Natural Icon Beauty Feature- LEANNE

Meet 24 years old Leanne Humphrey, a very befitting beauty for our Natural Icon Beauty of the Month Feature. I wanted to know more about this Natural Icon’s style & personality so I got her to spill the beans just a little…

NIB: Tell me about your personality.

LH: I am a very bohemian, free spirited person. I am very extroverted and determined. I try to base all of my actions with love.

NIB: What’s your personal style? 

LH: I dress extremely funky. I wear a lot of colours and I wear comfortable materials. I like anything that looks unique. I have an obsession with jewellery. I like extravagant jewellery pieces. My style is very Afro Centric with a quirky European twist to it.

NIB: Why natural hair? 

LH: I went through so many phases of hairstyles in my life… From natural twists to straightened hair to weaves to bob cuts to mo-hawks… Just ended up at dreadlocks… It is not so much why natural hair but why dreadlocks? There is a certain wisdom I feel attached to my hair. It is my crown and it is interesting the story that my dreads tell. Every tight matted tress tells a story of what I was going through when that length of my hair was growing. It is just one of those things where my heart just knew that dreadlocks was for me… With other hairstyles, I could’ve seen myself trying a different one. With my dreads, I can’t see any other style in my future but longer dreads.

Leanne is from the beautiful Island of Barbados. Leanne switched from studying Theatre Arts to the Music Programme at Edna Manley College as she revealed to me, “that is my true passion. I am an upcoming recording artiste! My stage name is Vanessa Lee.”

She radiates an infectious energy! She is the rebel of love, light and conquest. With a striking soul, Vanessa Lee rules her voice with the power of musical reason.

I must say, the first time I saw Leanne, I was wowed. She has such a fierce beauty and unique style that I knew I had to capture it on camera for my blog. I was not disappointed. She was just as fierce behind the cameras as she was in person, and of course, it transcended well on photo. A picture is worth a thousand words and I’ve posted more than one so I’ll just let them help to tell Leanne’s story in addition to what she already told us.

Thanks for visiting. Remember to follow/subscribe to the blog and leave a comment.

Love & Blessings,

Queen Stacia.

Follow me on Instagram: @naturaliconbeauty

Personal IG: @staciadavidson

Like me on Facebook: Click Here.

 

Connect with Leanne aka Vanessa Lee Bongo:

Follow on Twitter: @vanessaleebongo

Like her on Facebook

Follow her on Instagram

Watch her videos: Vanessa Lee

For Bookings email: vanessaleebongo@gmail.com

 

Credits:

Photography: @nickiikane

Lighting Director: @d.v.lux

Make Up: @vanessaleebongo & Jami Lake

Styling: @mz_xeri

 

 

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Black Hair Matters (Part 2)

“Kingston College High School students in Jamaica are sent home, on an exam day, for wearing fades and mohawks. Black girls in the Bahamas are sent home for Twist Outs. Black girls in Barbados are sent home for Afros; And Bantu Knots (Chiney Bumps) are deemed inappropriate for school.  Some may say that the students are at fault. They know the school rule and should have, therefore, adhered to it. After all, as one teacher puts it, “school rule is school rule. Abide or get out!” But I’ll address that later. For now, I have a deeper concern.

Responding to accusation that the school is lenient with students of Indian and Chinese orientation, the Kingston College Principal said,” students expect them to bald their head like mine but it can’t be that the same rule applies for obvious reason. We have to use our discretion.” It is more worrying than hypocritical that the same authority that sees it fit to suspend black boys for wearing Fades, have seen it fit to use their discretion biases when it comes to students of Indian, Asian and Caucasian descent wearing the exact hairstyles deemed inappropriate when worn by their black schoolmates. What are these ‘obvious reasons’ to which he alludes? Apparently fades are only appropriate when worn by Indians, Caucasians, Asians, Soldiers, Presidents and Prime Ministers… but NOT black students.”– Excerpt from Black Hair Matters Part 1

“Having had the wrong kind of education, the Negro has become his own greatest enemy.”– Marcus Garvey

