I decided to do a quick post to address female models of color in regards to hairstyles and the modeling industry. There are no hard and fast rules but there are some things I want to point out that you as an aspiring or established model should keep in mind as you pursue your modeling career.
Black hair is unique and can't be treated like any other. There are various styles and ways women of color wear their hair and in modeling it all depends on what you feel most comfortable with. As far as I know there aren't any strict rules as to hairstyle preferences according to the different types of modeling.
But what I think is most important is sporting a style that you feel represents you. Never try to alter your hair dramatically to fit a look that may not suit you. As I've pointed out in past posts, if an agency falls in love with you as you are, then chances are you don't have to change a thing.
I've seen models of color sport different styles in all types of modeling. I've seen Afros in commercial/print ads as well as on the catwalk. I've seen chemically straightened hair in just about every type of modeling and certain braided hairstyles, so I wouldn't be quick to say that only certain types of hairstyles and hair types belong in certain fields of modeling.
When it comes to braided hair I would suggest keeping it as well groomed as possible--no fuzzies! It will also help to have photos of your hair without the braids, just so your agency can see the difference. They may like the braids or they may like your natural style but if you love your braided hair be sure you can commit to it long term and will be diligent about the maintenance.
It also depends on what your agent thinks is the best look for marketing you to clients. So don't feel as if your hair needs to meet any certain requirement. What it should be at all times is healthy, shiny, and well groomed.
One concern I've heard from aspiring models is in regards to the topic of chemically straightened or "relaxed" hair. For those of you that aren't familiar with such things, many women of color choose to use chemical relaxers to straighten curly, wavy hair. However, this process introduces many harsh chemicals that can be damaging to the hair. Those that don't want to put such stress on their hair turn to flat ironing or pressing their hair. This involves the use of heated styling tools (such as flat irons and hot combs) to make curly or wavy hair straight. My best advice is to use caution when toying with the idea of relaxing your hair.
If flat ironing works just fine for you, then I don't see the need to make the switch, especially if you've never put chemicals on your hair before. There is always the risk of a disastrous outcome, which can include severe burns to your scalp and loss of hair. Unless you've been relaxing your hair for a long time (like myself), your tresses may not take too kindly to the process. I've heard horror stories from women that have tried the relaxer route. Some even had relaxers in the past but still had terrible results.
Definitely exercise caution and know that if you plan on putting a relaxer in your hair, you'll need to be prepared to give your hair care routine a boost and extra TLC. The chemicals in relaxers can cause the hair to be dry and brittle. To counteract this common side effect, it is vital to deep condition your hair at least once a week and try to limit the use of styling tools.
It's never a good idea to put heat on your hair on a daily basis anyway so avoid it as much as possible. When trying a relaxer for the first time, go to a professional hair stylist that has experience doing relaxers. Make sure to do a test strand first--never go ahead and put a relaxer in your hair without making sure there isn't a negative reaction. Fixing a small section of hair is a lot easier than doing damage control for your entire head.
In the end it is up to you to decide what you think would be best for your hair but take it from me, when it comes to black hair, stick to what you know. As the saying goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
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