When W approached Cyndia Harvey to conjure up a challenge for the journal, the London-based hairstylist was greater than prepared. “I had wished to seize the essence of Black ladies for a very long time, in a manner that hadn’t been executed earlier than,” she says, including that she was notably impressed by the enduring work of the British artist Chris Ofili. “His work makes me so joyful, as a result of it celebrates the Black feminine physique in a manner that’s fairly seductive and poetic, however not objectified or sexualized. The proportions, the fluid shapes, and the size of Ofili’s figures are so fascinating—and infrequently, the hair is sort of as massive because the physique.”
Harvey, 33, was born in St. Ann, Jamaica, and as a baby she would whereas away hours after college in her mom’s hair salon. “It was a bottomless effectively of creativity,” she says. “Girls didn’t simply are available in for a easy wash and blow-dry; every part was ceremonial. Hairstyles had been daring, intricate, and created to final. The method was mesmerizing.” When she was 11, Harvey moved to southeast London to stay with an aunt, one thing she describes as “unusual however not unusual” for a lot of immigrant youngsters. Even at such a younger age, she knew the transfer was a “massive alternative” she didn’t need to miss.
Ultimately, she enrolled in Croydon Faculty to check artwork, however after a yr she transitioned into hairstyling, engaged on music movies and journal picture shoots till she landed a everlasting gig aiding the celebrated hairstylist Sam McKnight. She stayed with him for six years earlier than branching out on her personal, touchdown shoppers that now embody Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Burberry, in addition to inventive powerhouses akin to Michaela Coel, the star of the critically lauded sequence I Might Destroy You. All through her profession, Harvey has made a degree of increasing the narrative of variety and inclusion in her subject. In 2016, along with the filmmaker Akinola Davis Jr., Harvey made a brief movie titled This Hair of Mine, which explores “lineage, custom, and the way hairstyles join us to our ancestral previous,” she says, including that plans are afoot for a brand new iteration of the challenge later this yr.
Two full days went into creating the sculptural hairdos seen right here—and that’s earlier than Harvey even stepped on set with the fashions and inventive crew (photographer Harley Weir, stylist Raphael Hirsch and make-up artist Ammy Drammeh) whom she hand-picked for the challenge. “It’s quite a lot of work determining the shapes that work,” she says. “However after all, there’s the magic that occurs throughout the shoot. I get a great deal of inspiration when the woman is in my chair and I’m chatting along with her, observing her disposition, her physique language, her character.” Harvey wished her placing kinds to work with all sizes and styles—a lot in order that she introduced a prosthetic being pregnant stomach to the shoot. “A brief afro is gorgeous, however that appears to be all folks assume you are able to do with Afro hair—they don’t actually push it,” she says. “You by no means see the identical fantasy aspect in the case of Black fashions that you just do with different style pictures; it’s simply not there. So reaching that was an enormous a part of this shoot. I wished Black hair to be a part of a fantasy.”