“We speak often of modernized curricula at the secondary level, and the need to pay attention not just to academic/technical areas of study, but to the sense of identity that young people develop as students. Part of this identity is of course the history of their country and region, and their place in this history. Not just in the Caribbean but wherever young, Black women live, we are told that our hair is somehow inadequate: it is ‘hard’ or ‘knotty’. It is not straight ‘enough’, although enough for whom or what one cannot be sure. And where we are kindly allowed to wear our hair naturally as it grows from our heads, there are caveats: as long as it is pulled back or braided tight or otherwise tamed.”[1]

Though no one can force someone to start seeing and appreciating black beauty, it would be beneficial for us to start questioning our beliefs about race, beauty and natural hair. If we recognized that those who created the dominant cultural ideas we’ve internalized did so for their benefit, and not ours, we would be better able to understand that the psychological conflict this internalization causes is self-destructive. Self-hatred continues the cycle of self-degradation, and it’s impossible to teach our children about their self worth, and get them to take their history seriously, if our own sense of self is distorted through a white lens. What are the lessons being taught to us as a society that teachers would think sending a child home for wearing their natural hair out is acceptable and excusable?

“Among my primary concerns is the message being sent to young women of African heritage in this country that their natural selves are of necessity untidy, unsuitable or otherwise inadequate. The argument that “students can do whatever they like once they enter the real world, but this is school” also misunderstands the role of formal education and the process of young people’s development. School is the real world. Young people are understanding themselves and their environment, and while becoming who they will be, they also are.”[2]

Lessons of self- confidence, self- worth and self- identity have to be incorporated into the collective consciousness. Therefore, children have to be socialized to believe their self worth. I’ve heard parents tell their children, “Nuh deh wid nobody blacker than u madda or fada!

Choose a man wid pretty hair suh yuh pickney can have pretty hair

Nuh bring home nuh black picky picky head man/gyal fi meet mi

I’ve heard teachers tell children,

“Yuh see how yuh black” as if being black was some sort of leprosy and something to be avoided or ashamed of.

Children spend most of their time at home and school. The only way to undo all what we have learned as it relates to self hate is to constantly drive home the message of self love. The brain is a creature of repetition; whoever gets at it the most will rule it. The brain cannot resist the temptation to believe something that is regularly presented before it or that it’s regularly fed. So that’s what makes teachers’ jobs so hard yet critical. Children only spend approximately 8 hours at school. What do they spend the other 16 hours doing, hearing, and watching? The formative years of conditioning are from birth to 12. It is counterproductive that we (parents, teachers, society) instill values consistent with self hate in those critical years and then try to change them after they have already been habituated and developed personalities and hard habits. As the Jamaican proverb appropriately states, “ben’ the tree when it young, when it old, it will bruck” What people have ever been freed by giving the best years of their children to their ‘oppressor’? The ‘oppressor’, in this instance, is the value system of white bias.[3]

We have to replace the old zero-tolerance approach with an approach built on the conviction that suspension and expulsion don’t solve problems at the root of student misbehavior. Continuing to promote zero tolerance, masking it as just a commitment to discipline and blind social conformity, we are failing future generations of black kinky hair students. When you fail to engage your school boards in the conversation around changing these outdated rules, that’s your contribution to the old guard. Yes, systems matter, and yes, there are villains and bad apples out there. But we’ve got to be way more honest and own our contribution to all of this. Our contribution can be what we do but also what we fail to do. Let’s make it personal, and admit our own fault and contributions to this value system that promotes ‘white bias’. I know that’s hard to hear. But yes, you and I, intelligent, well-intentioned warriors of discipline — we contribute to the system when we say nothing and do nothing. If we remain silent in matters of injustice, we have chosen the side of the oppressor.

I can see somebody reading and saying, “Look at her telling us not to uphold school rules and preaching about natural hair like she is more enlightened and confident than all of us. But she can say wah she waan say, she don’t have to deal with these unruly kids on a daily basis? and who are you to say we have issues of self hate just because we’re not natural?” I promise you, my intention is not to seem like I am the Malcolm X of natural hair advocacy or that I am righteous and have all the answers. It’s purely out of love for my people when I suggest that rejecting straightened hair is symbolic of a deeper act of rejecting the belief that straightening hair and other forms of grooming which are deemed ‘socially acceptable’ are the only means of looking ‘presentable’, ‘formal’, ‘sophisticated’, ‘groomed’, ‘appropriate’, ‘respectable’, ‘neat’, ‘professional’ and attaining success in society. I, like the other person, am still on that journey of undoing and unlearning all the blatant and subliminal negative messages that were fed to me in my formative years.

