Project Embrace Billboard Campaign

To use billboards to address the lack of representation of Afro textured hair in media & advertising. To promote greater visual diversity.

We did it!

On 1st Mar 2017 we successfully raised £555 with 28 supporters in 28 days

Campaign Info

The Project Embrace Billboard Campaign (PEBC) is aimed at bridging the diversity gap and lack of representation of afro hair in the beauty and media industry by placing women and girls with their natural afro’s on billboards. To achieve this we will run an annual 4 week billboard campaign. This is our first and we are starting in London, one of the most diverse cities in the world but which lacks the reflection of this wonderful diversity.

It is important for children growing up to see a reflection of themselves in the society they grow up in. It tells them they are valued. Unfortunately black children especial girls hardly see this reflection of themselves or the women they will grow up to be in their wider community. I realised how dangerous this could be to their self-image when this happened to me.

How it all began

When my daughter was 3 years old, she had this habit of going up to random people and introducing me, which was quite cute. Then it changed to giving compliments to these people, well women, but the only black women she ever complimented had straight hair – they were either wearing a wig or weave. Two things occurred to me that could be happening here:

        1. She hardly saw black women with hair like hers so how could she compliment afro hair if she wasn't seeing it?

        2. She was forming the idea that the only way to have beautiful hair, and thus be beautiful and deserving of a compliment is to have it straight.

       3. Because she was seeing much more straight hair (hair not like hers) on black women as against afro hair (hair like hers) she had decided that the more visible one was of more value and of course deserving of a compliment or 2. 

I panicked. What would she think when she looked at her own hair then? How would she value her beauty and inturn herself? I didn’t think it will be a good for her overall self-esteem and self-worth.

I had made sure at home she was surrounded by images that reflected her and her beauty, but clearly that was not enough because when she went outside, nothing reflected her back to herself. Hence  Project Embrace was born to create and share images that reflected postivity back to the millions of girls born with Afro textured hair.

Soon enough I realised I was not the only one with this concern. I met women who worried that after starting nursery school their daughters wanted hair like their friends. Only problem their friends whose hair they wanted were always white, or is it mothers whose 5 - 7 year olds were begging to have their hair straightened because they want to look nice. Or mothers of mixed girls who got horrible remarks about their hair from white adults! (I know, hard to believe eh!!).

Below are some comments I have recieved from mothers and young women.

Hi there my name is Kay and my daughter is Grace and is mixed race with beautiful Afro hair. I think Project Embrace is great. Many white people are so against Afro hair and I find a lot of prejudice towards her hair . And I get a lot of people comment and say oh she has got Afro hair !! Or am I disappointed her hair ain't like mine . I simply reply by saying black is beautiful and Afro hair is a true gift from God . I love my daughters hair so Thank you for project Embrace .

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I love the message you are promoting to young women, especially young black women. It is not easy being a young black women growing up in the UK, where you sometimes feel that it is impossible for you to ever fit into what is termed beautiful. Even though i try and remain confident and positive it still gets to me, and others I know. Sometimes i feel there is no hope, and i should accept things the way they are especially as it seems that people dont care about this issue. Even though many things are against us, i cant help but care about this issue and take it to heart, and though I am just one person, if I can try and get involved in helping black women, myself included feel confident and happy with the features we have been blessed with, i will feel so happy.

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I've just heard about your amazing project and I even though I haven't met you I am so happy and proud of you for taking a big step and creating positive awareness of the importance of our children and their belief-systems and health. It's really sad that that task is hard to achieve- our hair isn't actually ugly- but tbh- I only actually truly realised that when I went natural myself.

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When I used to do hair, I once did a women's hair who had natural hair- she told me that our hair is a curse and that it is ugly and should never be shown openly (she wanted me to braid her hair in extensions). The memory has never left me.

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It's these comments and others that made me realise more needs to be done for our image, for our true beauty to be valued. So I thought I should write an open letter to the advertising and hair companies, and suggest they included more diverse images of women and ones with afro hair too in their advertising and promotional campaigns. But then again, they might not listen I thought, besides I wasn't comfortable with the idea of well...you know... pleading to be recognised.

So instead of going cap in hand to the offending industries and companies (especially the shampoo ones!), I thought why not do it ourselves. We can create the diversity we want to see reflected in the society we live in.  

So far...

We have selected 6 women and 3 girls to take part. We want it to be an open audition for everyone and that is why we have not contacted modelling agencies as we celebrate all types of Afro beauty. Besides it is very difficult to find models with their natural hair on the books of most modelling agencies.

Why we are doing this

Black children but most especially black girls experience aesthetic discrimination and hence social exclusion at a very young age, this has a negative impact on their overall self-image. One way you can help tackle this issue is to support the promotion of  diversity in beauty and advertising by placing women and girls with natural afro textured hair on billboards around London, at first, then together we will go nationwide.

This is about value, making women and girls of African descent feel valued. According to Dodai Stewart, deputy editor at jezebel.com, "the absence of black models has a big impact on how society values and views women who are not white. Fashion is about desired aesthetics, visual beauty. When global brands- designers and magazines with worldwide influence – celebrate and therefore elevate only white beauty, the trickle-down effect is that women of colour are not seen as beautiful, that women of colour are not deemed worthwhile.”

In the All Parliamentary Group on Body Image report, it says that being visibly different makes some young people particularly susceptible to bullying. Regardless of the presence of a visible difference, over half (56%) of young people who experienced bullying reported that their appearance was the focus of the bullying behaviour.

So whether it is a school authority saying black girls cannot attend school with their natural hair, or potential bosses at places of employment saying you cannot work or be offered a job with your natural hair, or editors of magazines advising that natural hair is a no no in the corporate world, we are here to say, we are not changing what is natural to us, we are not conforming because we love what we look like. 

We want eveyone to know that we are unapologetic and demand that we be accepted just as we are. We're not disappearing under any disguise, we are here to stay. 

This campaign is for every black woman, because no matter what you choose to do to your hair, we all still have our natural hair growing out of our scalps. This is for every black girl. This is for everyone who believes in and supports diversity and equal value for everyone.

This is a time to be loud.


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