By now you know we have a thing for Andrea Pippins. In 2009 we first introduced you to her whimsical design work affirming everything about Black women that makes us beautiful, and just last month our love for the designer was reignited when we found out she had launched “a coloring book of braids, coils, and doodle dos” for us — us, as in adults and natural-hair loving Black women.
We decided it was time to catch up again with this woman whose life’s work is literally helping women of color recognize and embrace the physical features that uniquely make us who we are. And so we reached out to Pippins with a few questions about her inspiration, her motivation, and her affirmation for those of us still trying to not only love our hair but our whole beings in a world that suggests we do otherwise.
What was the determining moment that led you to start the “I Love My Hair” social campaign in 2008?
The “I Love My Hair” campaign was a design thesis project while I was in graduate school. Our topic was social awareness, which inspired me to focus on the revived natural hair movement that was just starting to take off. During that time I was really intrigued by the black beauty industry and how much money black women, all over the world, spend on hair care products. At the time I had been natural for seven years and loved it, and wondered how the industry would change if more women of color embraced their coils and went natural as well. So that project allowed me to explore that idea visually. Soon after, it became art prints and tees, and now the “I Love My Hair” coloring book that celebrates all kinds of hair textures.
What do you want women of color, specifically, to get out of your coloring book?
Coloring is a great way to relax and to express individuality. Everyone has their own coloring style and favorite colors to use, so no coloring book will be the same. That is really exciting to me.
Most importantly, I hope women of color, and anyone who owns the book, will be inspired to follow their dreams. I resigned from my full-time faculty position months before the book project was even a thought. Without much of a plan and with little savings, I decided to seriously pursue my career as an artist and illustrator. I strongly believe “I Love My Hair” happened because I took that leap of faith. And now I am living my dream. So I hope others will somehow connect to that energy, whether in the book or by reading this interview, and understand that we have to follow our dreams.
Why do you think coloring books have become a big thing for adults again?
You know, I don’t think wanting to color (or any form of creative expression) ever leaves us. We just get older, get busy, and forget. And who made the rule that coloring is just for kids anyway? Coloring just feels good, is relaxing and nostalgic for adults. You have to be in the moment when you color, so it becomes a form of meditation, which is great after a busy day at work, if you need a break, or want to spend time with your kids. It also helps that there are now a range of coloring books with intricate illustrations, which makes coloring more compelling for adults.
Do you agree with the belief that hair is political? If so, is that a good or a bad thing?
I think hair can be political, and I think it’s a good thing if someone wants to make a political statement with their hair, but not a good thing if people are oppressed or discriminated against because of their hair. At the end of the day, I believe that the individual should determine what hair means to them and also determine the level of importance that it may or may not have. Whether it’s about just feeling beautiful or standing in solidarity for a cause, I think it’s important that we all have the right to do as we wish with our hair.
If you could give Black women one word of wisdom on self-acceptance and embracing their beauty, what would it be?
Love. We have to treat ourselves with true love. From the words we say to ourselves to the food we put in our body, from the people we keep in our lives to the things we do to our skin and hair. It should always be in love. If we keep love at the core of all we do, the embracing of the self comes naturally.
I Love My Hair: A Coloring Book of Braids, Coils, and Doodle Dos releases on November 10th.