Women’s hair has been a hot topic in South Africa this year, especially around freedom of expression and identity. With this in mind, Mathahle Stofile, freelance beauty editor and founder of The Matte Project, and Milisuthando Bongela (MissMilliB), arts and culture editor, partnered with Head & Shoulders to create a web series that provides a platform where women can stop seeing their hair as a problem that needs to be fixed and rather as an extension of their beauty and identity.
Says Mathahle: “I didn’t really give much thought to my hair until I was well into my twenties. However, when I started working in magazines, I became hyper-aware of the images we were constantly exposed to as South Africans.”
“We are a country that has an overwhelming majority of black people and yet the only images of beauty or sophistication that we see are those of white women, or black women with features that have a comfortable proximity to those of white people (light skin, long straight hair, etc.). I started wearing my hair naturally as a way of attempting to balance the scales and say to little black girls, ‘Hey, you can have a great job, be taken seriously and be considered attractive with the hair you were born with. You’re good enough.’”
Milisuthando, who refers to herself as someone who’s passionate about the relationship between hair and black identity, explains: “This series is about sharing women’s journeys with their hair. Mat and I explore the different relationships we all have with our hair and try to keep the show light-hearted while unpacking seemingly innocuous, but important subjects in a candid and relatable way. We’re dipping our toes into our childhoods, re-arranging the way we see ourselves as black women by reaching into the mixing pot of our multiple identities and talking about the sensitive issues right next to bad hair stories.”
The perfect partnership
As Head & Shoulders, the world’s #1 anti-dandruff shampoo brand, had recently launched the new Head & Shoulders African Hair & Scalp Care range, the pair thought that the brand would be the ideal partner for the webseries. Head & Shoulders’ new range is the first complete scalp and hair care line of products that’s been tailormade for African hair and is designed to fight dandruff and soothe itch.
“Head & Shoulders has always delivered on its promise as a brand,” notes Mathahle.“They claim to get rid of dandruff and they do. Dandruff is sort of the ultimate equaliser when it comes to hair. We all get it at some point or other in our lives, regardless of ethnic background, sex or age. What better brand to partner up with when talking about acceptance of one’s hair?”
Milisuthando agrees: “Head & Shoulders picks no sides; it’s all about taking care of the foundation of healthy hair – a healthy scalp, no matter what kind of hair you have. I trust the integrity of the brand and the people behind it.”
Behind the scenes
Mathahle and Milisuthando had a lot of fun filming the web series. Mat says, “I love that our entire production team, with the exception of one guy, was made up of women. It made me feel comfortable stating my views.”
“Filming was the best part for me because the process, the conversations and the setting weren’t too far away from our real lives. The fact that the team were all black women made the whole process part therapy, part hangout session and part really important work. We hope that our audience can really relate to what they see on screen over the next few months.”
Visit: Head and Shoulders Africa YouTube page to catch the first episode of Living Head First with Mat and Milli.