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How Model-Artist Sharon Alexie Learned to Love Her Natural Hair

Vogue logo Vogue 6/30/2020 Akili King
a person posing for a photo © Vogue

Texture Diaries is a space for Black women across industries to reflect on their journeys to self-love, and how accepting their hair, in all its glory, played a pivotal role in this process. Each week, these women share their favorite hair rituals, products, and the biggest lessons they’ve learned when it comes to affirming their beauty and owning their unique hair texture.

When model Sharon Alexie isn’t shooting for the likes of Dior, Louis Vuitton, and Calvin Klein, she’s serving as a voice in the movement for racial equality in France and adding light to the world through oil painting. The 19-year-old started creating visual art two years ago, driven by a desire to explore themes of the soul. “I would like the spectator who is looking at my art to question his own soul’s state. I would like them to have an inner reflection on the readiness to feel,” she says. Alexie is practiced at introspection, in part related to her journey toward self-acceptance and love for her hair.

Growing up in Reims, France, in a predominantly wealthy white community, Alexie says she had “a very complicated relationship” with her hair. Her mother chemically relaxed her hair from a young age. “It was a very trivialized practice at the time in France, and it is surely due to the ambient racism and the lack of representation of this type of hair,” Alexie says. As she got older, her discomfort with her hair and skin worsened. Of course, the constant bullying didn’t help either: “Some of my classmates were having fun sticking pens and paper in my hair. I still remember a girl who sang [a song from] The Lion King when I walked into my [high school] bathroom. My God, I hated myself so much,” Alexie shares. “My family is Black and middle-class. I probably subconsciously thought that my appearance was not the right one.” The constant straightening of her hair led to even more insecurity. “My hair smelled grilled as soon as there was a little sun and it fell out from the root after some years,” Alexie remembers.

At 16, Alexie let her natural hair grow, inspired by a hair transition movement that was born on Instagram. “It saved my life. I think I can say that I understood that I was really judged by my skin color and my attributes. I was completely immersed in white and racist stereotypes in which France is more or less subtly bathed,” Alexie says.

a screen shot of a person: Photo courtesy of: Sharon Alexie / @flammedepigalle © Vogue Photo courtesy of: Sharon Alexie / @flammedepigalle a screen shot of a person: Photo courtesy of: Sharon Alexie / @flammedepigalle © Vogue Photo courtesy of: Sharon Alexie / @flammedepigalle

To care for her tresses today, Alexie leans on more organic, natural products and oils. “I do not use many products, as I do not really need them when I do fast hairstyles,” she says. “Oils are the main products that I use for my hair for shine, and health, otherwise washing creams, gel when I plait my hair, wash [and] go.” She keeps her morning routine very simple, with Kera Care Detangling Conditioning spray that she puts on her hair while dry and combs through to detangle. Then, she adds a coat of coconut oil. At night, it’s an oil bath and twist. “I’m looking for a silk beanie right now,” she notes, to further protect her hair at night. Other than her go-to Senegalese twists or a pineapple updo, Alexie leaves her hair in an Afro to let it breathe. “I take a lot of inspiration from Black women during the ’70s in New York,” she says.

Over the years, she’s learned to “not be too aggressive” with her hair. “Nourish it well first. It is important to leave your hair for a while without handling it too much; the protective hairstyles are good for that,” she says. “Don’t wash it too often with aggressive products.”

a person looking at the camera: Photo courtesy of: Sharon Alexie / @flammedepigalle © Vogue Photo courtesy of: Sharon Alexie / @flammedepigalle
a screen shot of a person: Photo courtesy of: Sharon Alexie / @flammedepigalle © Vogue Photo courtesy of: Sharon Alexie / @flammedepigalle a woman looking at the camera: Photo courtesy of: Sharon Alexie / @flammedepigalle © Vogue Photo courtesy of: Sharon Alexie / @flammedepigalle

Most importantly, her journey has taught her that “when we face problems like racism, learning to love ourselves is the first battle we fight. The word love is important. This is what stereotypes play with,” Alexie says. “It is so important to know that no entity can say that one is not beautiful enough. We ourselves should not feed these stereotypes against others. I’m thinking of colorism, for example, which is very violent to Black women. To educate ourselves is also to learn to love ourselves and to love others for the right reasons.”

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