Text Kamara Hakeem-Oyawoye
Rachel Danielle and Rikki Richelle are Black American sisters from the DMV. Growing up in what they describe as a typical middle-American home, the girls attended school with a diverse mix of students but still faced racial microaggressions.
Even within the Black community, Rachel, an art director and photographer and Rikki, a stylist, noticed stigmas and stereotypes that formed a skew of “Blackness” used to separate members. Starting the “4C only club” as a fuck you to a society that told them they were lesser-than, the gained online traction that spun beyond their imaginations.
Several years later, the Nappy Head Club has evolved into an online platform with merchandise, a blog and almost 13k followers that share their sentiment of pride and power when it comes to Blackness and Black hair.
Tell us a bit about yourselves and how your upbringing led to where you are today?
We’ve always had an affinity towards art and fashion. Ever since we were young we would dress up and create sets for our own editorial shoots. On one of those days, as we were headed down to Malibu, we were venting about how rarely we saw coarse, Black hair associated with high fashion and how that needed to change.
It’s pretty difficult to be a Black woman in America and not create self-worth based on the way that you look. We grew up in a time where it was considered embarrassing to be “just Black”. It was seen as nothing to be proud of.
We were aware and told regularly that we had “bad” hair, so we spent a lot of time trying to learn to correct it. Once we were old enough to afford to do our own hair we explored weaves and wigs. Subconsciously, I think we’d tried to forget about the hair that was naturally growing from our heads.
What’s your mission statement?
“For anyone who has ever been told they weren’t good enough, that they were too much a reflection of the ancestors who broke their backs for them to be here – We see you, and we celebrate you”
What do you think is your biggest success so far with Nappy Head Club?
This is a tough one to answer. We’re proud of so many things but being able to have such a presence in Ghana for the Year of the Return was a huge win for us with a great emotional impact.
In 3-5 years, we see the brand taking on a brick and mortar multi-purpose space. We also want to build international roots to help fortify and unify our growing global community.
What was the initial goal behind Nappy Head Club? How has that evolved since your launch?
Media has historically omitted Blackness from conversations around beauty. So, more than anything, we want people to feel seen and appreciated. Until very recently, even the natural hair movement didn’t include people with coarse, afro hair. We created a voice that tackles that narrative by unapologetically embracing Blackness.
Since our launch, we’ve evolved into a brand that’s about more than just hair. We want people to step away from our brand feeling proud and celebratory of who they are and where they come from. More than anything, we believe in changing the way we view ourselves from the inside-out.
How would you describe the intersection between hair and self-expression?
A giant afro enters a crowded room – we’ve all seen it – there’s something unspokenly powerful about their crown (Black hair) that everyone in its presence can feel. Black people are vibrant, original and creative, and historically, our hair has been one of our means of expressing that.
The hair is seen as a canvas for many people, why do you think this is?
It may be because your hair is one of the first things people see about you. It can change the canvas of your entire face. Change a mood, be a declaration – it’s one of the most malleable parts of our identities as human beings.
What was your relationship with your hair like when you were growing up?
I think I started getting perms at the age of 4 or 5. I didn’t really know exactly what was going on but I was aware by the energy around me that something was wrong and it needed to be corrected.
I learned early on that we had “bad” hair. Our mothers – we’re half sisters – had looser curl patterns and it seemed that no one around us knew how to, or even cared to learn how to properly manage our hair.
As we grew up, we learnt to embrace our texture out of necessity. It was a challenging transition to make but ultimately, it made us feel so much better about ourselves and our identity.
At what point did this relationship change and what inspired it?
I’d been natural for a while, but I was always quick to hide it under a wig or weave. I got to a point where I wanted to be able to whole-heartedly be in love with myself, so I started to force myself to become uncomfortable in the moments of experimenting with my hair. I felt like I needed to build a relationship with my hair in order to truly have a relationship with myself.
What is self-love to you?
Self-love is being forgiving. It’s not being perfect, and being okay with that. It’s understanding where you come from, the love that made way for you to be here, being grateful for that, and standing in that.
What is the distinction between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation, especially when it comes to braids, dreadlocks and other cultural hairstyles?
If you do not understand or benefit from the utilitarian purpose of the hairstyle then it is not for you boo.
If you don’t know what this “protective style” is protecting your hair from, then it’s not for you.
If you have to use beeswax and other products to mimic the thickness of the hair the style was intended for, it’s not for you.
I don’t think there’s much room for appreciation when it comes to hair. The styles are designed to serve specifically for type 4 hair.
Which elements are key players for you when creating imagery? Describe the boxes you aim to always tick off.
It is important for us to tell stories of the under-represented or perspectives that have not yet been told. When it comes to the fashion component — we tend to go with our gut. What do we personally want to wear, what are we naturally drawn towards.
Inclusivity is IMPERATIVE for us and we’re always challenging ourselves to represent more types of people of all genders, orientations and even perspectives. We realise there is not one singular way to be a Black person and we want to do our best to not present a limited narrative.