Being the Vice President of Black Student Union, during the month of February we are required to host events for “Black History Month”.
When I heard that the first competition was to create themes regarding black hair throughout history, I was nervous but also excited to emulate styles from the past. For this challenge I did not want to wear wigs, or weaves or even go to a salon. I wanted to illustrate my creativity of natural hair styling to project the aura of each era or theme by doing all the hairstyles myself. This task was extremely difficult but in the long run I felt that it is important to show people that natural hair is so versatile that you don’t need to go to a salon to achieve these looks!
On Martin Luther King Day, I attended a lecture by Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr, who created a PBS series “African American Lives”, which traces African American’s ancestors all the way to Africa. Being able to know where and whom you came from is important to not only Dr. Gates, but to me as well.
Even though, I currently can’t take the genealogy test, I researched about multiple tribes, examining their makeup, clothing, accessories, which caused me to become more aware of the unique and bewitching differences of African culture. As a result my inspiration was a simple but intricate up-do that accentuates the attention to detail that many African women wore.
This was my favorite shoot because I was so inspired by the different tribal details and even learned about a various range of African cultures. Sometimes I would even think that maybe one of these ethnic groups may hold the key to my own history. One day I truly hope to be able to fill the blanks in my own family tree!
Furthermore I wanted something fierce but always in style, I wanted to wear an Afro that represented the beauty and aesthetics of the Black is beautiful cultural movement. I personally never usually wear my hair out without a product but after looking at my pictures I realized how simply captivating a simple but powerful fro was. Wearing my hair out made me realize how freeing and powerful a statement the Afro was to those before me during the American Civil Rights movement.
After doing themed shoots I decided to look back into history to two women that truly inspired me, Josephine Baker and Billie Holiday. Josephine Baker was an American entertainer who became extremely successful in France for her films, singing, and dancing. Her style was sensational and one of a kind during her time period and one thing I loved about her was her hair made a true statement! She oozed charisma and beauty, which I knew not just me but others loved about her. Billie Holiday on the other hand was simply elegant and refined with her soulful voice. I wanted to showcase her simple elegance as well as her signature marker of wearing a huge orchard in her hair.
Her contribution to American jazz was truly astonishing and I wish I could sing as beautifully as her. (Maybe with a great deal of lessons!) The final person I wanted to showcase to represent present day is Janelle Monae who combines the charisma and unique style of Josephine while possessing the refinement of Billie Holiday. I’ve always loved Janelle Monae’s ability to appreciate past fashion styles while also keeping her style extremely refreshing.
Doing all the hairstyles by myself throughout these shoots I wished to inspire others to see how versatile and beautiful black hair can be but by reaching back and learning about the styles, cultures, history, and past accomplishments of those before, I was able to learn and cherish everything that encompasses black history!
J. Michael Worthington Photography http://www.worthingtonimages.com/
Shy L: http://www.facebook.com/PhotographyByShy