Written and Photographed By Katie Harrison of Nakupenda Photography
For young ladies with Afro hair, the world’s definition of beauty can be a painful and confusing topic. Nakupenda Photography loves helping these girls embrace their own black girl magic. The Afro Squad is here to reclaim the definition of beauty.
Two years ago, we photographed Miss M, a beautiful little girl with Afro hair. We wanted to show off her natural beauty and her gorgeous curls, but there was a problem. At the tender age of 4, sweet Miss M had already started asking her mom to straighten her hair. She didn’t think that her big, tight, curly ringlets were beautiful.
Her mom had long straight hair and she saw other women with hair like hers relax it, straighten it or cut it short so that it was easier to manage. This lack of exposure to big natural, curly hair shaped gorgeous little Miss M’s definition of beauty. She didn’t think she was beautiful. She had not seen anyone else who looked like her, much less heard anyone call them beautiful. Even more stunning was the day we discovered that this girl wasn’t alone.
This profound realization was the birth of the Afro-Squad.
We wanted to keep this studio session simple. Our previous photo shoots have had crazy costumes, props, and themes. For this session though, we decided to go with clean and simple. We photographed the girls at Block Studio, with a white brick background, and pastel colored dresses. We wanted to emphasize the natural beauty of the girls we were photographing. The white brick and pastels would make everything about these sweet faces stand out in comparison. Because of the set’s simplicity, we were able to capture the variations in hair color and skin tone arrayed in our studio that morning.
We encouraged the parents to style their daughters’ hair the way the child felt most beautiful.
We received some amazing feedback from this past session, so amazing, we needed to share it with the rest of you. This parent’s comments paint such an incredible picture of why celebrating diversity is important.[My daughter] has struggled so much with her identity, blackness and confidence. She recently told me that she wasn’t going to be black any more because she hated it. She wanted fair skin and an Elsa braid. We’ve worked so hard to keep her world diverse and teach her to embrace her beauty. She has been making progress and is slowly learning to embrace her own black girl magic.
Today, I styled her hair big and loose and she insisted that I put pig tails in because her hair was ‘too big and embarrassing’. She only knew one person and was nervous in the car. Once she walked into that studio her whole energy changed. Something about blending in and being celebrated really struck a cord with her.
When we were leaving, she quietly whispered, ‘Mama, can i do that again sometime?’ This was big for her. I know that like many girls/women, self love is a lifelong struggle, but today, you helped that little girl make a big stride forward. Thank you for providing this unique opportunity and making it affordable. It is really special.
In addition to helping the girls to appreciate their own beauty, these Afro Squad Sessions have helped their subjects to form fast friendships. The parents often chat during the sessions, organize play dates, and swap hair styling tips. The Afro Squad has really built up a community all its own; a community that celebrates the natural beauty and magic of black and bi-racial girls.