Imagine…you’re 8 years old and you land an international ad campaign! Instead of reveling in that moment, you and your hair land at the center of a controversy that you had nothing to actively do with.
That’s exactly what happened last week when a young black model was featured in H&M Kids international ad campaign promoting its back to school line. Fashion and hairstylist, Vernon Francois, posted the image on his Instagram account calling out H&M for what he viewed as a failure on their part to have diverse stylists capable of styling kinky textured hair. That one IG post caused an internet fury garnering 22 THOUSAND likes and over 2200 comments. Unbeknownst to Vernon or many others, including ME, messy hair was the theme of the campaign’s aesthetic.
When I initially saw the photo, my gut reaction was how dare H&M do “this” again?! How dare they exploit another beautiful black child without having a person of color on their editorial board to let them know this was not okay?! How dare they not have a black stylist on set who knew better than pull that beautiful child’s hair into that makeshift ponytail?! On my blackest, sanctimonious horse, I sat…until images from the entire campaign began trickling out…and I saw all the other children’s messy, undone hair. But something STILL felt off to me. I sat with it for a bit, and tried to self-reflect why even in context, the image of this pretty little black girl, who could be my own child, bothered me so much. It wasn’t the image that gave me pause. It was still my belief that H&M missed the mark- again in its portrayal of another black child.
I just can’t get on board with absolving H&M of not having stylists on set to make that beautiful little girl’s hair look more “stylistically messy.” My conclusion is that our hair IS different. And pretending that it’s not, is like some, “I’m colorblind” BS. Her “messy” hair does not look like the other kids’ “messy” hair because it IS different – black hair is anatomically different than other hair textures, and more attention should have been given to that fact. It’s not “fair” per se, but neither is the fact that we have to wear lotion every day.
That said, I WILL be all too happy when Black girls’ and women’s appearances are not so heavily policed by other Black people, as well as, society as a whole.
Check out the rest of the conversation on Hella Smart Muvas podcast in “Black Hair Matters…But Should It?”
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