I remember a moment not far into the shoot with Kimberly in which I realized this is about the tenth African-American woman that we have featured who has spoken about the issue of their hair and the torment of attempting to assimilate into our Eurocentric culture growing up. Not too long afterwards, CNN reported on a Sesame Street skit about the same subject, obviously aimed at children in an attempt to nip this ignorance of the masses in the bud. Have I missed something? Didn’t we have a liberation of sorts in the ’60s and ’70s where gigantic afros à la Angela Davis and Jimi Hendrix were the rage, and you wouldn’t be caught dead on Madison Avenue?
Ironically, when Kimberly made the decision to let her hair grow “towards the sun,” as she says, it had the effect of a halo or crown, as if nature is anointing her a queen. That, in combination with her avant-garde taste in spectacles and the brilliant array of patterned clothing and handmade textiles that she designs, makes me want to bow down. Daphne Guinness, renowned for her strong sense of personal style, was quoted in the New York Times this past Sunday as saying that what drives her is the idea of “something against the world.” Kimberly’s equivalent self-acceptance also makes her a poster child for not accommodating a norm that does not speak to them personally and deeply. It’s never a good look. She’s been digging deeply into the rituals of the Maasai tribe for inspiration and ponders, “It’s not about who can wear the shortest skirt or the highest heels, it’s about how big can I make this headwrap to signify my status in this tribe.” Case closed for shedding the shackles of colonial or otherwise limited thinking – let’s move on for good.