Nappy Heads

by Kadiejra O'Neal

Who am I to speak on behalf of Black women and their struggles? Let me paint you a picture.

I have spent my entire childhood being told my natural appearance was unacceptable. Upon gracing the hallways of my university I struggled to see myself within my environment. There was no one else who physically looked like me or even related to the identity struggle I experience as a Black woman from the Caribbean.

I started to question my identity, my surroundings, my Blackness.

But overall I questioned the people around me. How could I be so invisible when I so obviously stood out? Come on! How hard is it to identify the only Black female in your class, yet alone mistake me for a receptionist?

I got tired of explaining, “No, I did not get a haircut, it’s called shrinkage.” or “Yes, I did just put fake hair on my head.” All this to justify that the very people I saw everyday couldn’t recognize me simply because I choose to style my hair differently (or, honestly, because my afro has a mind of its own).

I got tired of walking around under an invisibility cloak that did not lead me to a secret world of magical treats and transforming stairwells. I was a lost Black queen looking for her court.

I needed to create a body of work that investigated these various complexities and contradictions, one that showed the versatility of black women’s hair and that its vast variations of styles is not only a sense of expression, experience or mere tradition passed on through cultural ancestry: It's a downright necessity. 

Nappy Heads allows viewers to engage with a wide variety of options associated with Black hair, many which are often overlooked within a Eurocentric demand for “good” hair. It hopefully encourages viewers to engage and allowing a platform for open discussion, one that could lead to acceptance of all Black hair types amongst both Black and non black communities.

I wanted people to know a few things:

yes black women tend to indulge extensively on hair and beauty ideals…

yes we are the definition of that one meme floating around the internet about how waking up to a black chick is like dating a new woman every day because she did her hurrr differently…

yes we technically could be spies with our ability to change and conceal ourselves…

yes black women most definitely are the masters of disguise

But guess what? It’s just hair and we all have it.

Photographs by Kadiejra O'Neal

Photographs by Kadiejra O'Neal