PROFESSIONAL STYLISTS HAVE FOUND WAYS TO EXPERIMENT AT HOME ON FAMILY MEMBERS, MANNEQUINS, AND EVEN THEMSELVES, TURNING THEIR KITCHENS AND LIVING ROOMS INTO HAIR HAVENS.
BY Jessica Cruel and Darian Harvin
“Sit down and let me do your hair.” It’s a simple phrase that, for many Black people, calls to mind memories of love, connection, and maybe a little pain. Our kitchens, bathrooms, and living rooms are often transformed into hair salons, strewn with the necessary tools: Afro picks and beads, rubber bands and hooded dryers. As COVID-19 brought the world to a pause, many professional Black hairstylists returned to this tradition of creating at home. Instead of high-profile red carpets or clients at the salon, they are braiding up family members, styling mannequins, even experimenting on themselves. The roots of Black hair have been flourishing, but at the same time it’s never been more evident how our lives are at risk. Not only have Black communities been disproportionately ravaged by COVID-19, but Black Americans continue to be targets of systemic violence, no matter what their hair looks like.
The way we do our hair, and the community we create around that tradition, is one of many things that makes Black culture so special. This intimate look inside our home lives— photographed through windows and doors, from porch steps and below fire escapes, during a time of social distancing—captures the shades of brown skin, the bend and curl to our hair, the deep bond of family. And it reveals exactly what we are fighting to protect when we shout “Black Lives Matter.” — Jessica Cruel
PHOTOGRAPHED BY CHANTAL ANDERSON. On Vernon: Armando Azevedo top. On Xéla: Aicha McKenzie jumpsuit.
VERNON FRANÇOIS WITH DAUGHTER XÉLA
“I try to associate touching [Xéla’s] hair with moments where she is at peace with herself. Sometimes it will be before she goes to bed or in the morning or in the afternoon when she’s napping. Every time I touch her hair, I consult with her and get her involved in it. There are all these things I’m asking her. Whether or not she understands what I’m saying, I’m providing her with consciousness and that is what is really crucial. We are definitely bonding when she’s sitting down between my legs and we do her hair, which is a really emotional thing for me because it takes me back to my childhood. The feelings and emotions that you encounter as a child last a lifetime.” —AS TOLD TO J.C.
PHOTOGRAPHED BY HEATHER HAZZAN. Alex Mill jumpsuit.
“My hair really represents my mood. Every time I wear color, I just feel vibrant. And I know when people see color on me they get the same feeling. I incorporated light beads to [represent] purity. In this season, a lot of things are manifesting and starting again. I’ve felt like life was bringing me a moment of clarity. This is the time I get to dig deep into who I am. What does it mean to be creative now? What can I bring to people? Quarantine has been all about self-development. I’m doing poetry more and working on my health. I’m building my mind. I just know that things are going to get better. I try to be optimistic and just hopeful that God’s going to take control.” —AS TOLD TO DARIAN HARVIN
PHOTOGRAPHED BY HEATHER HAZZAN. Fe Noel robe, bodysuit, and pants. Miu Miu sandals.
“In the beginning [of the shutdown], I was in a panic. I felt like life as we knew it was over. But I realized that, though so many things are changing, this time has given me the opportunity to refocus and to bask in self-love. I started to spend more quality time with my hair, my skin, my body, and just who I authentically am. I started to wear my gray hair. It didn’t make me look old and it wasn’t taking away from the things that made me feel good. I don’t want to color my hair all black anymore. I want to enjoy my silver hair and I want to play in it. You get so comfortable in what you think is the definition or the epitome of what’s beautiful instead of what is. I feel like this time has given us the opportunity to relish in what is. That rings even truer now [during this time of protest]. I am proud of what I possess. And I want other women of color—and just other women, period—to be proud of their beauty and to relish in it.” —AS TOLD TO D.H.
PHOTOGRAPHED BY HEATHER HAZZAN. Olivia von Halle top and pants.
“I had a really hectic schedule prior to this. Sometimes I’d be home for four hours. I’d fly in from another country, land to drop off one kit, pack another, and have my car waiting outside to go back to the airport. It was a lot. I really needed to relax, and I’ve been coming up with so many amazing hair ideas. I have three notebooks on the side of my bed [for] my sleep ideas. They’ll be so loud, I have to write them down and I know they’ll come in handy in the future for shoots. So I’m thankful that ideas have not stopped flowing. A lot of times when you go through something it can scare you so much that you try to control the future. I’ve been focusing on the release side of things.” —AS TOLD TO D.H.
