This powerful ad campaign puts afro hair in the spotlight

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Viola Levy
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A series of billboards have been created to champion the beauty of natural afro hair.

It’s so easy to be cynical about the world of advertising that we often forget how it can be used as a force for positive change, as with groundbreaking new hair campaign #Afrovisibility.

The brainchild of creative agency Quiet Storm and lifestyle brand Project Embrace, the campaign stars various women showcasing their natural hair, accompanied by the slogan “proud to be me”.

It’s no secret that afro hair is woefully underrepresented in mainstream media, including advertising billboards. Of course, things are slowly starting to change, but although more black women are being featured in ad campaigns for fashion and beauty brands, their hair’s natural texture is often straightened, or disguised by wigs and weaves. Even Disney’s supposedly landmark film The Princess and the Frog – featuring its first black princess – depicts its titular heroine Tiana and her mother with Western-style hair.

Even when natural hair is depicted, there are certain types that are favoured over others.

“In the natural hair community, when they want to promote ‘nice’ and ‘good’ textured hair it’s always 3A-3C hair [i.e. looser, more defined curls],” Project Embrace founder Lekia Lée told BuzzFeed. “It’s never 4C hair [that is] seen as being beautiful, and that’s the hair I have.”

It’s this lack of representation for all kinds of afro hair that #Afrovisiblity aims to counteract, with Nottingham City Council and Clear Channel donating billboards. The campaign ran in Nottingham last week, and can currently be seen in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Southampton, Newcastle and Glasgow until 3 June.

Trevor Robinson OBE, Founder and ECD of Quiet Storm, says that we shouldn’t underestimate the impact of living in a society where you’re surrounded by images of light skin and straight hair.

“When you’re constantly bombarded with Caucasian perfection and there is nobody out there similar to you it’s hard to feel good about yourself, and we can’t underestimate the effect this has,” he says. “We’re extremely proud of this campaign but we feel there is still a very long journey to embark on.”

The women starring in the campaign were all chosen via an open casting call, and include a teacher, a finance manager, a writer, a receptionist, a student and an HR partner. They have a variety of natural hair textures, and each poster proudly celebrates the beauty of each woman.

Following the prominence of #Afrovisibility, here’s hoping we’ll start to see natural hair cropping up more and more in mainstream media and advertising - without being confined to diversity campaigns.