House3
CLOSE
MENUCLOSE

Meet The Progressive Artist Raising Hairs

art
Photo by Nakeya Brown

Nakeya Brown talks hair politics, black identity, and Solange

Photographer Nakeya Brown is kind of a big deal on the internet, with viral photos all around Tumblr. She's known for her interpretation of the politics of black hair, examining how it relates to culture and identity—and on April 10, the 26-year-old photographer is taking her work to Brooklyn, with a solo exhibition titled “In Private Moments” at Five Myles

As we continue to see stories in the media about the respectability of black hair with regards to everyone from Michelle Obama to Zendaya Coleman, the subject is more relevant now than perhaps ever. “It’s always this thing like black hair is the face of black women," the artist tells us. 

Stepping into Brown's warehouse studio in Washington, D.C. feels like entering a portal into the contemporary artist’s mind. In one corner, huge scrolls of colored paper lean beside a table covered in stacks of books about black art, history, and literature. Recognizable props from some of her earlier works like hair extensions and plastic suitcases are piled on the floor, and photos from her latest projects in progress are spread out across the wall.

Get to know Nakeya Brown in this exclusive interview in the gallery, below. We talked about everything from her ultimate hair icon, Solange, to her biggest inspiration—her two-year-old daughter. 

Photo by Nakeya Brown

Brown's first project, "The Refutation of ‘Good Hair,'' was inspired by her daughter—a visual reaction to the frustrations that Brown felt in response to comments about the texture of Mia's hair after she was born. Brown compares the experience to what she saw happening to Blue Ivy. "Motherhood has really instilled this sense of needing to protect, not even just my little girl, but just women, girls of color. That’s really what my work is about; the work is really about being a place where these sorts of conversations about our experiences are allowed to take place, and you can feel validation in the work and connect with it," she explains. "I think that it’s important that we have artists who are doing that for people, specifically for black women." 

Brown takes the sense of commercialism associated with the packaging and selling of black femininity and black beauty and explores how it applies to black bodies. Lately, she has been impacted by man-made products that connect black women with hair culture. "I think that identity is not something that you just find in bodies, it’s also in objects and fabrics and materials," she says. Brown also pulls inspiration from the internet within articles and word play. She recently read a piece about black hair styles in the '90s and got stuck on the use of the word "upward" to describe the way black hair grows—something about the idea of black hair defying gravity moved her.

Photo by Nakeya Brown

In a way, every black girl has her own hair story—it's one broken piece in the puzzle that creates this idea of a universal black experience. Hair can be a highly sensitive topic of discussion, especially if the viewer's experience involves periods of struggle. "As black women, you’re getting hit from all sides, you’re getting hit from your own and you’re getting hit from what’s outside so my need to protect through my work really comes from all of these experiences in our lives," she says. Brown refers to her story as a "hair journey" and describes it as mostly positive. She has experimented with every style from perms to weaves to microbraids to twists to pixie cuts. "I got my first perm at a very young age, I think I had to be six or something like that. Moms started them young back in the ‘90s," she laughs. "So literally from six to 21, I was perming my hair. I was cool with the perm for the most part up until my mid-20s." 

On wearing weaves in high school, Brown reflects on the concept of graduating into a new style. "It was like passing into womanhood so there was a lot of pride in being able to wear a weave because it’s like 'I’m older now, I’m more womanly now,'" she says. After years of this routine, Brown realized that others were influencing her to resent the presence of her natural hair, encouraging her to cover it up rather than embrace it. Eventually, she decided to free herself of these anxieties by chopping off her hair completely. "I love Solange, and she had cut her hair off too and I was like 'My hair is already half way here, I should just go for it'," she said. "For the most part, I don’t regret any of it because all of it has formulated and shaped, like now I have this pool of experiences where I can really use that to express myself and make work. That’s something that’s really special I think."

Photo by Nakeya Brown

This weekend, Brown will present her three separate photographic projects, “The Refutation of ‘Good Hair,’” “Hair Stories Untold,” and “if nostalgia were colored brown” in a solo exhibit titled "In Private Moments." Additionally, she built a small installation piece for the opening with pieces of Princess Yaki No. 1 hair hanging across a line. Brown's concept for the exhibit stemmed from an interview that she did with Black Girls Talking a few months ago. "They brought up this concept of 'the secret lives of black girls' and that was something I really liked, and I really thought that, 'Yeah, there is this super-secret life that we all do and it’s really centered around our hair,'" she says. The  notion builds off of the hair rituals that women of color partake in within the privacy of their own homes.

While having an exhibit opening is certainly an accomplishment in itself, Brown actually gets more personal satisfaction from the feedback she receives from people regarding how her work has touched them. Right now, "Hair Stories Untold" is on display in London, and Brown wants her work to continue to travel across the globe. For her, global affirmation is proof that the work she creates lives beyond her. "This work has a life of its own and I feel like for me, that is very rewarding and that shows a certain level of the work’s potency and its success," she says. "I really want this work to be a sight for conversations and an agent on behalf of our experiences and our struggles."

