Natural hair is having a long overdue moment — from celebrities rocking their kinky, coily hairstyles on the red carpet to famous moms like Viola Davis encouraging their children to love the hair texture they were born with — and for good reason.
A study published in February titled “The Good Hair Studied” surveyed 4,000 participants and found that people still have biases toward natural black hair. Instead of shrinking away from textured hair, however, photographer Kahran Bethencourt of CreativeSoul Photography is fully embracing it in her work and encouraging little girls of color to do the same.
The Atlanta native is the mastermind and talent behind the AfroArt photo series, which features black girls around the U.S. showing off their natural hair in beautifully exaggerated ways created by Lachanda Gatson.
“Unfortunately, the lack of diversity often plays into the stereotypes that they are not ‘good enough’ and often forces kids to have low self-esteem,” Bethencourt tells Us. “We try to combat these stereotypes in our photography by showing diverse imagery of kids who love the skin they’re in, their own natural curls, and their culture.”
She decided to give the shoot, which Bethencourt got underway during summer 2016, a Baroque theme (the Renaissance era around the 17th and 18th centuries) to contrast the girls’ larger-than-life hairstyles.
The result: stunning photos of girls with equally stunning hair.
Even more important than the look, Bethencourt saw the models fall in love with their natural appearance.
“The most memorable part of the shoot was seeing the look on the girls’ faces when they saw their hair in the Afro styles,” she said.
Many of the girls had never seen their hair styled this way, but Bethencourt says a few wanted to wear their styles home. While some may be too young to understand the significance of the shoot, Yolanda Polley’s 11-year-old daughter, Zoie, didn’t.
“She totally understands what it means, and she gets it,” says Polley, adding that Zoie loves her hair. “She wears her natural hair every day.”
As for the others, Bethencourt hopes they’ll look back and see the beauty they have within themselves.
“We also hope that it gives them the boost of confidence they need to go out and conquer the world,” she says. Or as some call it, #BlackGirlMagic.