We all have our own unique style: a combination of clothing and accessories that expresses everything from our heritage to fashion trends to #currentmood. An ensemble can represent many different facets of your identity, but how you wear or cover your hair carries with it special political importance.
Hair up, hair down, headscarf, hair wrap, blonde or black, what might seem trivial to some is actually something of deep societal significance to women. Whichever way you decide to arrange your locks, the decision is a deeply personal one and should not only be respected, but celebrated. That’s why, today, we’re honouring three women of different faiths and how they use their hair to express various aspects of their identity.
Jessie Kaur Lehail:
Jessie Kaur Lehail is a Sikh trailblazer living in British Columbia, who founded the Kaur Project (a storytelling site around the experiences of modern Sikh women).Raised in a small town outside Vancouver, Jessie struggled to fit in. In one particularly sadistic instance, a girl tried to set her hair on fire. This kind of bullying made her realise that sadly her culture wasn’t understood or accepted by everyone.
— Jessie Kaur Lehail (@JessieKaur1) July 6, 2018
In South Asian culture, hair is often perceived as one of the key identifiers of beauty and long hair is one of the five principles connected to the Sikh religion. Growing up, Jessie struggled through uncomfortable discussions around hair, identity and religion. Jessie’s goal with the Kaur to ensure that Sikh women have a safe, open space to discuss these issues freely.
Kelissa McDonald is a Jamaican singer and songwriter. To honour the Rastafarian traditions passed down to her by her parents, Kelissa decided to grow dreadlocks.
Kelissa says that being Rastafarian is a personal journey of self-discovery, which involves attempting to live completely naturally. Part of this includes not cutting their hair, resulting in naturally formed dreadlocks.
View this post on Instagram
EXPRESSION is… Letting those thoughts and feelings OUT!!! through writing, dancing, screaming, crying, painting, singing, trying a new hairstyle, or simply just a conversation. Our opinions and feelings are often unimportant to the world. they are overlooked, undermined, and judged.. those reactions make us want to close up like a shame o' lady, and keep our deepest impressions hidden in the crevices of our mind.. because who wants to be judged for expressing their truth? —————————————— I think one of the hardest things about being a musician, is constantly having your personal and most treasured expressions judged by the masses 🙈 It puts tremendous pressure on the creative process because it is also a livelihood.. technically if people don't like it, I don't eat LOL. I have become so much more critical of my own expression that at times, it creates the opposite effect of what expression should really be. I give thanks to each of you who tune in to the music and take the time to sit down and read my lengthy captions lol 📝and for engaging in my expressions in the the simplest of ways, it encourages me to stay open and Upful. —————————————— BEyond all of the expectations that come with sharing our thoughts and feelings, the important thing to remember is… Expression is really for SELF.. for if we remain closed, these energies will find a way to manifest.. as depression, disease, stagnancy.. so if you feel like you have something to say to someone, if you feel like painting something really ugly that no one will ever see, if you feel like singing in the shower at the top of your lungs.. DO IT!!! your mind, body and spirit will be grateful for the release.. no, you are not crazy 😜🙃Interested to know.. how do you express yourself? ✨ #Kelissa #Anbessa #KhepeRaChallenge #Day7 #Expression 📸:the_denni
Whilst following this tradition was never forced upon her by her parents, Kelissa says she was the last in her family to adopt it, starting when she was nine or ten years old.
For Kelissa, growing dreadlocks was about more than identifying with her family and beliefs. She sees it as an extension of her energy, acting as a guide to help her discern the intentions of people.
Ikram Abdi Omar:
Ikram Abdi Omar is a Swedish-British hijabi model who moved from Sweden to the UK with her family when she was just eight. Like a lot of young women, Ikram spent a lot of time watching fashion shows. Immersing herself in the world of fashion, Ikram noticed a serious lack of representation on international runways. As she tried to enter the world of modelling, Ikram found herself confronted by an issue; the hijab she had worn since she was 12-years-old wasn’t accepted within the industry. Ikram stated, “I wanted people to see me as a Muslim…The headscarf allows me to express that. I also feel powerful and beautiful when a lot of people around me wear it.”
After an initial lack of confidence, Ikram started doing free photoshoots for modest fashion brands in order to build her portfolio. After this, Ikram quickly signed onto an agency and made her debut at London Fashion Week.
Ikram views her hijab as a marker of identity, “It stands for modesty and beauty. As I matured, I thought my headscarf shouldn’t limit me, and I just went right into it.”
Being one of the first models to wear a hijab has filled Omar with pride and it propels her even more by knowing she is representing a marginalised group of women. She states, “In the creative arts you don’t see a lot of headscarf-wearing women, but [seeing them] gives young girls hope to pursue anything they want to do in life.”