As an Afro-Latina, it’s easy for me to allow myself to feel frustrated with my hair. Complaints and concerns about salon appointments, frizz, and “bad hair” days have been a regular part of my life and routine since I can remember and in today’s age of the natural hair movement, it’s easy to pinpoint why. At a young age, I learned what the standards for beautiful were through magazines like Vogue which featured white women and were left out on the coffee tables of my Black hair salons. According to Vogue features of the 90s, beautiful was cream colored skin on lanky and thin bodies, electric blue eyes and “silky” hair that” smoothly” cascaded down a woman’s shoulder. It wasn’t dark-toned, “thicc” or curvey, brown-eyed and it certainly wasn’t 4C-curled let alone “natural.”
Fortunately, magazines have changed their tune on what constitutes as beautiful and come to recognize that Black women can be just one of the many embodiments of the word. In Vogue’s September Issue, icon Beyoncé was featured on magazine’s cover in a piece that put her in her full Black glory. Dark-skinned, Brown-eyed and naturally curly.
For Beyoncé’s big Vogue cover shoot, the magazine collaborated with a natural hairstylist as a way of embracing diversity and Black beauty.
SO MANY TIMES ONE IS JUDGED BY THEIR HAIR TEXTURE OR SKIN COLOR. I’M SO PROUD AND HONORED TO HAVE BEEN A PART OF SUCH AN AMZING SHOOT, BRAIDING THE QUEENS ALL NATURAL CURLY HAIR! NOW WHAT?! @voguemagazine #@beyonce #hairstylist #nealfarinahsalon #nealfarinahinc @nakiarachon Thank u for the extra hand ????
In the magazine’s most anticipated issue of the year, the “Top Off” singer spoke about her career, her family, and her Black heritage. Still, perhaps the most exciting part of the feature, for Afro-Latinas reading, appears in her photoshoots. Every shot included in the editorial spread was designed and styled by Black hairstylist Neal Farinah who put the songstress’s natural curls in plaits that showed off her kinks and frizz. They are looks that would have stunned an 11-year-old me back in the day as I rocked a roller set under the hood of a drying chair while wishing I didn’t have “pelo malo.”
In a follow-up interview about the shoot, Farinah spoke about embracing Bey’s natural hair.
Speaking to Refinery29 about the epic shoot, Farinah underlined Beyoncé’s decision to go as natural and “free” as possible in an effort to not focus so much on makeup while talking about beauty for the shoot. “She said she wanted to just be herself. She didn’t want to be overly made-up and done-up. She wanted to embrace femininity and just be free and set herself free. When I first talked to her, she said, ‘I just want my natural curly hair and a braid and to not focus on beauty so that women of color — of any color — can be free.'”
On how to emulate similar looks that he created, Farina says to avoid using too much product. “I never use much product because I want hair to be carefree. With the braiding, I just used a little bit of oil. [His own concoction.] That’s it — and rubber bands. Beyoncé has a really nice, full head of curly hair. It has a really beautiful softness. We semi-blowdried it and then braided it. She didn’t want much done.
Vogue’s latest edition featuring Beyonce isn’t the first time that the magazine has featured natural Black hair on the cover. It’s also not the first time that I have found my self feeling completely seen this year as an Afro-Latina. More and more Black women are finding their power in the embrace of their natural hair. Earlier this year, Marvel graced us with Black Panther, a film that featured an all-Black and all-natural-haired main cast and taught fans that the darkest of shades, the tightest of curls are beautiful. Tessa Thompson continues to come through for Afro-Latinas with natural hair and protective styles that have further propelled braid trends in our communities and real women, women like me and you, continue to embrace their curls on public platforms.
If 2018 hasn’t already been dubbed as the year of Black Hair Power, I’m taking this moment to call it.