The first step to ‘rehabilitation’ is admission and realizing a need for change. Let’s consciously correct our subconscious thoughts, our conversations, and our actions. It won’t be easy but it will be worth it. In fact, I have to stop myself from saying and doing things daily that contradict this empowerment of which I speak of. If your ‘discipline’ undermines the values of self love, self worth and self acceptance, it’s time for it to be disrupted.

Others should not be able to dictate to us what is beautiful and we just sit powerlessly regurgitating those beauty standards. Racism ‘works’ by encouraging the devaluation of self-identity by the victims themselves, and that re-centering of a sense of pride is a prerequisite for resistance and reconstruction. Let us take charge of the messages we consume daily and the messages we allow our children to consume. Our hair doesn’t need to be ‘fixed’! Society’s view of beauty is what is broken. I’ve been told more often than not that I’m prejudiced towards women with natural hair. I am not. Some of my most beloved friends have processed hair. However, I choose to highlight beauties with natural hair through this medium because, as a black woman, I understand that I needed to see positive images of black natural hair beauties and, by highlighting them, I am contributing, if only minutely, to my people seeing themselves as BEAUTIFUL. I am challenging the idea that there is one standard of beauty. Good hair is not only straight hair or hair with curl patterns closer to Caucasian, Indian or Asian textures. ‘Good hair’ is HEALTHY hair whether it be kinky, curly, coily, nappy, or straight.

“Until the lions have their own historians, tales of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.”

We are Kings and Queens whose history have been distorted because we allowed someone else to tell it. We were never slaves. We were enslaved. Two different things. I see a need to incorporate and structure our history in the school curriculum in a way that empowers us as a people and that builds self esteem. But who would teach it if there are teachers who themselves need these lessons? Black Hair Matters. Until these hair rules are applied unbiasedly to all kinds of hair then you are asking us to accept that we are ‘valorized according to the tilt of our whiteness’ and that ‘rules are rules’ and must be followed regardless. Back in the day you may have blindly followed and upheld those hair rules but now that you know better or at least should know better (even if only after reading this). Don’t you think it would be irresponsible and cowardice to go back to enforcing those kinds of ‘rules’? The mind stretched by an idea can never be returned to its original dimensions. No man can grow and remain the same. Are you going to stunt positive growth and awareness because of fear and because ‘it has always been done that way’?

Let us be brave if only for the future generation.

Let us not apologise for the texture of our hair and for being disruptive about policies and changes that affect our race.

Let us not judge our beauty based on European standards or we will forever believe we are ‘ugly’ and ‘inadequate’. We are not Europeans. We are AFRICANS… and our hair (and lives) matter.
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Love & Blessings,

Queen Stacia.

Follow on Instagram: @naturaliconbeauty

Personal IG: @staciadavidson

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[1] Letter from group of Harrison College Alumni in Barbados

[2] Letter from group of Harrison College Alumni in Barbados

[3] Dr. Umar Johnson

*Not all images are property of the blog

Black Hair Matters.

“We have outgrown slavery, but our minds are still enslaved to the thinking of the Master race. Now take these kinks out of your mind, instead of out of your hair.”– Marcus Garvey

All hair is NOT created equal. That’s the lye lie they are still trying to force into our heads. It is a sad day when the hair that naturally grows out of a person’s head is deemed unacceptable. I remember some 20 years ago having a conversation with a childhood friend who was telling me that it was against her school rules to comb her hair in more than 3 or 4 cornrows/braids. What was the logic behind this rule? I think she had said combing it in anything more than 4 braids would be akin to looking like a ‘Rasta’. But don’t quote me on that. Nevertheless, I found this rule weird and offensive since this was a school with a predominantly black student populace. Braiding is not only a way for Black people to show off our hairstyles and creativity but it is also a means of having one less thing to worry about while getting ready for school each morning. Since cornrows can last for at least a week once proper night time ‘tie head’ protocols are followed, this hairstyle is expedient. This rule posed a problem for my friend who not only had very short naturally kinky hair but who was a Christian in the Pentecostal faith. Her faith (church rules) prevented her from processing her hair and her school rules basically made it impossible for her to wear her hair in its short naturally kinky state. Since her hair would need at least 10 cornrows to be even considered “neat” by their standards, you could see that she was in a predicament of sorts. Though having never heard of Walter Rodney and Umar Johnson or knowing very little besides the names of Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X at the time, I still knew there was something ridiculously wrong with that picture.

