Jennifer Lord, stylist and owner of Naturally Me Hair Salon, is a dynamo; the kind of woman who has accomplished countless tasks before noon, and conquered the world at 5pm. Lord’s latest project, “Adversity Quotient,” an exhibition she organized, highlights the beauty of black women’s natural hair texture with photographs and live models this Saturday, May 14 from 7-9pm at The Antreasian Gallery (1111 West 36th Street | Baltimore, MD 21211).
The photos were taken last July for the launch of her online magazine, Natural Hollywood (the first issue is currently accessible @ http://naturalhollywood.com/). Like many people with detailed plans, Lord ran into numerous difficulties such as not receiving her photographs in a timely manner, but she persevered.
For her, these early challenges became motivation – no doubt inspired by a recommendation from a mentor to read Paul G. Stoltz’s Adversity Quotient: Turning Obstacles into Opportunities.
“If I would have given up [none of this] would be happening. It’s proven to me once again that God wants this for me, and this is all happening so I can become stronger and smarter as I grow.”
The decision to display the photos in a gallery space originated from an initial lack of accessibility. “Had I gotten them [photos] back immediately, I would have thrown them up on Facebook and wasted an opportunity… As I continued to develop my magazine and work on other projects, I realized there was a great [chance] to do an event.”
Set against the backdrop of the Mansion at the Cylburn Arboretum, the images lead viewers to not merely admire Lord’s stylistic skills, but that ethereal quality which is rooted in accepting one’s self. Lord’s own embrace of authentic self love began as a student at Morgan State University. Originally from Brooklyn, this daughter of Grenadian parents never felt part of one particular group, and remained apart from ubiquitous campus cliques.
Her peers, Lord soon discovered, wrestled with color issues, bound by an oppressive past so interwoven into their psyches that statements such as “you are pretty for a dark-skinned girl,” were uttered without thought. “That kind of opened my eyes to the issues we have within our community – about image and what’s acceptable in our society, and what’s considered beautiful,” she says. Not long after, Lord’s appreciation for history would lead her to a broader understanding of the Afro-American experience and the African Diaspora.
This new pride in blackness impacted not only the way she viewed others but herself – eventually leading to an embrace of her natural hair. However, it was an arduous path then.
“Challenging myself to go natural in college was difficult because it wasn’t the norm at the time, and I didn’t necessarily fall into the Erykah Badu clique. I knew I wanted to go natural, but I just wasn’t sure. I tried it once, and it didn’t happen – mainly because of me.”
All of the messages she received from others said Lord’s beauty was inextricably linked to her hair, and maintaining a perm became a duty – particularly to please a long-term boyfriend and his family. Eventually, she says, “Once I connected hair to the history, it was a no brainer. I had to go natural. I cut the perm out, cut my hair off, and that’s when my journey started.”
Lord sees part of the modern day struggle of black people as connected to the hegemony of white supremacy – particularly as it relates to beauty. “There is a subconscious reason that we are not even aware of that we’re being taught to feel inferior. I think we all struggle with that, and this comes out when we are perming our hair.”
Beyond changing the texture of Afro-American hair, Lord asserts that women who constantly wear weaves, never allowing their natural hair to show, do not fully love themselves. “Women who express themselves in a variety of ways – meaning the ones who wear their hair straight, or throw a weave in it, or a bush or cornrows, I believe they love themselves.” While not dismissing women who decide to rock straight hair, she believes it’s important to honor what makes us unique. “Our hair is beautiful, too. It [should] be celebrated.”
Community outreach is essential to her. Lord works with a group of middle school girls at Paul’s Place, encouraging them to adore their hair, and sharing Chris-Tia E. Donaldson’s work,Thank God I’m Natural: The Ultimate Guide to Caring for and Maintaining Natural Hair. “If every person could just accept it [their own hair], even if they think of if it as a flaw, that’s the beginning. If you can just accept it, you are breaking ground, and then it’s going to turn into a love.”
This affirming feeling emanates from many of her clients at Naturally Me Hair Salon, and is part of what makes her artistry so rewarding. “Creating a style on someone and watching their face, and their whole energy [shift].” From clients’ smiles to screams and subsequent hugs, Lord enjoys it all. “If I don’t get that, I’m not happy.”
In some ways, tonight’s event is an extension of Lord’s evolving marketing and branding savvy. Still, her clients are the ultimate inspiration. “They have families; they have ups and downs, but at the end of the day they celebrate themselves. They celebrate life, and they look forward to opportunities to dress up and look good.” She laments the lack of diverse portrayals of natural hair, and is determined to show other sides.
“There are no limitations,” she insists, when it comes to styling. Ultimately, she hopes that people will leave realizing “…finally somebody is showcasing natural hair on a red carpet level. It’s something to embrace. It’s something to be proud of.” Moments after we talk, I’m convinced Lord is spearheading a movement of love and renewed purpose.
Adversity Quotient, Hair Show Gallery
Saturday, May 14, 2011 from 7pm-9pm
Hosted by Jennifer Lord, owner of Naturally Me Hair Salon
The Antreasian Art Gallery— 1111 West 36th Street
Baltimore, MD 21211
Natural Hollywood Magazine
Naturally Me Hair Salon
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