Our #HSManecrushMonday this week is interdisciplinary artist and braiding wizard Shani Crowe. Shani is known for her 2016 photography exhibit “Braids” which was featured at MoCADA (the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts) in Brooklyn and showcased her beautifully intricate braided hairstyles on models. She is also known as the creator of Solange Knowles’ striking braided halo headdress, which the singer donned for her performance on Saturday Night Live last fall. Shani describes her work as being “centered on cultural coiffure and beauty ritual, as they relate to the diasporic African, and how these practices function as tools to foster connectivity.”
Southside! Chicago, IL
How did you get started?
I picked up braiding at a young age by watching my aunts and older cousins. I practiced my skills on dolls, other relatives, and myself. I've had clients for 17 years now, since I was about 11 years old.
What is your #1 hair care tip?
I implore people who wear braids or weaves to make sure their stylist is not braiding their hair too tight. Protective styling should help safeguard your hair against the damage of daily styling, while allowing you to retain growth. Wearing a style that is painful and pulling your hair out is counterintuitive. Braids don't have to be super tight to be secure and long lasting! Find a braider who cares about your comfort and hair health.
What's the biggest risk you've taken on a client or on your own hair?
I do a lot of creative styling with my own hair but it's never really risky, as I've never colored or chemically processed my hair. I incorporate a variety of colors and fibers into my own hair to create bold looks without having to sacrifice my hair health.
What's the most memorable moment in your career so far?
It would have to be working with Solange for Saturday Night Live. I got to create a hair look for an artist I admire and respect, to be worn during the performance of a song I love. Watching the halo oscillate and glitter in person was surreal; it felt new to me like I hadn't spent hours creating it. Beyond Solange's phenomenal performances, so many wonderful unexpected things happened that weekend. Beyoncé personally complimented me on my work then sent me a photo of herself posing in front of my window display at MOCADA Museum. My mind was blown. Witnessing an artist of that caliber and their friends and families love, support, and genuinely enjoy each other warmed my heart. I will always cherish that experience!