behind the scenes beauty

starring JOAN SMALLS



By Beauty Director Kayla MiChele   @kaylamichelehair


Ah, the rare occasion of seeing a natural afro walking down the street! But why rare? The afro hairstyle is so cool! In this day and age, a person with an afro truly sets apart from the crowd. It’s a hairstyle that evokes a powerful political symbol in the 60s and 70s... and now the power can be yours. I hope this look inspires people with naturally-textured hair to let their hair grow natural, long, and wild. Express the natural texture and set the body free from harmful relaxers and straightening chemicals… now that would feel like a rebirth!


Natural afro hair texture needs more moisture. I recommend treating the hair with Organic Unrefined Coconut Oil before using Shea Moisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl & Shine Shampoo and Shea Moisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl & Shine Conditioner. Or better yet, take my client A$AP Rocky’s advice: he prefers Organic Hemp Seed Oil for his hair, as he mentioned to me on set for Interview magazine.




On Joan Smalls, we used a wig to make a larger-than-life statement afro. The golden blonde color was pure magic against her gorgeous skin tone. My team of assistants and I prepped the look a few days before the shoot. We started by sewing five Retro Jumbo Afro Wigs together using zip ties. I wouldn’t recommend wearing five jumbo wigs sewn together to a party, though... it is way too heavy and uncomfortable. Joan can attest to that! Instead, try just one and if you’re brave sew on one or two more. Five of them worked beautifully for this fine art image.


We used a Canvas Wig Block and a Tripod and each other (lol) to measure the wig stacking so we could visualize the final desired shape of all the wigs sewn together. Using Zip Ties instead of needle and thread, make sure to thread starting from the outside, moving to the inside of the wig, then thread back to the outside of the wig to zip together. This will ensure more comfort on the head. Use Gingher Scissors to cut the zip tie excess.


Use strong and reliable YS Park “Shark" Sectioning Clips (an amazing investment for anyone’s beauty bag), and, hopefully, an extra set of hands to section off the ‘fro to gain access to the points of attachment. Use as many zip ties as possible until the wigs seem secure. There is no right or wrong way to attach the wigs together… take total creative freedom to design your wig stacking shape!


Finesse effortlessly with your hands to blend the edges of the wigs together to look like one large wig. There are many cool ways to set the texture of an afro to take on different wave patterns. One of my personal favs is to set freshly washed hair into two strand twists and once air dried, untwist and shake out.





On the prep day, we applied an interesting technique that I like to call “rick rack set.” I learned this technique many years ago backstage at New York Fashion Week at the Marc Jacobs show while assisting Guido Palau. Rick rack is a flat braid to form zigzags. I used this on the wig to slightly relax and lengthen the hair.


Grab a box of Nishida U-Pins. Use the YS Park “Shark" Sectioning Clips to section off a horizontal row (about 2 inches thick) at the nape. Open both the legs of the u-pin to create a wide V shape. Hold the pin like a pencil, using the hand that you use to write. Then, place your pointer finger at the top edge of the u-pin with a steady grip.


Use your free hand to grab a 2-inch section of hair. Hold the u-pin close to the scalp and begin to figure eight the hair strand in between the legs of the u-pin. Use your thumb to push the hair up tightly from time to time. Once the ends are inside of the figure 8, use your thumb to push up one last time and hold it there.


Twist the two legs of the u-pin together tightly to secure your work in place. Set the entire head.


Once completed, we used a Jiffy E Steam Handheld Steamer on the set to give it heat and activate the set, only because the wig is synthetic hair. On human hair, take a BaByliss Pro Nano Titanium Flat Iron and press the iron for five seconds evenly over the top of each individual rick rack.


Let cool and then you are ready to remove the pins! Take creative freedom to pull out the rick rack pattern however you desire. You can lightly pull apart each one with your hands, use a Cricket Hair Pick Comb Infused with Keratin, Argan & Olive Oil, or go even bigger and less defined by brushing it out. I recommend the industry standard Mason Pearson Brush, but you can also try a more affordable option like the Creative Professional Brush.





We decided to prep and hide Joan’s natural hair by braiding two invisible french braids and tucking the ends with bobby pins in the lower back of the head. We didn’t use a Wig Cap, but feel free to throw one on if you’d like.


Now for that transformational moment… put that wig on! Use Nishida Bobby Pins to secure the wig on the head by placing them by the ears, nape, and temples.


Once you see the wig on, it will be an instant decision whether or not it needs to be cut to open up the face more. I recommend using Andis Speedmaster Hair Clippers if you choose to shape it. Trim three-dimensionally, like you are carving an ice sculpture…it’s really fun! It’s also messy, so use a Hair cutting Cape to protect the body from loose hair and finish with a blast of cold air from the T3 Featherweight Luxe 2I Blow Dryer to get the pieces off the face.


For a boost of shine, spray Aveda Brilliant Spray-On Shine.


And there you have it: the larger-than-life statement afro… a big hairstyle with major visual impact. Go on, channel your inner Erykah Badu, Jimi Hendrix, Solange, and Pam Grier!


TAKE A SELFIE to complete (and tag us @documentbeauty / #documentarybeauty so we can see! We LOVE seeing these looks come to life out in the world).   


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