I’ve spent the last few weeks diligently working on a portrait of Zoe Kravitz and I have to admit I am very much in love. It’s probably the most exciting thing I’ve drawn in a long time and it’s all due to the beautiful, flowy braids that have become part of Zoe’s signature boho-rock goddess look. As I laboured over each braid and curl, I was reminded of the versatility, beauty and innovation in styling African hair.
I decided to reach out to Susy “AfricanCreature” Oludele (the brilliant hairstylist responsible for crafting the iconic styles worn by not only Zoe, but Beyonce and Solange too) to discuss how something as seemingly simple as hair can be a powerful form of resistance and self expression.
Raised in the Bronx by Yoruba parents, Susy grew up wearing beautiful braided and natural hairstyles. Her career path to becoming a sought after hairstylist seems inevitable once you learn that her mother was one too. From an early age, Susy learned to appreciate and value the beauty that is African hair; however, this appreciation was not always shared by her peers, who would mock the very styles she would become known for today.
Susy knows very well what it feels like to be shunned for simply being yourself when you don’t fall within the standards of conventional white beauty. Struggling with her dark skin and weight, Susy shares that she coveted long straight blonde hair and a thinner body when she was younger. The journey to self-acceptance and pride has been a long one, but from it she has been able to create AFRICANCREATURE—a brand, an ethos, a movement that celebrates the beauty of difference.
Susy rejects societal beauty standards by unapologetically being herself. Donning a wide range of hairstyles, from rainbow braids to purple mohawks, Susy is focused on normalizing and celebrating African hair. As CEO of Hair by Susy Corp, she uses her artistry to bring out the beauty of hundreds of other women who have abandoned their childhood insecurities.