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Heavy is the Head that Wears the Crown

The popular Shakespearean quote after which this visual series is named is often used to refer to the weight of responsibility and sacrifice that comes with bearing one’s name, one’s title, one’s crown. In a time when Black women and girls must still fight against hair discrimination in schools and in the workplace (see: The CROWN Act), Heavy is the Head begins to investigate the cost of beauty and celebrates the beauty of Black hair.

Michelle Akomea, photographed by Chineze Okpalaoka

In her essay, Shedding the Shame of a Black Girl's Broken Edges, Dara Mathis writes that "Black girls are trained early in beauty salons to smell smoke on themselves but to never yell 'fire.'" By disrupting the shame many Black women and girls have often carried for their crowns, this project also addresses the privilege of cultural appropriation—which is to say, that many who covet and attempt to impersonate Black hair and Black culture would never embrace the totality of our experiences.

Jennifer Prempeh, photographed by Chineze Okpalaoka

“Black girls are trained early in beauty salons to smell smoke on themselves but to never yell ‘fire’.”

— Dara Mathis, Shedding the Shame of a Black Girls' Broken Edges

Heavy is the Head is one of several installments of a long-term project, For the Love of Black Girls — a series of visual narratives depicting the nuanced, yet all too familiar realities of Black girlhood. Using portrait photography, alongside cinematic video portraits, collage work, visceral prose, and nostalgic, dream-like set designs, the project aims to provide a restorative lens through which we can reflect upon the sometimes artless realities of Black women and girls. #FortheLoveofBlackGirls

Grace Tieko, photographed by Chineze Okpalaoka

Thank you, thank you, and thank you to the incredible team who helped make this project possible!

Story: Black Girl Miracle

Creative Direction and Photography: Chineze Okpalaoka

Cinematography: Matelli Graves

Hair: Mabintu Kanu

Makeup: Cassandra Owusu

BTS: Golder Baah

Models: Grace Tieko, Michelle Akomea, and Jennifer Angel

Studio: Sunup Studios



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