They say now you can learn anything you need to online, specifically through YouTube – a social media/video-sharing site created in 2005. My generation’s need for instant gratification style learning has sparked hundreds of channels on this site aimed at tutorial-based cooking, building, crafting and now racial confirmation through beauty and hair. I have spent the last three years observing and participating in what I’ve coined as The Millennial Natural Hair Movement; young women between the ages of 11 and 32 vlogging about natural hair.
Vloggers are video bloggers; women or men who instead of writing their thoughts and experiences on an online written word blog record their lives and post them on YouTube for the world to see and respond to. If you search “Natural Hair” on YouTube you will see some of the top vloggers of my generation. “Natural Hair” is a term used to describe African-American women (or men, though rare) who have rejected the normal process of assimilation in regards to black beauty standards.
This movement began in Atlanta Georgia with small blogs,and eventuallytransitioned into YouTube vlogging. In this format, where audio and video can be easily viewed by followers,women recorded themselves growing out their relaxers and opting for a natural lifestyle; even making hair products right in their own kitchens. Suddenly we were able to, in a voyeuristic nature, see how to make this journey ourselves. As more and more watched they started creating channels themselves. As more and more channels appeared the number of women denouncing this stigma of Westernized beauty grew. Young African American women started their own companies making hair products for newly naturals — a controversial step when the majority of hair products marketed for African American women are owned and operated by non-black corporations. (This is highlighted in Chris Rock’s disturbing “Good Hair” documentary.)
Through extensive social research I’ve discovered yet another level to this online community. Corporatism has infiltrated the community by destroying morals and blurring the ethical lines between truth and fabrication.
The very women who started their channels on Youtube to provide free advice for women to go natural are now promoting products they know are harmful to the movement and harmful to the body. They sign contracts that prevent them from saying anything negative about a company’s product in exchange for a large sum of money. They promote products they haven’t even tried themselves or if they have and hated it they proclaim their unwavering love nonetheless. This is corporatism at its finest. Still, there are women of the same caliber making their own products and selling them for cheap as well as offering the recipe for those who truly can’t afford it. In the end they still make a profit being a family owned company without selling lies or corruption. The differentiation is clear and important.
BEYoncenista is an alter-ego based loosely on Beyonce Knowles, myself and the diva persona in general. Beyonce has always fascinated me not only because of her career in music but mainly because of her personality and the lack thereof. She is, and always has been in control of her persona and what she reveals to the public. This both fascinates and infuriates her fans and critics. I myself am the same; I allow just the right amount of myself out into the world for critique and am selective on who gets the full dosage.
Relating this to the natural hair movement on Youtube, one can’t be absolutely sure who these women truly are. We are given exactly what they choose to show; through editing and performance they manipulate, manufacture and produce exactly what they want us to see. Corporations and celebrities participate in this self-editing as well; to sell an idea, persona or drama. This is an overall critique of identity and the need to mask our identity and how social media makes it astronomically easy to do so. This is also an exploration on our abilities to accept our own identities and control what we put out there.
The persona does not speak in any of the videos but will be boisterous online in responding to comments and defending herself on Youtube.
Chloë Flores Facebook (CFFB) Artist Residency
For the entire month of June I’m completing an artist residency on the Chloë Flores Facebook page. I will be traveling to Nassau, Bahamas (where I grew up) to record in video several performances as BEYoncenista, my alter-ego. I will be creating an online presence just like the natural hair vloggers I’ve been observing the last three years. The formatting of the videos on Youtube will be essentially the same as the other vloggers (titling, tags etc.) except when you actually watch the tutorials. The videos will be filmed at my old schools where a great deal of the fallacies involving my hair developed and were perpetuated. Videos will be shot underwater, on the very busy bus system on the island and in other strange and sinister locations/situations.
While performing under another name full disclosure will be involved; subscribers and viewers will be able to link to my other work. Each video will expose a little more of the natural hair community’s issues. My target audience is very specific; I’m aiming my commentary directly at the vloggers I’ve come to admire and continue to follow. The goal is to spur conversation and debate; to expose the community for what it was, is and will become. I anticipate racial issues arising and response videos directed at my alter-ego from subscribers, viewers and the vloggers themselves. I will post on the Chloë Flores Facebook page the comments and responses I get from these performances as well as the performances themselves for social interaction. I have vloggers working with me and will encourage the followers on the residency page to promote my channel in an effort to increase the probability of the videos, and thus conversation/social critique going viral.
I invite you to participate with me in this social space. If you are interested in being part of the discussion and watching the performances add this page as a friend. The whole idea of the facebook page is to generate content from the content of the artist in residency.
To add as a friend:
That’s where I’ll be from today until the end of the month. See you soon!
New work. Oil paint. Steady as she goes.
I don’t know who convinced me to pick up oil painting again but it’s a slow process. No instant gratification here.
Their final project was a James Rosenquist study. We spent a week researching and watching him work via Youtube videos, his autobiography and artist books. The project was to be 2X2 feet on cold press illustration board and matted with a 2 inch boarder.