On a balmy Brooklyn night, every imaginable shade of melanin swarmed together under one roof for The Black Hair Experience.
In celebration of Hulu’s forthcoming docuseries The Hair Tales — executive produced by Michaela Angela Davis, Tracee Ellis Ross, and Oprah Winfrey — attendees flicked it up inside the many imaginative exhibitions. Tastebuds were satisfied with a smorgasbord of soul foods, a curated bar, and a separate oysters and ceviche station provided by MotherShuckers. DJ Kola Champagne kept everyone two-stepping as she spun the most ear-wormy R&B tracks ahead of Davis’ surprise appearance.
A swing made of braiding hair, a ball pin full of rollers, a room covered in iconic magazines, and a realistic staged bedroom set (fit for a millennial fan girl) — made photo options endless for selfie-lovers. The official The Hair Tales exhibition gave beauty salon realness with an overhead dryer, styling chair, hair products, and pictures of eccentric hairstyles on the wall. Attendees capped off the night with memorable flicks made in the official Hair Tales photo booths.
“I created The Hair Tales with co-executive producers Oprah Winfrey and Tracy Ellis Ross as it really came from a need,” Davis told VIBE. “I was on CNN as a cultural critic, and from the moment Trayvon Martin was murdered until Charleston [shooting], all I did was talk about death, calamity, chaos, and Black pain. I didn’t know what it was doing to my spirit. I felt I had to make a project around Black life, Black resilience, beauty, and identity.”
After serving as the founding fashion director at VIBE, Davis worked at ESSENCE as the Executive Fashion, Beauty, and Culture editor. The 58-year-old also served as editor-in-chief at Honey magazine ahead of her time with CNN, BET, and much more.
She said, “I knew that there was something about us that connected us with all our diversity. And so, there was a metaphor — we got stories in our hair.”
“I use hair like “The Vagina Monologues” use the vagina to talk about sexual violence. I use hair to talk about Black women’s identity and our culture because we have memory, we have language, we have innovation in our hair, and we have history — and we have hysteria. And it’s our sh*t. Period,” she added.
Davis pointed out the significance of haircare and the idea of how it can help channel trauma. “That’s how we heal, right? We heal by telling stories. There are very few safe spaces in the world that are for Black women that Black women have built. Hair salons are pillars in the community, and they hold communities down. Almost everybody got somebody that does hair in their family.”
Hoping that The Hair Tales will bring more attention to the unknown and sometimes forgotten Black hairstylists in entertainment and other spaces, Davis said, “There’s way more than there was when I started, but there’s like 10 tops, and they’re working all the time.”
She added, “The pipeline is still really slow. I think there needs to be real advocacy and a pipeline from these neighborhood salons.”