JANUARY 8, 2024


A significant movement is gathering steam in a world where Eurocentric standards have long shaped the definition of beauty. As women of African descent rediscover their inherent beauty, they are questioning the status quo and rewriting the history of African hair.

The heroes shaping the perception of kinky hair are Ori Lifestyle by Titilola Bello, a natural hair coach who has guided hundreds of women on their journey to natural hair, and Lekia Lée, the founder of Project Embrace, an NGO devoted to encouraging self-love for African hair. One strand at a time, both ladies are bringing self-love and awareness to the Afro hair community through their afrovisibity mission.

Lekia's path to advocating for African hair self-love started with her realisation that true self-love necessitates acceptance of all facets of one's identity. I started to wonder why I would love and embrace every aspect of myself except for my hair's texture after decades of trying to fit into a single definition of beauty. It was at odds with the idea of unrestricted self-love.

Thus, the Afrovisibility billboard campaign was born out of my decision to take action against hair bias and discrimination and to publicly recognise and celebrate the beauty of Afro-textured hair on a wide and esteemed platform. Lekia Reflects.

Unconditional Self-Love And A Daughter’s Influence.

An important event involving Lekia's daughter, who at the young age of three, was already showing signs of internalising colonised beauty standards, served as the impetus for Lekia to start Project Embrace."My daughter would only give compliments to black women who wore wigs or straight weaves. It was an obvious example of how one-sided beauty standards that disregarded Afro-textured hair had an impact. Lekia says, "I wanted to spare her the decades-long process of learning to embrace her natural beauty."

Debunking Stereotypes: A Call for Beauty Redefined

Lekia's main goal is to debunk popular misconceptions regarding Afro-textured hair. Lekia aggressively dispels the myths that claim Afro hair is unruly, unprofessional, unmanageable, and incapable of growing. Are our forefathers smarter than we are, or were they just more 'in love' and appreciative of their own hair type?

Lekia claims, "We are questioning beauty constructs and encouraging people to ask themselves who creates the beauty we see."According to Lekia, there is a widespread misconception that Afro-textured hair cannot be sophisticated or beautiful or give a professional appearance. "Myths include that it is unruly, unmanageable, unprofessional, and that it never grows. These are all lies. 

She goes on to say that "beauty is a social construct, so we have to be aware of who is constructing the beauty we see," which translates to mean that Afro-textured hair cannot be managed.

Reconnecting with Natural Beauty: A Personal and Collective Journey

Titilola debunks myths about afro/kinky hair in a world where chemical straightening and extensions are common, reflecting on how society views it. She emphasises the fragility of afro hair because of its coiled structure, challenging the idea that it is strong and resilient. "That our hair is resilient and strong is untrue. 

We are the group that should do the least to our hair, but we do the most, as scientific research has shown that our hair type is the most delicate due to its coils, which make it more prone to breaking with each coil and twist. She also suggested that it's best to wash frequently, once a week. "Every 10 days is the second best, and no one should go more than two weeks without washing their scalp—which needs to be cleaned often to promote growth and a healthy scalp.

"Furthermore, Titilola refutes the myth that braids encourage hair growth, highlighting the fact that healthy hair growth is a necessary component of general wellbeing. Lekia gives voice to hair myths and prejudices and highlights the significance of rediscovering natural, God-given hair. She notes that although the health risks are acknowledged, the need for social acceptance frequently takes precedence over these worries."Even a burned scalp is insufficient in the short term. Although wearing wigs and weaves can cause damage to our natural hair, Lekia says that the enjoyment we derive from wearing them far outweighs this risk.Similarly, Titilola, a hair coach, noticed a marked difference in the way her Nigerian and British clients felt about their hair. Corporate norms in Nigeria imposed a particular definition of professionalism that frequently excluded natural hair. 

Titilola had seen firsthand how difficult it was for powerful executives to follow antiquated "HR policies that discouraged wearing their hair to work." The notion that having straight or European-style hair equated to being "put together" and "professional" had become deeply embedded in the cultural understanding of professionalism.The internal conflict that many faced was exemplified by a client of hers, a senior executive who was battling Traction Alopecia. Even with the harm that wigs and weaves could do, the client was unable to defy social norms in the business world. The storyline was unambiguous: success depended on adhering to Western standards of beauty, even at the expense of one's own wellbeing.

"The most common mistake I observe is the overuse of braids, weaves, and wigs, especially when women go back-to-back with braids or weaves," Titilola said in her journey as a hair coach. Long-term harm is caused by the dryness of the artificial fibre, the tension on the hair strands, and the frequent tension on the scalp.

Challenges and Solutions: Shifting Beauty Paradigms

Lekia explores the general issues that African women encounter worldwide, highlighting the fact that a distorted conception of beauty lies at the basis of hair management challenges."Our perception of our hair and the standards by which we evaluate it are the general issues. Lekia muses, "We've been convinced to judge African-type hair using European-type hair as the standard.

Beauty biases have been deeply ingrained due to the media's portrayal of a narrow ideal of beauty. Lekia and Titilola emphasised the necessity of making deliberate attempts to alter beliefs and actions, emphasising that having true self-respect is the first step in gaining respect from other people. "If we don't respect ourselves first, we can't expect others to either. According to Lekia, there are instances when conforming may give the impression that we are respected by others, but that isn't true respect.

Titilola does draw attention to the fact that the media shapes how people view beauty. "In the media, everything is still lagging in every nation. Straighter or looser curls continue to be what we see as the typical or ideal beauty. Hollywood and Nollywood both saturate us with this. "I've witnessed women choose to go to regular social events, graduation ceremonies, and weddings with their own hair. 

These women frequently express feeling happier and more self-assured, along with the conviction that they can accomplish more in the future. Many also frequently use the word "freedom." Sometimes we become so used to the discomfort of having more hair on our heads that we forget about it. Many are happy about the freedom," Titilola remarked.

Stylists as Agents of Change

Lekia admits that opinions about Afro-textured hair are shaped by hair stylists. She thinks that natural hair enthusiasts and hairstylists can be crucial in encouraging women to accept their own beauty. Imagine having your hair styled by professionals who will take great care of it and probably compliment it. 

But accepting one's natural hair is not always easy, particularly in societies such as Nigeria. "Nigerian women particularly report negative comments from family members, being called 'house girl,' to looking 'poor,' to some people suggesting they will find it hard to find partners with natural hair," according to Titilola.

Titilola highlights the unfavourable trend of giving young children hair extensions and emphasises the necessity for age-appropriate care and occasional styling. "A child under the age of eight should not have their hair added to or braided by someone younger than three years old. This may cause issues for their future hair growth and scalp hair, she suggested.

Lekia Lée and Titilola Bello are at the forefront of the African Hair Revolution, encouraging people to redefine beauty according to their own standards. These two Titilola have seen incredible changes in the lives of those who choose to embrace their natural texture. The path to the African Hair Revolution entails redefining social norms, cultivating self-love, and tearing down deeply rooted prejudices.

Through the works of Lekia Lee and Titilola, who are inspiring people to embrace their true selves by starting a movement that celebrates the beauty of natural hair and calls for a shift in perception.

The current hair revolution in Africa has its origins in the widespread movement towards acceptance and self-love.

Source: The Guardian Life



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