I wear my hair like a game of Guess Who?

Shez Chung-Blake (aka The Brixton Housewife) writes here about her hair experiences, in advance of a new exhibition opening in 2021 about hair.

Being a volunteer in the Community Hair project this summer called for some honest reflection about all things hair related.

As an ethnically ambiguous, paled skinned, big afro’d, mixed-race, just turned forty (and of course fabulous) woman, this wasn’t anything new to me. I’ve been judged, loved, boxed and defined by my bouffant de jour for decades – but openly discussing my experiences with a group of strangers called for more introspection of my reflection.

Voicing my inner thoughts, traumas and emotions about my hair forced me to take ownership of my feelings – the supportive group of volunteers affirming my follicles unfurling the tangled web of a world in which we live.

On the one hand, I love the ability of a hairstyle to literally transform my identity (read: how I’m racially identified). But on the other, the fact that my perceived race impacts my daily interactions and job prospects is a stark reminder that unconscious biases are still very much alive and well, and walking the streets of multicultural London.

To be clear, I am proud and love my luscious coils and mixed heritage! My confession of a love of transformation isn’t a slip of self-hate, it’s the pyrrhic privilege of choosing which stereotype I’m going to be judged by that day.

So when I say I wear my hair like a game of Guess Who?, it’s really ‘Guess How’ I’m going to be treated today.

Follow Shez on Instagram @Brixtonhousewife and @antiracisteducators.