St. Clair Detrick-Jules is passionate about telling intimate stories centered on important themes like immigrant justice, women’s rights and Black liberation. Her latest work touches on a topic that hits very close to home: it’s one focused on creating love and joy for natural Black hair.
Before the recent passing of the Crown Act, which bans discrimination against Black hairstyles, St. Clair Detrick-Jules’ My Beautiful Black Hair book was helping to lay the groundwork. It released in September 2021.
It was Detrick-Jules’ younger sister who inspired her to create the book, which features a selection of photos taken by Detrick-Jules herself as well as first-person narratives of more than 100 women who share their own personal journeys to loving their hair in its natural state.
Detrick-Jules recalls that she was completing her last semester of college when she received a call from her father that shocked her to her core. “My dad told me that my sister, Chloe, who was only four years old at the time, was having issues with her hair at school,” she recounts. “And her classmates were bullying her because of her Afro. I was really upset by that—that my little sister from such a young age was already feeling self-conscious about her hair and was being made to feel less beautiful because of it,” says Detrick-Jules.
That inspired her to seek out and document the stories of other women who faced their own challenges with regards to embracing the beauty of their natural hair. “I decided to take matters into my own hands and show my sister that there is this huge community of Black women embracing their natural hair, even if she doesn’t necessarily see it in her classroom or in her neighborhood,” she adds. “That was the motivation behind the book.”
The reaction to her book was both immediate and affirming, says Detrick-Jules. “A lot of Black women who have read the book have told me, ‘I wish I had something like this when I was younger.’ People [are] connecting with the universal themes that go beyond race or gender, things like self-love themes, like breaking barriers, like being courageous enough to make decisions against what society wants you to do.”
Arguably, the most impactful response has been from her little sister, who has developed a newfound “respect” for her own natural tresses. “She was inspired by a lot of the hairstyles that she saw,” says Detrick-Jules. “I think she didn’t really understand the versatility of her own hair. She also asked me to interview her and ask her why she now loves her natural hair. It felt like she had become a part of the community that set out to inspire her initially.”
Detrick-Jules, a true storyteller and visual artist, is emboldened to give her mission global reach in the form of a visual documentary. She shares, “Obviously Black people are everywhere. I would love to see how Black hair is represented, how it’s perceived and how it’s worn and styled in different countries.”