Solange's Hair Stylist Speaks To XXY Magazine About That ES Magazine Cover

Solange's Hair Stylist Speaks To XXY Magazine About That ES Magazine Cover

ES Magazine recently interviewed Solange Knowles on her self, power and ultimately her black roots. The Grammy-award winning musician spoke about her autonomy over her body and her black hair. ES Magazine also produced a greek goddess editorial inspired by her tour to then cut off her hair for the cover. So we spoke to the soul behind creating this look and how she felt about her work being literally and ironically, cropped out.

Tahmina Begum: What was your initial reaction to what ES Magazine did with Solange’s cover?

Joanne Petit-Frere: Of course, I was really excited at first. Until I saw that they edited the Orbital Crown from the cover. Then a feeling of familiarity came. One that I’m sure every creative in the industry can relate to.

Working your hardest and best; even most urgently to make a deadline – only to have the end result be yet another story.

Learning that Solange was not even told about the edit, was just a nightmare. I was familiar with this kind of nightmare since I have worked on collaborations in the past, where I have put much work into a project only to have it used without my consent and even, shown through photography where I was not invited to the showcase.

Which is not right, period. As an artisan, whose work becomes the central focus of the photography – I believe I am central to the work as well, in collaboration with the photographer and so should be considered as such, in all forms of presentations.

I also felt that it was not a coincidence that it was a British publication that was responsible for this kind of dishonor.

Understanding the historical context of European colonialism of the Caribbean and African people. I felt this scandal was yet another form of imperialism, but without military force. This, however, was – even without ill intent, but through carelessness – a micro-aggressive act.

dtmh @eveningstandardmagazine

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TB: Did you feel as though your work was attacked or that Solange’s autonomy over her body was?

JPF: I do not feel as though my work was outright attacked. I believe it was subtle. It would be nice to understand the logic behind the edit, but more so the lack of communication that ES would be removing a central part to the hairstyle on the cover is what I just don’t understand.

I do believe that although the edit may not have been an (intentional) attack on Solange’s autonomy over her body, it in fact was. She was not told that they would be doing this, hence her freedom and independence was challenged as her image was edited/ altered without her consent!

TB: What was the experience with working with Solange like? How did you come up with the idea for the hair?

JPF: It was all you can imagine. It happened very quickly, like a daydream. The idea came organically. I was collaborating with hair stylist, Vernon Francois, who worked on the hair color on her natural hair, as well completed jumbo cornrows in the back.

With a couple of rough starts, a solution came to which Solange preferred. She wanted small feed-in braids at the front of her hair, and so I had my assistant Olajide from L.A. place down these beautiful small braids with a part in the middle of her hair and only at the front, to meet Vernon’s back braids.

I then wrapped up a small rod in a bun then assembled the Orbital section with a braid coming down the middle to connect to her rod. When I sculpted the piece, as we were also very pressed for time, I thought the Halo actually, looked as if it were a minimal peace sign. Solange had also sent a mood board with references from African tribal traditional hair styling as well contemporary ones, including images of my work.

However, there was one with Diana Ross that was central to the final decisions mixed with intuitive styling and wanting to push the envelope for ES’s Art & Hair Issue.  

TB: Why do you think ES Magazine felt as though they could do it when her interview was on hair?

JPF: I could say simply white privilege – but this is an excuse that is encouraged each time it is used.

So I’ll say this – it was most definitely, LAZY. After the release, many fans have actually edited the cover themselves with the original crown intact, so again, I can not see how to justify their removing the crown for the cover image.

I can even give the benefit of the doubt and say, perhaps they wanted a closer look at Solange’s face, but again, that could have been done on the issue, with a closeup crop of any image they chose.

But, it was for the cover and it was the hair issue – so that’s 2 MAJOR reasons as to why, editing the crown of a black woman just seems like – a MICRO-AGGRESSIVE act.

Solange Knowles: this week’s ES Cover star. Read the link in bio for our apology to the star.

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TB: Do you think using Solange as ES Magazine’s cover was a form of tokenism?

JPF: No not exactly. Solange is great and this is absolutely deserved. She is the BEST contemporary female artist at this time. Making beautiful work that is culturally relevant. Perhaps in the most literal definition – any legislation that demonstrates only minimal compliance with rules, laws or public pressure. I would say ES has delivered a tokened apology, which I think was due to public pressure.

TB: How important is hair or specifically black hair to you and what does it mean to you personally?

JPF: Hair is so important to me. Even though I’m very flexible with enjoying its form. As in, I enjoy ‘bad’ hair as well. I usually am able to find the art in it. Especially in its process and what it’s been through. Personally, I think this is what I am finding the most fruitful. The process of hair and specifically, black hair.

Why? Because I am black and have a very strong history as to the styling of my hair and what that means in different cultural and political contexts. Personally, it means nothing and everything at the same time. It means nothing when trying to decide whether someone has a good heart or not.

Everything, when it comes to aesthetic and spiritual choices like mating etc.

TB: What advice would you give to hair stylists who may go through this?

JPF: I would say, be aware and mindful, then graceful with the speak up.

TB: What would you like to say to black girls and women who may feel a certain way about their hair?

JPF: I would say ladies and ladies-to-be (or not) – before, you sulk into the notions of feeling bad about your hair. Think about the alternative existing. It always does.

It’s like yin and yang, if I may. Whatever concept you have in your mind for great hair – understand, there is a flipside to that coin – that, your process is also art.

Right now, as I am answering these questions – I am wearing a satin bonnet usually worn for protecting black hairstyling at night. I wore it out for the first time today.

I could feel some type of way (as this is an extension of the process of protecting my hair) – but come on, if I wear this at night to protect my style – this ritual, is beautiful as fuck.

So, out it comes. Think about that. Try to challenge even your own perception of hair and look in the mirror again, and find the art of your own process with your crown.

TB: Have ES Magazine apologised to you? Do you expect an apology?

JPF: They have not apologized to me but they have released one publicly with reasonings for layout purposes. I would like an apology and an issue of the magazine. Maybe someone out there can make that happen.

TB: Any last thoughts?

JPF: Thank you so much for having me here at XXY Magazine, Tahmina and for helping shed light on my side of the story. I really understand the value of communicating with the source itself. Much love and light.

To support Joanne Petit-Frere, the artist behind the brand JGW, you can show your love here


Interviewed and written by Tahmina Begum,


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