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Kinky Hair Fair: Affirming Identity, Raising Awareness

Turban workshop.

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The event that celebrates black beauty included funk shows, debates, workshops and beauty contests.

Young Elaine Rosa had a dream: to create a project that would encourage appreciation of the beauty of black women like her and of the elements of Afro-Brazilian culture in the region where they live. Elaine’s dream gained three more allies in Milena Nax, Tauanna Cristina and Luciano Araújo. With support from the Networks for Youth Agency (Agência de Redes para Juventude), the Kinky Hair Fair held its first event on November 23 in the Jovelina Pérola Negra Arena in Pavuna, North Zone of Rio de Janeiro.

The idea for the event was developed according to the internationally acclaimed Agency’s methodology developed by writer and activist Marcus Vinícius Faustini. The agency works with teenagers from different communities in Rio de Janeiro in an effort to put teenagers in action within their territories through the development and execution of projects in different areas of cooperation, above all focusing on culture.

The team observed through research online and on the ground that Pavuna does not have a practice or initiative that encourages the appreciation of black beauty, especially in relation to Afro hair. The group’s mission is to make the black woman feel worthy, showing the grace and glamor in her features and hair, without the necessity of surrendering to the aesthetics of beauty standards stressed by the mass media, which mainly value straight hair.

After three months of creative labs and idea development sessions with the Agency team, the young people presented their Kinky Queen project to a panel of judges and were awarded R$10,000 ($3,700). During the trimestral cycle of planning implemented by Agência, the project team visited beauty salons, met with collaborators and the outcome could not have been better: the first edition of the Kinky Hair Fair was a success and the second is scheduled for March 8, 2015, International Woman’s Day.

The project’s launch was marked by various attractions, debates about female funk producers, identity, affirmation of Afro hair in the media, beauty workshops, exhibitions, ‘Mister Raça Zumbi’ competitions and beauty contests. “Projects like the Kinky Hair Fair are fundamental to giving black beauty visibility, which is still so discriminated against,” said 22-year-old Sara Vieira. For the creators of the Kinky Hair Fair, kinky hair and black beauty are fundamental for the distinctive atmosphere of the city of Rio.

The program provided space for brand exhibitions with clothes and accessories for black women as well as food, music and a debate on the subject. It also held a ‘looks battle’–a competitive parade of black women–brightening the event and setting trends. The group intends to repeat the event every three months with the objective of transforming the Kinky Hair Fair into a benchmark in Pavuna and in Rio de Janeiro.

Even before the activities began, one could sense the enthusiasm of the attendees. Pavuna resident Tatiane Noronha, 19, approved of the event, “I really enjoyed the turban workshop. The vivid prejudice towards female youth is not only due to color, but also your home territory. The good thing about this event is that it goes beyond a fair. It represents a way of breaking the stigma, breaking it through the enhancement of beauty, of seeing,” she said.

Organizer Elaine Rosa was also happy with the outcome. “The fair brought various elements of black culture to show the existence of a resistance against racial problems,” she said. “And it is necessary to discuss this. Having natural or straight hair is a choice, the important thing is to bring about the affirmation and acceptance of black issues.”