It was a pointed display of arrogance towards most manifestations of non-European culture. A prominent Girls’ school in the capital Kingston & St. Andrew preventing a female student from wearing natural braids and cornrows- hairstyles synonymous with the African texture- is a school that had no intention of catering to the needs of its black students who by nature were blessed with short kinky hair. For me, this was institutionalized Racism and social manipulation at most; discrimination partly entrenched in the school rules under the guise of instilling discipline.

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“Who taught you to hate yourself? Who taught you to hate the texture of your hair? Who taught you to hate the colour of your skin?” Malcolm X

Fast forward almost 25 years later, Kingston College High School students in Jamaica are sent home, on an exam day, for wearing fades and mohawks. Black girls in the Bahamas are sent home for Twist Outs. Black girls in Barbados are sent home for Afros; And Bantu Knots (Chiney Bumps) are deemed inappropriate for school.  Some may say that the students are at fault. They know the school rule and should have, therefore, adhered to it. After all, as one teacher puts it, “school rule is school rule. Abide or get out!” But I’ll address that later. For now, I have a deeper concern.

Responding to accusation that the school is lenient with students of Indian and Chinese orientation, the Kingston College Principal said,” students expect them to bald their head like mine but it can’t be that the same rule applies for obvious reason. We have to use our discretion.” It is more worrying than hypocritical that the same authority that sees it fit to suspend black boys for wearing Fades, have seen it fit to use their discretion biases when it comes to students of Indian, Asian and Caucasian descent wearing the exact hairstyles deemed inappropriate when worn by their black schoolmates. What are these ‘obvious reasons’ to which he alludes? Apparently fades are only appropriate when worn by Indians, Caucasians, Asians, Soldiers, Presidents and Prime Ministers… but NOT black students.

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Why is it, in 2016 in Jamaica, over 17O years after the ‘Abolition of Slavery’ and ‘Emancipation’ and 54 years after ‘Independence’, do we still think that the afro, bantu knots (chiney bumps), twist outs and other hairstyles commonly worn by African women are ‘unsuitable’, ‘unprofessional’, ‘inappropriate’, ‘unrespectable’, ‘unruly’, ‘unkempt’, ‘untidy’, and ‘ungroomed’? Why are we still sending home black boys for wearing fades and mohawks? Why is the African hair not seen as ‘good hair’? We have been devalued through our history of enslavement. Yet we have, from generations to generations, continued to teach our own, whether through blatant, subliminal and even subtle messages, that we are inadequate and that all hair is NOT created equal. Some are more equal than others.

 “This was my first really big step toward self- degradation: when I endured all of that pain, literally burning my flesh to have it look like a white man’s hair. I had joined that multitude of Negro men and women in America who are brainwashed to believe that the black people are “inferior”- and white people “superior”- that they will even violate and mutilate their God-created bodies to try and look “pretty” by white standards.”- Malcolm X

Some years ago while attending High School, I was 13 at the time in 3rd form (9th grade). I usually travelled to school with my friend’s mom. Those traffic mornings led for great family conversations. I just listened. It was one of those mornings that my friend asked her mom if she would be allowed to process (cream) her hair for her Birthday. She was going to be 14 and that was the only gift she wanted. After negotiating with her mom the entire trip to school, her mom agreed that if she did well for the semester and got straight A’s, she would grant her that wish. ‘Creaming’ her hair was going to be her ‘reward’ for good grades and behaviour.

