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ZORA
Celebrating and centering the experiences of women of color.

Introspection

Lessons learned while boldly embracing this body


It Has to Be Said

Mo’Nique’s ‘auntie’ comments prop up supremacist standards

Remember Little House on the Prairie and the bonnets the White women wore? Historic head coverings weren’t a problem for real or fictional White women. Why are they a problem for Black women? Image: Getty.

Throughout the decades of my life as a Black woman, I have worn nearly every hairstyle known to humankind. I spent my childhood quivering at the sizzle of a hot comb that transformed my hair into neat plaits or ponytails. From there, it just got more creative with the Jheri curl, Leisure curl, Halle Berry cut, kinky puff, bone-straight shoulder length weave, curly weave, cornrows, Marley-assisted ponytails, and the occasional wig.

I have worn everything except a bonnet out of the house, but I guarantee you that my personal choice of leaving it in the dresser hasn’t saved me from…


It’s okay if your edges aren’t laid.

Black woman covering face with a hand, standing in a field of tall grass.
Black woman covering face with a hand, standing in a field of tall grass.
Photo: Ricaldo Donaldson/Pexels

When I was a small child, I spent every morning on the floor watching cartoons while my momma secured my hair in tight braids wound with hard plastic bobos and fastened with butterfly-shaped barrettes. All of my outfits were perfectly color-coordinated and pressed free of any wrinkles. I was explicitly told not to let anyone touch my hair and was repeatedly implored to stop picking up rocks and stuffing them in my pockets.

Presentability was instilled in me from an early age. All the women in my family know how to dress, and I was taught to take a lot…


An excerpt from the ECHOING IDA collection

A self-proclaimed “undisciplined” artist, Amina Ross’ generous making practice includes curating a vibrant workshop series called Beauty Breaks — a series that saved me from isolation as a friendless transplant bumbling around Chicago only a year before. The irregularly scheduled workshop, hosted in F4F’s attic and performance space, brought together an earnest and dynamic group of young Black queerdos intent on building community in a notoriously challenging city. I learned how to use tarot as a tool to cultivate my intuition. I built small sculptures from recycled goods. I meditated, wrote poetry, co-created impromptu group performances, and refreshed my spirit…


Changing your hair starts with changing your mind about what it means to love yourself as you are

Smiling Black woman with natural hair.
Smiling Black woman with natural hair.
Photo: Shestock/Getty Images

When I was growing up in 1990s Nigeria, achievable “beautiful” hair was roughly shoulder length, relaxed, straight hair on a strict six-to-eight-week maintenance schedule, where your new growth would be retouched once “due.” A weekly or biweekly wash and set would help you manage your hair between relaxers, and if you were zealous, you might include a steam or placenta protein treatment.

I remember my first relaxer quite vividly. Beforehand, my older sister stretched my shrunken hair down my back to establish how long my hair would be once relaxed. …


Putting on your face isn’t as important as it used to be

Black woman applying cream to her face in front of a mirror.
Black woman applying cream to her face in front of a mirror.
Photo: NickyLloyd/Getty Images

I grew up with a mother who believed in “putting on her face” before even venturing downstairs to greet company. She long proselytized the power of wearing makeup as a spiritual pick-me-up. Beauty was an exercise I was expected to perform from my earliest stages. Makeup and clothing were types of armor my mom taught me to put on before facing the world. My first, most visible act of interrogating beauty and bucking the norms I was raised to uphold was to cut my hair short in college and then go natural. …


The beauty industry is changing during the pandemic but Branch thinks that’s a good thing

A photo of Miko Branch.
A photo of Miko Branch.
Miko Branch. Photos courtesy of Miss Jessie’s, LLC.

Sisters Miko and Titi Branch did not set out to revolutionize the hair care industry when they invented Miss Jessie’s natural hair products nearly 20 years ago. They were simply trying to keep the lights on.

“I had just had a baby and we had closed down our storefront salon. We just didn’t know what we were doing. We were able to think outside of the box and come up with something that would help us pay the light bill,” Miko Branch told ZORA. …


She hates exactly half of me, the Latina half

Photo: Ian Ross Pettigrew/Getty Images

She dislikes exactly 50% of me — the Brown half. The Latina half. The half that invaded her suburban fairy tale to knock up her daughter.

She has itemized me in dressing rooms. She likes my “White” legs but not my “Latin” hips. She likes my eye shape but not the color. She likes my Jennifer Aniston straight hair but not the dark chestnut hue.

She has called my thighs fat and then bought me clothes.

She has encouraged me to say I’m Italian. “You could pass,” she has said. She has encouraged me to marry White so my kids…


My Egyptian curls were an embarrassment, then they became my greatest asset

An illustration of the back of a woman belly dancing, against a deep fuschia background.
An illustration of the back of a woman belly dancing, against a deep fuschia background.
Illustration: Michelle Durbano

“Why don’t you straighten your hair?” Tiffany, the girl with the pug nose, asked me in theater class. “You would look better with straighten hair.”

I pulled on a stringy curl. My curls had already started to frizz and it was only 10 a.m. No matter how much mousse and gel I had put into it, my hair refused to calm down. My curls stuck out in every direction. Even when I put them in a bun, a few managed to escape.

“It takes too long to straighten,” I replied, setting my curl down. …


In an industry where the average funding for Black women is $42,000, she’s accrued millions

Sharmadean Reid, Founder & CEO, BeautyStack and WAH Nails, takes part in the How Female Leaders Can Thrive — Panel Discussion during the London Fashion Week Men’s British Fashion Council Fashion Forum at The Ned on June 18, 2019 in London, England. Photo: Tabatha Fireman/BFC/Getty Images for BFC

The war room I am sitting in is pink and soft and large, and it exists because of a bad manicure.

I’m in London, in the conference room of Beautystack, a beauty-booking startup founded by entrepreneur Sharmadean Reid. The office is a hyperfeminine combination of white and pink, with iridescent acrylic partitions and beauty stations next to body-eating bean bags and aisles of desks. The kitchen, with a palatial island, is also pink. In the center is an open space with huge portraits of smiling Beautystack users in front of nail stations lined neatly with bottles and neon merch on…

ZORA

Celebrating and centering the experiences of women of color.

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