Beauty
Image from Josef Adamu's 'The Hair Appointment' Series. Photo by Jeremy Rodney-Hall

Reclaiming Tradition: How Hair Beads Connect Us to Our History

A history of beads and African hair jewelry told through the unforgettable story of Baroness Floella Benjamin.

In 1977, Trinidadian-British actress and singer Floella Benjamin (OBE) was on her way to premiere her new blaxploitation film Good Joy at the Cannes Film Festival in the south of France. Styled in braids carefully accented by layered beads, she knew she'd standout amongst the festival's mostly white attendees, but nothing prepared her for the kind of reception she would ultimately receive.

"We drove along the [Promenade of] La Croisette," she recalls, "in an open top Cadillac for the film premiere and as we passed along, the crowds tried to grab my hair to get a bead as a souvenir."

It was a decade when sequined jumpsuits, gaudy fur stoles and overgrown sideburns were the norm, yet Benjamin's beaded look—which many black folks would have considered common—was met with unparalleled fascination—a uniquely African hairstyle that black women had been wearing for centuries hadn't been seen before at a place like Cannes. "I stayed at the Carlton Hotel and the maids were intrigued," she recalls. "They kept knocking on my door just to look and stare at me."

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Photo by A Kid Named Trav

Hair By Susy and OkayAfrica Present 'Lady,' a Celebration of Women, Hair and Individuality

We speak with hair artist Susy Oludele about her coffee table book "Lady," ahead of its upcoming exhibit at Okay Space.

Lady is the upcoming coffee book by Brooklyn-based celebrity hairstylist and owner of Hair by Susy, Susy Oludele—also known as African Creature—that will celebrate black hair in all of its beautiful complexity.

The Nigerian-American hair artist was inspired by the Fela Kuti classic by the same name when she envisioned the project—reclaiming the title as a symbol for unbridled artistic expression and bold, feminine energy. Within its pages, you'll find stunning curated images and storytelling that offer a medley of visual inspiration.

Digital copies of the book are available now for pre-order and physical copies of Lady will be available on November 8th (Susy's Birthday!), followed by an interactive exhibit at Okay Space on November 10. The event will explore African hair in the workplace with the critical goal of "empowering, inspiring, and engaging a diverse audience in the importance of representation, identity, and individuality." You can RSVP for the event here.

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