A friend of mine was in a long distance relationship and hadn’t seen her boyfriend in person for months. She had started her journey back to natural hair and had told me how she loved how her natural hair was looking and how excited she was at the sight of ‘new growth’. Her boyfriend was coming to visit and she gladly awaited the opportunity to spend time with him and show off her beautiful Bantu Knots. For those couple of days that he was going to be in the island, I knew I wasn’t going to see her. But after he left and she visited me, I was in for a surprise. She had exchanged her kinky curly natural crown with processed hair. When I asked why, she said her boyfriend didn’t like how she looked with hair natural. I was disappointed in her decision but I guess no one wants to feel “unpretty” especially to the one person who should be calling you beautiful. Her opinion of her hair didn’t matter because his opinion mattered more. Truth is, I don’t fully blame men for their opinions and preferences.  Men are very visual beings, and they unconsciously learn to define beauty by what society instills in them at a very young age.

Growing up in a Pentecostal Church, we were forced to keep our hair natural. With hopes of straightening my hair, I started questioning my mom as to the Biblical foundation of such rule. I tried to argue that there were no biblical grounds for such rule and even tried to negotiate terms but my mom was adamant that it wasn’t going to happen; At least, “not in my house!”  I kept nagging her about this stupid church rule until she called one of the Elders of the Church who I highly respected to talk to me about it thinking that it would have quelled my ‘sinful’ desire for the ’creamy crack’. As my mother handed me the house phone, I wasn’t sure what to expect but I said “Hello”. It was then that I heard a stern recognizable voice say,  “Are you telling GOD that you don’t like the way He made you and that you don’t think He made you properly or beautiful?” Pausing just enough to muster the confidence of Johnnie Cochran, I quickly backfired, “No, I’m telling Him I loved how He made me. I just want to look even more beautiful.” I don’t remember how the rest of that conversation went but, at that time, I actually felt proud of my response. I had made my case.

In retrospect, my reply only confirmed how deeply rooted the psychological legacy of slavery was and how successful Europeans have been in destroying our self worth and confidence by pushing their standards of beauty on us. Why would straight hair make me more beautiful? At least, why did I think it would? Why wasn’t my Kinky Curls enough?

I’ve had three friends with natural hair entered Miss Jamaica Beauty Pageants. They all entered in different years and they don’t know each other. They all passed the elimination round of the competition and made it to the finals wearing their natural curls. They all seemed like self confident and secure ladies who love their natural hair yet they all decided to ‘alter’ or ‘hide’ their natural curls whether through temporary straightening measures or in an up do. After questioning each of their motives,  I realized that the decision had less to do with what would complement the style of their gowns and  more to do with the thought that wearing their naturally kinky curly hair out for the evening gown segment was inappropriate as they needed a hairstyle that was more ‘suitable’, ‘formal’, ‘sophisticated’ and ‘appropriate’.  It’s not a coincidence that they all viewed wearing their natural hair out, for such a ‘distinguished’ and ‘special’ occasion, in the same light. Those with hair closer to Indian, Asian or Caucasian textures let their hair out for the evening gown segment all the time. There’s not even an inclination in their minds that this could be inappropriate. So why then would they think that wearing their naturally kinky curly hair out wasn’t evening gown worthy? Why did they think it was inadequate and not fitting for a formal occasion?

I told all these stories not to declare how many friends I have but rather to highlight how different persons, of different ages, from different backgrounds, who don’t know each other could hold similar demeaning perceptions or convictions regarding their hair.

We had to learn it from somewhere. This internalized form of racism is an invisible presence in our psyches, and some of us don’t even realize that it’s a factor in how we perceive ourselves and others. Thus, for instance, my friend’s boyfriend could think his attraction to straight long hair is just a ‘matter of taste’, and I could articulate that ‘creaming’ my hair would make me ‘prettier’. It’s a matter of identity, self-worth and self-acceptance. That is why I can’t agree with the notion that rules are just rules and, as such, should be blindly followed.. Rules are NOT just rules. Rules are a reflection of society’s standards, values and fears. How we view ourselves and others are directly related to how we act. When we continue to enforce rules that either blatantly reinforce or express subtle undertones of self hatred and discrimination towards non-European traits, we are teaching our children values that promote a mindset that there is no room for the idea of naturally kinky haired black beauty.  And we continue the cycle from generations to generations if those rules aren’t changed.

  

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A Part 2 will be posted this week which will offer ‘solutions’ as I didn’t want to make this post too long 🙂

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Love & Blessings,

Queen Stacia.

Follow on Instagram: @naturaliconbeauty

Personal IG: @staciadavidson

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*Not all images are property of the blog