A few months ago, I had a heated text message exchange with my good friend Samantha Shaw about the insignificance of fashion. I, a young woman who doesn’t know the difference between Adidas and Balenciaga, made some bold generalizations because I view fashion through one lens. To me it is inaccessible, doesn’t care about humanity, and rather than creating space for equality it separates us. However, my Instagram newsfeed turned me into a hypocrite because I began to fall in love with Ivy “Coco” Maurice and how she does fashion.
“I want people to understand me and who I am because we all have a story. I don’t want to be seen as the girl who just takes cool pictures and wears cool clothes, I want people to understand that I tell a story. I sometimes feel that people need to hear or read something that can help or push them. Our style isn’t just the clothes we put on everyday, it is part of who we are and what we have experienced.”
That is a quote from the recent Syracuse University graduate who now spends her days blogging, growing her brand, working on an eyelash extension company, modeling and will soon begin consulting at a fashion firm. So, she’s saying some interesting things there about using style to tell a story, to speak a message and that intrigues me.
Why does Coco care about speaking a message with her style?
Coco was born in Los Angeles, California, where she was the “lightest” in her immediate family. However, that light complexion didn’t make her any less of an outcast at her predominantly white private school where she was often picked last in kickball because she was “the weak black girl.” With those experiences in mind and her own confusion about what being “mixed with exotic features” meant, Coco began to explore her heritage. Her mother is a Black American woman with Caribbean roots while her father has some French and Indian mixed in with his Blackness. As you’ll see on her blog, Coco embraces all aspects of her heritage, but she identifies as a “young Black woman.”
“My heart is deeply engrained within Black Culture. In college, I started talking about race openly with friends and I became comfortable with identifying as a young Black woman.”
Young Black woman, you say… well, what’s her relationship with her hair?
“My hair and I are very close, together we are always changing. I have always felt that I can do anything I want and I feel that my hair can do the same. If I want to wear it in its natural curly state, I can! If I want to straighten it, then I can! If I want to wear braids, I can! And if I want to wear a weave, I can! I do what makes me happy with my hair. I have learned to take care of myself and that includes my hair. My hair shapes me, it shapes my attitude, my face, and personality.
If you want to know why a Black woman’s relationship with her hair is so important, personal, as is the case here with Coco and many others, visit Ashley.
As I said earlier, Coco’s style intrigues me. The relationship she has with her hair is in part why I pay extra attention to her Instagram posts. She has gorgeous long curls, but I have also seen her with straight hair or a weave. In truth, the first time I saw her rock a weave I took a step back, I didn’t get it. Why? Well, society, that’s why. It has taught me that only a certain type of Black woman wears a weave, one who is unhappy with her natural beauty. Another close friend of mine, Ola Idowu wears weave and under that weave, she has what I think is gorgeous hair. And at first, I didn’t get it. However, I’ve grown to understand what being a young Black woman means, and Coco’s point about doing what she wants with her hair because she can is an important part of that identity.
Following Coco’s style blog and Instagram account will make it clear that #BlackGirlMagic cannot be contained in a box. That we have a story, and the tales we tell may be as a complex as we choose to make them, but we shouldn’t put each other in boxes. We shouldn’t put each other’s professions in boxes, and we certainly shouldn’t make assumptions. Along that line of encouragement, another important message that I get from following Coco is that there is enough sunshine for everyone.
I asked her whether she is motivated by competition and this is what she said…
“My mother always told me that someone will always be taller than me, smaller than me, prettier than me, and smarter than me, but no one will ever be me. I feel I was born to stand out, so why try so hard to fit in. Competing with others can make you lose sight of who you are and can set you off balance.”