At some point, most Black girls go through a phase of learning to accept their natural hair; few of us have a major ad campaign to help us do it. But that’s the story for 11-year-old Siira, who for the past two weeks has been able to see her face –and more importantly her fro — on a billboard in London to show her just how beautiful and normal her natural hair is.
The billboard was rented by Siira’s tenacious mother, Lekia Lée, who noticed when her daughter was just three year’s old she began complimenting women in public on their hair — women whose hair was straight and smooth, unlike her textured hair.
“I said, ‘Wow, she is already recognizing that is the only way to have great hair,’ ” Lée told The Washington Post, noting that many of her daughter’s friends behaved the same way. “Black women are generally not born with straight hair. That’s basically saying Black women are not beautiful.”
That’s what led Lée to come up with the billboard of various girls and women, including her and her own daughter, wearing their hair naturally. The Nigerian mom had been attempting to raise funds for the effort since 2011 and, according to WaPo, “When crowdfunding didn’t work, the mother decided to go straight to the billboard companies, asking them to donate a space to the cause. Finally, a company — UK Billboards — agreed, placing two billboards with the hashtag #afrovisibility.” Appropriately, the billboards went up on March 8, International Women’s Day.
The ad, Lée said, essentially says, “This is how I am, this is how I look. Why should I be pressured to look differently from who I am?”
On the heels of the success of this campaign, Lée has created Project Embrace, an organization through which she hopes to launch more billboard campaigns to continue encouraging “visibility” of Afros and natural hair as normal.
Photo credit: Nathan Sheppard