|Photo: Monica Feudi / Feudiguaineri.com|
By: Janelle Okwodu
Bethann Hardison and Guido Palau weigh in on the movement.
Some of the most-talked-about beauty moments of the season have come via black models whose natural hair has taken center stage. Dominican newcomer Lineisy Montero stole the show at Prada with her short Afro adorned with a bejeweled barrette, and at Balenciaga, Nykhor Paul, Ajak Deng, Grace Bol, and Mari Agory all wore close-cropped natural hair with Alexander Wang’s demure collection. Montero brought the style to Céline’s Paris catwalk, where she was joined by fellow model Karly Loyce, who sported a beautiful, larger-than-life ’fro.
These looks stood out when compared with the lineup of pin-straight ponytails and center-parted waves, but they also differed from how we typically see black models on the runways.
Relaxed hair, often enhanced with extensions, has become the norm, and the majority of models from supers like Naomi Campbell and Joan Smalls onward wear some variation of the look. “It’s very unusual to see a girl with a natural Afro texture these days,” says Redken creative director and the hairstylist behind Prada and Céline, Guido Palau. “Most girls have their hair relaxed or a lot of hair extensions or it has to be blown out to ‘fit in’ with the look of the other girls.”
The popularity of weaves and straightened styles is a fraught issue, with complex sociopolitical implications—the natural hair movement has been discussed by everyone from Chris Rock in the documentary Good Hair to Oprah Winfrey in the pages of her eponymous magazine. For a model, however, the choice between natural and relaxed often has a lot to do with image.
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Agencies frequently give new models makeovers, shaping diamonds in the rough with career-altering haircuts. “I always brushed my hair in a ponytail,” says Montero. “The president of my mother agency, Sandro Guzman, told me that he wanted to cut it and do a natural Afro. When I saw it in the mirror, I loved it. This was all done before the final night of the Ossygeno Models Competition, where I ended up being one of the winners.”
For Montero, the switch to a short ’fro has resulted in choice bookings and an elevated profile, but fashion’s acceptance of natural hair has been a long time coming. “The thing Good Hair got wrong was that hair extensions weren’t about wanting to look white, they were about wanting to stay in the game,” says activist and Diversity Coalition founder Bethann Hardison. “The extensions really started in the ’90s.
There were a lot of girls whose hair was damaged because the hairstylists didn’t have the training to understand black hair. As a model, you’re asked to switch your look back and forth and deal with chemicals or heat that do a number on your hair. Back then, if they couldn’t figure out how to style a girl’s hair properly, it was the model who was considered difficult, not the hairstylist.”
Even with fashion biased in favor of straight hair, there have still been many models who’ve proudly sported their natural locks. “Some girls have that natural, bohemian spirit and a ’fro looks great on them,” says Hardison, citing names like Rose Cordero, Deng, and herself as examples. “When I came on the scene, I had a short ’fro and big eyes. I didn’t look like what was popular at the time, but I was being myself, and that was what [designers] responded to.”
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According to Palau, it’s that same sense of authenticity and confidence that seems to be drawing designers toward this new generation of natural wonders. “Mrs. Prada responded to [Montero’s] natural beauty and wanted to keep her exactly as she was.”
Article from Style.com