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Good hair day! Fashion show celebrates black women’s natural locks

for The Brooklyn Paper
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This Bedford-Stuyvesant resident is tackling stereotypes, one hairstyle at a time.

Mireille Liong started the website Going-natural.com 10 years ago to encourage black women to flaunt their natural kinks and curls. And now she is taking her message offline with a hair and fashion show on Aug. 23.

“We want to change the perception of natural hair,” said Liong. “We want to get rid of the idea of ‘bad hair.’ The show shows the power of natural hair, and that it’s meant to be shown off.”

The follicle fest, dubbed “Bad Hair Uprooted,” will be held in Red Hook’s Warehouse Gallery, and will feature black models letting natural hair flow free and done in styles such as bantu knots, dreadlocks, and cornrows, as well as African-inspired clothing.

Seeing black models on the catwalk sporting hairstyles that maintain their natural texture is a rarity in the fashion world, said Liong.

“People don’t realize this, but African hairstyles are always done on the runway with straight hair, and seen as some exotic thing,” she said. “And we think, listen, this is our style. Why don’t you allow natural hair models to apply for modeling jobs just the way they are?”

But despite the lack of representation on runways, Liong said attitudes are slowly changing.

“I think perception has changed, at least a little,” she said. “Among black people, we ourselves used to think our hair was bad. And you can see that it’s changed over the past 10 years.”

Institutions are changing, too. The U.S. Army, Air Force, and Navy recently eased their guidelines on acceptable hairstyles, after outcry over new restrictions on large cornrows, twists, and dreadlocks. And one hair stylist participating in the show said she has seen attitudes start to shift in other arenas.

“My clients who are in the corporate world come into my salon, they’re apprehensive about wearing certain hairstyles. Because our natural hair draws attention,” said Sabine Bellevue, owner of hair salon Sabine’s Hallway in Bedford-Stuyvesant. “In the corporate world, it’s about people not being intimidated by you. But it is getting better. I have judges, doctors, lawyers, a bunch of professionals who come to me, and they still want to keep their natural hair. It’s a great change.”

Bad Hair Uprooted: The Going Natural Hair Show at Warehouse Gallery (183 Lorraine St., third floor, between Court and Clinton streets in Red Hook). Aug. 23 at 8 pm. $15.

Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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