give would be to have a very open line of communication. This is pivotal in the success of any relationship but in business it is non-negotiable. I think as friends we have the benefit of having an understanding of how we both work and we play off of our strengths.
Ashley Shaunte Thank you. That’s great information. Jumping into our conversation, do you believe that women, Black women in Corporate America are intimidated to wear their natural crown proudly? And with your business, how do you encourage them to do it anyway?
Alisha – Honestly, wearing your hair in any way in Corporate America can be intimidating. It is more often than not when we change our hair or do something different it becomes a topic of conversation which could make some women feel uncomfortable stepping outside of the norm.
Elizabeth – At The Black Hair Experience we really pride ourselves on creating an experience that celebrates all Black hair and really reinforcing the message that your hair is beautiful no matter how you choose to wear it. Throughout the exhibit, we have several spaces that send the message of self-love and celebration of beauty.
Ashley Shaunte I do fashion, so I am aware of its effects on a person mentally, but can hair do the same? And are there ways to discover self-love and boost self-esteem through hair?
Alisha – Absolutely, your hair is an extension of you and can have a serious impact on your confidence. The first step on the path to self-love is acceptance and understanding your journey and your path is your own and to try to focus on that and not comparing your hair story to someone else’s.
Ashley Shaunte What makes The Black Hair Experience an experience that empowers other women to partake in?
Elizabeth – The Black Hair Experience is a celebration, this is joy in the form of nostalgia and love. The photo-sharing part of the exhibit is the empowerment element. We have worked to create installations that are meant to be shared and we wanted to create a space where Black women felt seen.
Ashley Shaunte What would you say to that young Black princess who wants to wear her crown but is pressured by society to conform?
Elizabeth – We would tell her that her hair and everything about it is beautiful and that it is okay to be different and walk to her own beat. As long as she is happy with her hair that is all that matters.
Ashley Shaunte How is The Black Hair Experience working to shift the narratives in communities? And how can an individual connect with you all?
Alisha – We are working to shift the narratives around Black hair by trying to normalize Black hair so that it doesn’t have to be a political or water cooler conversation. We hope by creating this exhibit those who don’t know or understand the stories behind our journeys can also have a chance to see why our hair is so special. But most importantly, we want to celebrate Black Hair.
Elizabeth – People can connect with us via our website (www.theblackhairexperience.com) or via our Instagram @theblackhairexperience.
Be sure to connect with the ladies and join the celebration of Black hair!
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