By: Rashida Ashley
Images courtesy of Dove
Recently, Dove presented a hybrid workshop for girls from the Boys and Girls Club of Harlem (in-person at their club) led by their passionate Self-Esteem Project Educator Dre Brown. In a room full of young girls, Brown led a transformative and interactive introduction of Dove Self-Esteem Project’s “My Hair, My CROWN,” a NEW no-cost tool for educators, parents and mentors that is academically validated to boost hair confidence in kids with coils, curls, waves and protective styles, as well as build allyship in others to Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair.
It might seem unnecessary to hold discussions about hair in an educational setting when a loving parent can easily take on the job themselves, or even a child for that matter, however, it truly does take a village. Self-esteem, whether it’s in creation or destruction, stands as a community-based effort. Individuals can either help nurture it to make it grow or hinder its seeds from ever bearing fruit, or at least slow the process of fertilization. Dove’s workshop and launch of their self-esteem project tool stands to see the legacy of one single seed.
Throughout the workshop it was evident how this seed trembled in the energy of becoming even more nurtured. Brown and the insightful young women who sat before her dug deep into what it meant to be confident while wearing your natural hair. They also discussed the meaning of the words self-esteem, pretty hair, ugly hair, advocacy, and stereotypes. “Stereotypes are a misconception,” a young girl named Rachel boldly proclaimed. Two others stated, “There is no ugly hair!” and “I would tell them to mind their business.”
As Brown and the girls continued their discussion, the feelings of compassion, irritation, and support surfaced within the room. Many of the girls felt disheartened by the lack of representation on social media of the black women who created many of the styles we see that are becoming so popular across cultures today. “You get to tell the world what you’re not seeing,” said Brown. One child brought up the fact that a generic search on Pinterest leads to a lack of cultural diversity on a user’s feed. The group also discussed how they all felt about their natural hair and how perceptions from other people made them feel, especially when it came to bullying. one young attendee bravely stated, “You have to have a lot of confidence and you have to have the guts to actually show what you want your hair to be.”
While some of the girls undoubtedly had positive feelings about their natural hair, some of the other girls’ self-esteem was still in the gestation process of development. In a recent study, Dove found that 65% of young girls view their hair as a form of self-expression while 50% of girls say that their hair makes them feel self-conscious. Additionally, 80% of black women are more likely to change their hair to meet societal expectations and 1.5x more likely to be sent home because of their hair.
To help the young women navigate through the journey of loving, embracing, and becoming more confident with their hair, Dove introduced a special surprise guest, Grammy Award-winning superstar and body confidence advocate Lizzo, who advised the girls to ”Listen to your hair, your hair needs love.” After seeing their favorite icon with her beautiful tresses fully adorned with butterfly hair pieces speaking on her own experiences and lessons learned from her own hair, the girls couldn’t help but feel more at ease.
At the conclusion of the event, each girl was tasked with the assignment of creating their own version of their crown and telling their peers what they loved about their hair. Each girl created something unique and inspiring to showcase to their peers. One crown displayed a girl with a skin color in every shade to represent that any person can have beautiful and wonderful hair. Another young girl proclaimed that she loved her long hair and natural highlights. An additional peer was intentional about displaying the appropriate physical features of the girl she drew by giving her full lips.
Dove’s launch of the Self Esteem Project tool “My Hair, My Crown” stands to impact a community of young girls who are all on their own journey to represent themselves confidently. Dre Brown said it best, “You have a choice, and you are the author of your hair story.” Although many of the girls in the workshop and around the world are still faced with stereotypes, bullying, and a lack of representation in social media, Dove’s project gives these girls the tools to stand strong in combating preconceived notions of natural hair, whether these perceptions are their own or not. In addition to the project tool, Dove is committed to progressing The Crown Act to end race-based hair discrimination in the U.S.