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My immediate reaction for seeing white women appropriating black hairstyles is that again, black women are the center of everything.Photographer Nakeya Brown

27-year-old photographer Nakeya Brown is using her talents to explore the politics of Black hair. In an interview with The Cut, Brown shares her own hair tales and experiences when it comes to Black women and hair issues.

“I’m interested in the ways in which we look at and define beauty from the context of a Black woman,” she told The Cut. Brown’s upcoming projects about the topic includes: The Refutation of “Good” HairHair Stories Untold; and if nostalgia were colored brown.

Here are some excerpts from Brown’s interview with The Cut:

What is your most important hair memory?
One of the most memorable moments in my life was when I did the “big chop” and the self-reflection that grew out of me cutting my hair off. Going natural was a highlight of my life that I’ll tell Mia [her 2-year-old daughter] about when she’s old enough and we’re talking about hair.

What’s your relationship with your hair now that you cut your hair off?
Once you cut your hair off you notice the way you look at yourself differently, but then also how other people look at you differently, too. That really made me want to explore the significance of what hair meant socially. We grow up knowing that there are all of these social connotations surrounded around hair, but I never really made work about it. I started thinking about that more after cutting my hair and noticing the change in which people treated me and how that occurred. There were moments where I would be in the street, after I cut my hair off, [when] I’d walk past another natural-hair girl and there would be this random short connection that we’d have with one another. We’d look and nod or we’d actually go up and connect and talk to each other. And then the way in which you would be talked to in the street, like when my hair was natural and short and growing out men would be like, Hey, queen, or Sis. Hair is such a visual thing and people read it in different ways.

To read the full interview please click here. Check out more photos in our gallery!

Image Credits: Nakeya Brown

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  • K.C.

    Is it me? I am not feeling these photos. Makes black hair an oddity or a a freak show. No beauty in these pictures. The one I like is the stovetop and curling iron comb. That makes sense. The others, I guess I am not “sophisticated” enough to get the subtext. Sometimes art is not about subtext but about a direct connection. Right now, I make no connection to a naturally-haired woman eating straight hair or a person dumping their extensions in a cooking pot. No thank you. Our hair is not a freak show, it is what it is – just our hair. Argh!

    • Love.tweet.joi

      Oh no…to some of y’all its just hair, to me it is the key to happiness and everything that is good in the ENTIRE WORLD. Shallow? I’ll be dat. I saw a picture of J Hud today with her jet black hair cut, smokey eyes and red lips and I thought I would look like her body and hairwise if I copied that look! Then I thought about how many days a month I wear a ponytail and I realized that IF I CUT MY HAIR OFF, I WOULD PROBABLY GO INTO A STATE OF DEPRESSION AND DIE. THAT is how much my hair means to me. Shallow? Delusional? I’ll be dat. #keepinitreal

    • K.C.

      lol. No, I know it is not just hair to a lot of people. I just think these photos are bizarre and making a bigger deal of our hair as if it is some oddity. That is how it rubbed me. Believe me, I have friends who spend HUNDREDS of dollars on their hair. I don’t. Put it in a bun and call it a day. JHud is gorgeous though. Flawless woman and I love her short hair cut.

    • Love.tweet.joi

      Ok. I just wanted you to know some of us are crazy and we play cosmetology games on the weekend for fun. Lol.

    • K.C.

      What are Cosmetology games?? I hope it includes a nice glass of wine! ;)

    • Love.tweet.joi

      My way of saying “dying and frying” hair. And there’s definitely wine involved.

    • Love.tweet.joi

      I misread it. I shorry. She was dipping her braids in boiling water….still dont know why she was eating it tho.

  • Love.tweet.joi


    Hey I had a thought, actually I had several thoughts, heres two:
    1. I think the obsession with silky hair comes from having all those silky haired dolls as a child. Also, girls enjoy coloring and perming their weaves the way guys like remote control cars. Weaves are our toys. Shout out to Black Hair Media!!
    2. I forgot the second one, I got sidetracked thinking about how good the color turned out on my weave. Back when i remember.

    Oh YEAH! Are protective styles like waist trainers. Do we (those of us who do) wear them in order to ‘fake it until we make it’?

    • anichole

      I don’t think protective styles are waist trainers simply because I don’t have the time, energy, or actual ability (carpel tunnel) to sit down every night to twist and roll my hair. If it weren’t for them I would have kept my twa. It wasn’t until I found a protective style that could last me a week or more that my hair truly started to flourish.

      Side note I’ve never thought of the silky doll hair but that makes sense to me!

  • Mary Burrell

    Hair is so political