Photo by Nakeya Brown

Brown has already had multiple art exhibits and is actively pursuing a master's degree in photography at George Washington University—yet she remains humble. The way she sees it, chasing her passion this way gives her even more time to fully master it and navigate a career path. "I figured out I wanted to do [photography] late, I felt like I wanted more, and school really allows for the time," she said. "That’s the luxury of going to school, you really get time, uninterrupted time to focus on something, study it and really immerse yourself in it."

Beyond crossing the MFA off her bucket list, Brown also hinted at an interest in teaching photography. "The work there is something to be learned, there’s so much content loaded within it, so much of a history and a dialogue that can be created around the work that I realized that what I was doing in a way was teaching with words and really trying to connect with people," she said. "I feel like education is a really rewarding path to go down in terms of being able to give back and then also being able to satisfy my own needs." After this exhibit, Brown will be hosting a photo workshop called "Hair Traits" where she will teach girls from the ages of 16 to 18 about the basics of photography and shooting portraits.

Photo by Rachel Dennis

Finally

"What do girls even do together?" This question, or some iteration of it, is frequently posed to me once someone finds out I'm bisexual or hears me mention my girlfriend, or if I make any reference to being interested in girls. I would be annoyed by it, but I have empathy because I know how hard this kind of information can be to find. In fact, the details of how two people with vaginas have sex isn't very widespread information. And, I know that I didn't really have all that much information about girl-on-girl sex before, well, actually having it myself. It's precisely this kind of situation that queer sex educator Stevie Boebi is trying to fix.

Boebi has gained a big following for her informational YouTube videos about how to use a strap-on, how to scissor, how to fist someone, how to choose a vibrator for yourself; any question you could have, she will get you an answer. She doesn't shy away from topics that people wouldn't be quick to ask someone about IRL, either, like BDSM. And she covers the kind of things that are definitely not what we're taught in sex education classes—likely not even in the most progressive curriculums. A study from GLSEN notes that only 4 percent of teens reported learning anything positive about queer sex in their sex ed classes, and points out that in some states, it's actually prohibited to mention queerness at all.

Particularly when it comes to sex with two vaginas, the lack of available public education leads to a general lack of understanding of how we have sex, which then leads to a lack of understanding in the queer community, too. "I just think that lesbian sex is so oversexualized, and we're the least educated," said Boebi when I asked her recently why it's so important for her to spread knowledge about queer sex in particular.

Boebi said that she started out on YouTube making videos about technology, but after she came out as a lesbian, her audience flipped from mostly male to mostly female, though she would prefer a less rudimentary gender breakdown ("the algorithm only deals in binaries, sorry," she quipped).

Ultimately, her sexuality led her to change her content entirely, because she wanted to educate people who couldn't find answers to their questions anywhere else—even on the internet.

"I started getting a lot of what I called 'stupid questions' from very confused teenage girls saying, like, 'How do I do it? Can I get AIDs from fingering someone?'" Boebi told me. They were questions that probably should have had easily Google-able answers, but, when Boebi looked for lesbian sex education content to send to fans who were asking her, she came up empty-handed. "I couldn't find anything. I think I found, like, two articles on Autostraddle, and that was it," she said. "And then I was like, Well, shit! If no one else is going to do it, then I guess I will."

Boebi's audience is mainly comprised of 13- to 24-year-olds, so she keeps in mind that she's helping people who may not be experienced, or even out yet. She uses her own experiences to inform her work sometimes, but also researches extensively and talks to people she knows who "have fancy Ph.Ds in sexology and shit," who can answer her questions or point her to resources she should be referencing.

Boebi's charm is in her relatability; even if she's talking about things we've been conditioned to feel shame around, she does it in such an open and honest way that all that shame disappears—as it should. She does this by perfectly meshing professional talk with jokes and sarcasm, and even uses characters based on star signs. She knows the importance of taking on taboo topics, because there are so many people who won't otherwise find answers to their questions. "I don't actually struggle in my everyday life asking people if they've ever been anally fisted before," Boebi joked with me. "I'll take that burden."

And keeping her tone light and humorous is of the utmost importance to her. "When people are laughing, they're comfortable, and I want people to feel comfortable," Boebi said. "And I want people to know that I'm comfortable talking about sex, and they can be, too." It helps also, Boebi told me, that her audience is separated by a screen, and she's not "in a room with a 12-year-old talking about my labia."

Beyond instructional sex videos, Boebi also deals with other rarely discussed facets of sexuality and physicality. Boebi is polyamorous, and talks openly about it, confronting the stereotypes and the misinformation about the identity head-on. And, she was also recently diagnosed with Ehler's Danlos Syndrome after going years without a diagnosis, and she aims to start working more with disabled queer sex educators to make her work more inclusive of people with disabilities. Though she pointed out to me that her work was already encompassing of disabilities, she "hasn't been a part of the disability activist community for very long," and so she has a lot to learn.