PHOTOGRAPHED BY HEATHER HAZZAN. On Lacy: Louis Vuitton top and skirt.
LACY REDWAY WITH SON AVERY
BERGEN COUNTY, NJ
“We’re getting back to the core of who we all are. Yes, I’m a celebrity hairstylist, but also I am a mother. During [the shutdown], it was mentally important to detach a little bit from my career and not let that overshadow so much of my identity. [My son] has been my only client and it’s been a great bonding experience. We read stories together while I’m twisting his hair. Sometimes, we make up stories. There is this book that we read called I Am Enough, by Grace Byers. I think it’s important for all Black children to realize the hair that grows out of their head is their crown, even if later on in life they choose to do different things to accent what they have. We’ve raised [Avery] to be confident in who he is. I allow him that freedom to express himself through his hair.” —AS TOLD TO J.C.
PHOTOGRAPHED BY HEATHER HAZZAN. PH5 dress.
“When we started to hear that we might go into quarantine, I immediately got braids. I just said, ‘Let me protect my hair until it’s time [to go out again].’ I did box braids so I could have fun and play around. It’s like a daily routine, just being creative with different shapes. I love to play in hair all day. In the early days, I would always fix my hair and my friends’ hair. My mother had a little area set up in her laundry room; she was doing laundry on one side and I was doing hair on the other. [This time] has definitely made me appreciate where I come from. I’m thinking that [this] will bring the value back up when it comes to the Black hairstylist. Having your hair done is a luxury and it should be respected in that way.” —AS TOLD TO J.C.
PHOTOGRAPHED BY BARRETT EMKE. On Julee: Rag & Bone top.
TAMEKA STIGERS WITH DAUGHTER JULEE
“People don’t understand the way women feel after they get their hair done. All the stylists I know have been saying the same thing: They miss providing that, making people happy. During quarantine we’d come to the shop to do Julee’s hair. There was nobody there and we’d sit and talk. She has a ton of hair; it takes a long time. I live and work in my community. I love my community. That’s why I’m running for office, to be committeewoman in my neighborhood. My shop is kind of our campaign headquarters. [After the death of George Floyd] I did my first protest. When we had the Ferguson uprising, I wanted to go out, but my husband is a police officer and I didn’t feel like putting him through the agony of worrying about me. But this time I told him, ‘Either you are going to have to come with me or get over it.’ He came with me. [I want Julee to know] that this was the time to not be silent. Even if it’s not out loud or on social media, it’s talking to your neighbor, being kind to somebody that looks at you differently. It’s just standing up and using your voice.” —AS TOLD TO J.C.
PHOTOGRAPHED BY JARED SOARES.
SHERELLE HOLDER WITH SISTER SHERON
CAPITOL HEIGHTS, MD
“Growing up, my mom had days designated to do our hair. It was always nice, family time. I keep the same thing going. When my mom comes [over] usually my siblings come as well so everybody gets their hair done. I have five sisters. We look forward to it. These past weeks [since the death of George Floyd] have been an emotional roller coaster for my family and myself. We’re saddened, disappointed, outraged, but most of all we are Black, and being that comes with a familiarity with these emotions at a very young age. I learned to be resilient, to make moves without making too much noise. But watching events unfold like they have has ignited a new flame of pride within me, for my people, for the family I’m connected to by blood and the ones everywhere else in the world that I share this beautiful melanin with. I believe in us. I am proud of us. There’s more work to be done, and we are stronger together than we can ever be apart.” —AS TOLD TO J.C.
PHOTOGRAPHED BY HEATHER HAZZAN. On Naeemah: Fe Noel top and pants. On Milah: Lindsey Berns dress.
NAEEMAH LAFOND WITH DAUGHTER MILAH
“My daughter and I got dressed up really for the first time since we’ve been in quarantine. She’s used to going to shoots with me and hanging out. This space has given me the opportunity to see that my inspiration really comes from the world. I need to make sure, when outside opens up again, that I maximize the time that I’m out there in the world and connecting with people, because that’s when my heart is set on fire. I think a lot of us have been trying to just cope and figure out how to navigate through our new normal. The video [of George Floyd] ignited us in a way that has been historic. We all need to lend our voices to the cause in our own ways in an effort to collectively push to restructure a system that has failed us for so long. I’m hopeful that we are able to keep this energy going.” —AS TOLD TO D.H.