“Your hair is so big, it’s scaring customers away”.
By Johanna Yaovi, Creator of the Curl Talk Project
Among the diverse range of criticisms I had to put up with because of my natural curly hair, this is a remark I will never forget. It took me years to understand my hair better, to learn how to care for it but most importantly, it took me years to love myself fully: me, my mixed heritage, and my natural curly hair.
At that particular moment, I realised that the entitlement to comment on textured hair wasn’t limited to friends & family circles, or to random passers-by I would cross paths with in London streets.
This entitlement to comment on a characteristic that is nothing but a strong indication of my ethnicity could also manifest itself in my workplace! My hair acceptance journey almost got ruined in a blink of an eye because of an ignorant and unprofessional “team leader”.
As we approach 2020, many women continue to alter their curl patterns, using damaging and corrosive techniques in order to fit in and get closer to beauty ideals that are far from realistic.
Centuries of negative messaging towards textured hair are still impacting generations of women today, and to see a concrete change and dismantle the myths around so-called unmanageable curly hair, there is no better first step than talking about it. And who is better to talk about it than curly haired women themselves? This belief is the reason why I created the Curl Talk Project.
To develop this portfolio of experiences I interviewed 100 curly haired women to explore the existing link between curly hair and the notions of identity, femininity, race, diversity, and representation.Coming from a diverse range of countries, backgrounds, and ethnicities, women share their realities and reveal what it means to have textured hair in a society where the standard is otherwise.
I made a point of interviewing women who lived or grew up in different countries across Europe, America or even the Middle East and interestingly, similarities between each story couldn’t get more obvious.
Even though they experienced being curly haired women in different ways, they all had one thing in common: they all felt highly pressured to relax their curls, from one country to another, from one culture to another.
Unfortunately, this confirmed my belief that straight hair is a standard that has been imposed all over the world and on every woman, as much as other types of unrealistic beauty expectations.
With curls being seen as unprofessional, messy, unmanageable or even representative of a lower social status, curly haired women are still being stigmatised because of a texture that is naturally growing out of their scalp.
Whether you want to accept it or not, hair is much more than just hair and having a textured type comes with baggage that needs to be highlighted by the women who experienced it and still do!
It is essential to stop limiting curly discussions to beauty, style and aesthetic and eventually approach a deeper topic: the curly hair experience.
Photos by Jakob Owens