And, though Boebi's happy that she has the platform she does, she wants a more inclusive array of sex educators to join the scene. "My voice is my voice, and it's unique to me, but I think there should be way more," she noted. "Especially people [with intersectional identities]. That would make me so happy if we could diversify sex educators."

And, though Boebi says there's no "ideal way" to educate people about sex, she's definitely on a better track than the public education system, and she makes clear that there's nothing shameful about sexuality—in fact, it's just a part of being human, and a really fun one, at that.

True
FROM THE WORLD WIDE WEB
Photo by Nicholas Hunt / Gareth Cattermole / Getty Images.

This photo makes me so happy

It can't be understated how big of a phenomenon the Spice Girls were during the late '90s. Their impact was felt from the bustling streets of London to the dry desert land of Scottsdale, Arizona. The latter place is where a young Emily Jean Stone was so immersed in fandom that she asked her second-grade teacher to call her Emma, after Emma "Baby Spice" Bunton. Fast-forward a couple of decades, and Emily is the Academy Award-winning actress Emma Stone. What's even better, she's still a huge Spice Girls fan.

Stone went to the Spice Girls reunion tour at the Wembley Stadium in London and finally met the woman who inspired the name the actress is now known by. Bunton shared a photo of the two of them outside of the venue on her Instagram. She captioned the photo: "When Emma met Emma."And even added the hashtag #2become1. I can't figure out if I want to cry from sentimentality or serious envy.

As for Stone, she once cried when Mel "Scary Spice" B. sent her a video message so I can only imagine what this moment felt like for her. Let this be a reminder that even Oscar winners can be stans.

True
Screenshot via YouTube

The band shared details about their new St. Vincent-produced album that will drop "you into the world of catastrophe"

Sleater-Kinney just shared more information about their St. Vincent-produced album and dropped a new single.

Per Billboard, Sleater-Kinney revealed that their new album, which they've been teasing since early this year and will be their first since No Cities To Love from 2015, will be called The Center Won't Hold. It's due out on August 16 via Mom + Pop Records. "We're always mixing the personal and the political but on this record, despite obviously thinking so much about politics, we were really thinking about the person—ourselves or versions of ourselves or iterations of depression or loneliness—in the middle of the chaos," Carrie Brownstein said in a statement. Corin Tucker further noted that the new album will "[drop] you into the world of catastrophe that touches on the election."

Janet Weiss noted that the band will "explore a different sound palette" with this album, and pointed to St. Vincent as the reason behind it. She said that St. Vincent "has a lot of experience building her own music with keyboards and synthesizers so she could be our guide to help us make sense of this new landscape and still sound like us."

To satiate us until then, the band released a lyric video for new single, "The Future Is Here," which is very grungy. Bump it, below.

Sleater-Kinney - The Future Is Here (Official Lyric Video) www.youtube.com

True
Asset 7
MORE in VIDEO

This is so satisfying!

Even Jon Snow knows just how unsatisfying the final season of Game of Thrones was, and he's ready to apologize. Well, a deepfake of him is at least. A heavily-edited version of Snow's speech from the fourth episode—just before the bodies of those lost in the Battle of Winterfell get burned—now features Snow apologizing for the conclusion of the show and lighting the script on fire.

"It's time for some apologies. I'm sorry we wasted your time," Snow begins. "And I know nothing made sense at the end. When the Starbucks cup is the smallest mistake, you know you fucked up! We take the blame. I'm sorry we wrote this in like six days or something," he adds, before signaling to his peers to light the script with torches and "just forget it forever." "Fuck Season 8," he says before the pages begin to crackle and burn.

If there were more lines left to alter, we would have loved to see Snow also tackle how messy Brienne of Tarth and Jaime Lannister's story line ended up, as well as Bran's kingship, Cersei's boring demise, and the water bottle appearance.

Watch the entire deepfake and try to heal the wounds left by HBO below.

BREAKING: JON SNOW FINALLY APOLOGIZED FOR SEASON 8 youtu.be

True
Photo by Darren Craig

It premieres today, exclusively via NYLON

In LP's song "Shaken," the most recent single from her 2018 record Heart To Mouth, she tells the story of seeing her lover out with someone else—ouch. Today, exclusively on NYLON, she releases a cheeky animated music video that pokes fun at the song's heightened drama and perfectly demonstrates all the angst that comes with falling hard for someone.

"She looks at you like I used to/ And I'm just sitting in the corner sh-sh-shaken," LP sings, as the visual—with art by Maayan Priva—depicts the singer hanging out in a bar, watching the girl she likes meet up with another girl. Despite the situation's inherent drama, "Shaken" is less of a ballad and more of an upbeat bop. LP told us she loves the way "this little video captures some of the fun of the song, and its inherent comical anxiety." Sure, heartbreak isn't that funny, but our (sometimes) overly dramatic reaction to it kind of is.

"'Shaken' feels like a bit of a wild card on this record," LP says. "It's the closest I've come to writing a musical, which I hope to do one day." We heartily endorse this idea: Please, LP, give us the queer jukebox musical we crave.

Until that day comes, though, you can watch the music video for "Shaken," below.

True