I’ll never forget wearing my Afro to job interviews and seeing the disapproving look on people’s faces. There’s still a stigma attached to black women with natural hair, cornrows, locs, and braids, whether they’re interviewing in a corporate office or sitting in a classroom. Just last August, sixth-graders Tyrelle Davis and Faith Fennidy were sent home from school in Terrytown, Louisiana, because of their braids. The experience inspired Kelly Rowland and Dove to join forces for a new song called “Crown” about embracing your hair in the face of demeaning stereotypes and stigmas. They tapped Tyrelle and Faith to star in the video.
“Growing up, I felt many of the pressures young girls face today when it comes to embracing their hair, but my mom would always tell me that your hair is your crowning glory and you should wear it proudly,” Kelly said in a press release, referencing the song’s battle cry “Wear it proud. #MyHairMyCrown.”
Teen Vogue: At Teen Vogue, I cover a lot of these kinds of injustices involving black women and the policing of their hair, like Tyrelle and Faith had to endure. What was it like hearing their story and working with all of the girls?
Kelly Rowland: Tyrelle and Faith’s story about being kicked out of school for this brand-new rule about not being able to wear extensions, it’s like, “Really.” That was disappointing, because what nobody realizes is it’s a root. You actually plant the seed of self-doubt. I love the fact that the girls didn’t own it. I think, of course, in the time that it happened, they definitely owned it. They were brought down. But as you watched them talk about it from the first day I was there to the third day that I was there, they changed. Their whole energy changed.
Tyrelle’s mom told the Dove team she’s a totally different person since being on set and having talked about her hair injustices with other girls like Sarah and Jorja. Sarah cut her hair because Jorja was being picked on at school because she had short hair. Then Gracie, I never would think about it like this, but Gracie is a little girl, and she’s a blonde. She’s like, “No, I always get called a dumb blonde.” And I was like, “Wow.” You know? I didn’t think about that at all.
So everybody has hair injustices. We’re all going through it. We’re just really allowing these conversations to start happening, and that’s what I’m most excited about being a part of this campaign with Dove, for sure.
TV: So many of our readers deal with these kinds of situations. What advice would you have for Teen Vogue readers being bullied about their hair?
KR: I would tell them to surround themselves with a group of friends or family that celebrates them and their individuality, and for them to celebrate their own individuality. When you go out into the world, you can’t expect the world to tell you who you are because a lot of people are struggling with who they are as well. I just learned this in meditation: Self-doubt doesn’t stem from ourselves; it stems from other people’s opinions of us and us actually believing them. So when you own that, you’re taking on their fear of who you are or who they are, and the fear is not yours to own.
And just celebrate being you. There’s only one you, and misery loves company. Run fast away from those people. I celebrate you, Dove celebrates you, and we hope that you rock your crown the way you feel like you should. Not on anybody else’s standards but your own.
KR: I would be happy to hear these conversations happening more. I will be happy to hear about rules changing in school or in the workplace. I have a girlfriend back home who was basically suspended from her job. She works in corporate and they were really disappointed at the way she came in with her hair; they said it didn’t look professional enough. I was like, “Well, what does professional look like? I thought professional was getting all your work done, showing up and doing your job well. I didn’t think it had anything to do with your hair.”
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.