Susan Oludele, 28, Hair Artist and Owner of HairBySusy
My family is Nigerian. Yoruba to be exact. Our culture with hair is just so dope. We incorporate braids, feed-in cornrows, beads, a lot of flat twisting, locs, so, I really am so inspired by Yoruba culture because it tells stories, it speaks to where we’ve come from and to our struggles.
In some parts of Africa, when it was war-time, they would hide food in the braids. Some African women, would braid their hair a certain way so everybody knew we were going to head over to the West. They would create the map in their hair. I draw most of my art from African culture.
Every time I create hair art or I’m braiding, I just allow God to use me. Whether it’s a hair art for a fashion show or speaking to women or young people I always allow that energy to use me. Through that energy you create something new. Last year, we created something for a Wu- Tsang x Gucci On “Into A Space Of Love” house music documentary. We created like this high astroworld kind of hairstyle and then in then in the middle of the hair was a heart so like the hairstyle symbolizes love. With everything we just try to have good intentions and each hairstyle has a story. Most of the stories always come back down to identity and knowing who you are, loving yourself, spreading love, and spreading creativity. So it always comes back down to identity.
Recently, we had an exhibit. It’s called the ‘Lady’ exhibit by Hairbysusy & OkayAfrica. We wanted to create hair art that spoke to people from Africa. We are so used to the Westernized world and how everything is done here. We kind of lose our identity. We had the fashion and the wardrobe to be very westernized and the hair and the makeup to really speak on Africa.
[Some looks were tribal] or they were statements that said if you want to have an afro and a suit on, you can do it. If you want locs and a button-down, why not? It’s very important to keep those traditional hairstyles because we want people to remember their roots and where they came from.
I did a big chop in high school.
Growing up, when I was in junior high, I used to get picked on for wearing natural hairstyles, cornrows. My mom is Yoruba, Naija to the bone. She would create braided crowns on my head and she would use threaded braiding method.
She was very creative but kids didn’t really appreciate it. They would say I looked like Medusa. So I asked my mom to get perm. But when I got the perm it still didn’t stop. realized, I was getting picked on just for being me. Even now as an adult, this guy on the street said, “You look crazy.”
I said, “Thank you.”
People are going to have something to say anyway, might as well be yourself.
I realized I needed to tap into my identity. It was at a point where I was like, “I’m shaving it all off” and I recently shaved it off, again. I had to get back to myself. What does it matter? I matter. I think a lot of us, we are so used to recreating and making ourselves into what society wants but at the end of the day, your soul is the main priority and I had to realize that.
I’ve done Beyoncé’s, Solange’s, and Zoe Kravitz’s hair. It’s just so amazing and humbling to be able to create things that people all over the world will get inspired by and recreate in their own way. It just shows me you can’t stop. You gotta keep going you have more people to inspire. You have more people to motivate. It actually makes me hungrier. Self -love and this journey of knowing who you are is a lifetime thing. It just doesn’t stop.
Susan’s Revolutionary Picks:
“In some parts of Africa, when it was war-time, they would hide food in the braids. Some African women, would braid their hair a certain way so everybody knew we were going to head over to the West. They would create the map in their hair. I draw most of my art from African culture…My mom is Yoruba, Naija to the bone. She would create braided crowns on my head and she would use threaded braiding method.”