Black Women's Hair Styles, History Topic Of FL Film Project
Black Women's Hair Styles, History Topic Of FL Film Project

Black Women's Hair Styles, History Topic Of FL Film Project

LAKELAND, FL — During her senior year at Sarasota’s Ringling College of Art and Design, Juniper Johnson focused her documentary photography multimedia project on the history of Black women’s hair in response to the CROWN Act.

California was the first state to pass the law, which amended its Fair Employment and Housing Act to include language to prohibit discrimination based on hair style and texture. Since then, other states have adopted similar legislation; Florida does not have such a law.

“But it wasn’t something people were really talking about and I was surprised,” Johnson told Patch. “I guess that’s where the project really started — from talking to people on campus, especially Black women.”

Find out what's happening in Sarasotawith free, real-time updates from Patch.

She interviewed them about their experiences.

“Like when they have different hairstyles, how do people interact with them,” she said, “because I knew, for me, people were interacting with me differently when I had different hair. I get different reactions and the politeness is different and even, like, experiencing microaggressions with different hairstyles. So talking to them about it really helped me think I really am onto something. It isn’t just a me thing; it’s a societal thing.”

Find out what's happening in Sarasotawith free, real-time updates from Patch.

Johnson created an immersive experience at the Deborah M. Cooley Photography Center. She displayed images of those she interviewed for the project and provided clips from her conversations with them.

“People could just grab the headphones off the wall to listen to the interview. That was really nice and seeing people engaging with these stories and experiences showed me how immersive this project can actually be. I knew immediately that I wanted to expand it,” she said.

The St. Petersburg native, who now lives in the Lakeland area, is raising the money through IndieGoGo to do just that. She hopes to raise $3,000 to create a short film, “Heavy is the Head,” and additional photos to expand the multimedia project.

The photo series will recreate and pay homage to Jet and Ebony magazine covers.

“Jet magazine is discontinued and there’s nothing really for Black culture except for Ebony magazine that caters to Black people and the styles of their hair, the versatility of our fashion or what have you,” Johnson said. “So, I really wanted to have a photo series that honors Jet and Ebony and also touches on how far we’ve come with the history of our hair.”

For the film, which will be shot in Orlando, she plans to honor vintage 1970s Afro Sheen commercials.

The brand launched its hair products for Black women’s hair in 1954, Johnson said. And she was drawn to the company’s iconic commercials of the 1960s and 1970s.

Click Here: Highlanders rugby store

“The Afro Sheen commercials are beautiful,” she said. “They’re always talking about Nubian queens and they all have afros and are all adorned in these different types of jewelry and I just loved the look of it. I wanted to recreate a story set within an Afro Sheen commercial.”

The commercials typically feature one woman, “usually sitting on the couch and there’s a narrator talking about how beautiful she is because of their products,” Johnson said. “And she’s looking at the camera and aware of the audience, kind of like breaking the fourth wall, and then she performs a monologue, where she’s saying a poem about the history of Black hair and how it has affected us and then also talking about reclaiming history and rewriting history.”

In recreating these commercials, she plans to provide statistics about Black hair.

“Most people don’t know that Black people spend an average of $1.2 billion on their hair, annually,” Johnson said.

She considers the project “a love letter to the Black community,” she added.

“It’s important to remind Black women that we are rooting for them. Sometimes that starts with advocating for their roots,” she wrote on her IndieGoGo campaign.

Get more local news delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for free Patch newsletters and alerts.