Embracing my ethnicity
Styling my hair is therapeutic and restorative. It is a feeling of peace and tranquillity that stays within my body while I am creating a masterpiece on my head. My hair styling journey did not start as a mindfulness practice, it was a useless attempt to tame my hair and conceal my blackness to look like the hair models on the shampoo bottle in my bathroom, who had long, straight, silky hair.
After I realised that the shampoo was not going to make my hair straight, as it wasn't designed for my hair type, I slowly started to listen to the loving and empowering advices of my mum that proudly wore her afro hair on a daily basis. I unconciously started to like the natural texture of my hair and after a while, I found an online community of black and African women, confident in themselves and skilled in the art of hair care. After a long battle between my self-loathing and my self-love, I no longer felt the need to become someone else. I could be myself and celebrate my ethnic background, all while combing, detangling and braiding my hair.
This is how I detach from the world – I look at my reflection in the mirror, observe my self-image changing, while I become a completely different human being. Not just on the outside, but on the inside as well.
Meditation with a comb
While I make thousands of small identical braids on my head, I think about my mum telling me to do my hair weekly and that “practice makes perfect.” I braid and twist my hair, multiple times, repeating the same action over and over again in a rhythmic pattern. Sometimes, even if the braids turn out good, I lose them and re-do them, just to practice. This practice helped me with concentration as you have to concentrate to make sure the hairstyle turns out how you want it. I have been doing my hair for so long that now I do not need to think anymore, I have mastered the practice and it seems like my hands just move by themselves. More than often, I don't even look at the mirror. I remember when my aunt asked me how I was able to do the back side of my hair without a mirror. I told her that my hands knew the technique better than my eyes.
The positive aspect of repetitive actions is the constant learning process, which becomes easier every time. I created a habit and converted the motion to muscle memory.
Because my concentration level rises, I’m able to multitask. I can do my hair and listen to podcasts or watch that tv show that I didn’t have time to watch. Sometimes I only listen to the sound of the comb going through my hair or the birds chirping outside, but most of the time it is the sound of my favourite podcasts; they help me meditate and dismantle my preconceived ideas about the world and empty my mind. Before I start doing my hair I make sure I choose a lengthy podcast, something that will feed my soul. This is because the amount of time I take to do my hair is enough to allow my mind to slow down and focus on something entirely different.
Character tropes with HAIR
I like the simplicity in which I can become a whole new person. Changing hair colour is the absolute best feeling, allowing me to be both a Viking and a magician within the same week! Online theatre is the best way to become a different character. Since theatres shut down, voice over shows became more prominent. To show the audience how the character looks like, theatre actors like me, are asked to take pictures of themselves while wearing homemade costumes. The last character I have made was Thorstein, an excessively loud viking and his life on sea. I put on a blonde wig, a flowery headband and a red lipstick. My goal is to make Cosplays of different famous film characters I love, such as Regina George, the notorious Queen bee from Mean Girls and Bubbles from Powerpuff Girls.
I wish to put the focus on the hairstyle and create an Afrocentric style. I interviewed a Taiwan-based cosplayer who told me about how many black cosplayers recreate original caucasian characters by doing Africanised hairstyles. I feel like this is a wonderful way to connect with my African roots, which I didn’t fully appreciate when I was a child. With a hairstyle change, there is no limit to who you could be. I can be whoever I want to be and feel absolutely happy and confident about it.
A community of hair care queens
I feel like hairstyling is the form of art that helped me establish confidence in my African features. Being an afro-Italian girl, raised in a small town, I was forced to do my own hair as it was hard to find a hairstylist specialised in my hair type. Navigating through the internet and discover different hair stories and journeys is really inspiring. Some people just go bold and wait for their hair to grow back or start wearing different wigs. It’s interesting to find out the meanings people have behind a hairstyle. For me it is definitely a way to meditate, discover myself and change the way I look, therefore, I would love to know, what is your hair story and what does it mean to you?