Nia Pettitt is a force to be reckoned with. At the tender age of nineteen, the half-English, half-Zimbabwean model has built an online community of young women who share her passion for honouring and embracing the beauty of natural Afro hair. Her fans are spread across the world, united by a shared celebration of natural beauty and a mutual adoration of Nia’s own golden mane. As FroGirlGinny, she shares tales of her adventures and hair care tips to over 330,000 Instagram followers, part of a growing movement inspiring a generation of young brown girls to defy Western beauty standards and nurture their natural Afros. I met her at the Lisbon leg of her ‘Go With the Fro Tour,’ a joint venture with fellow model and social media influencer Lauren Lewis that gives women with natural hair a chance to come together and share stories of their own natural hair trials and triumphs.
I’m a Gemini, so I’m everything, but I like to be known as Nia.
From 3 to 11 I relaxed my hair, but I didn’t do that out of seeing pictures in magazines, I just did it because my mum couldn’t handle my hair. I grew up in a white area of London, so my idea of beauty was blonde hair, blue eyes, like my best friend in Primary School at the time. Then, when I went to Secondary School, there was a girl with curly hair there and I idolised her, and I just wanted to have hair like her. I didn’t really have the traditional girl in the magazines as who I wanted to be, I was more wanting to be myself, but I couldn’t because of where I lived, and being mixed race was hard because a part of me wanted to be English and have roast dinners and the other part of me wanted to be Zimbabwean and have sadza, so I had a kind of identity crisis because I didn’t know who I wanted to be.
It was seeing that girl, her name’s Yasmin, seeing her curly hair, and then seeing a picture of myself when I was three. I had this Afro, and I was like, “Mum, why doesn’t my hair do this anymore?” and she said if I wanted it I had to big chop my hair, so I just did it the next day, cut off all my relaxed hair.
No,I didn’t at all.
At first, everyone in school highlighted that they liked my straight hair more, but I’ve always been a person who doesn’t depend on anyone to love me besides myself so that just sparked the journey for me of being my own woman and growing up a lot quicker than most 11-year-olds. But I was also concerned about what the hell I was going to use. I was buying mousses from Superdrug and conditioners from Tesco and I didn’t know what to use.
I think we still have a long way to go, and I feel like I’ve been able to impact change in my small way, but I want to concentrate on deeper issues for women. When I big chopped my hair, it started the journey of self-love, and I want to go into more of that than just giving hair tips. I feel like there’s more to me than just hair.
I don’t think it did. I mean, we had Scary Spice, but her name alone, Scary, doesn’t connote anything pretty. We had Alicia Keys, but she was braided most of the time, we had Chaka Khan and Diana Ross, but mostly they weren’t in my era. It was mostly Scary Spice for me, that was all I had at the time.
I think Hilary Banks, but she obviously had perm rods and flat irons, but I loved her style.
I always try to be humble because if the Internet broke down, I would still be who I am today. I try not to let it all get to me because it could be taken away at any moment, so I just want to inspire people to live their lives to the fullest and travel more, and also to let young people know that the situation they’re in now is not forever. We have so much ahead of us. I mean, it feels nice, but I try not to let it get to me.
It was honestly really natural. I just started posting pictures and it grew. I do enjoy it, the only thing I don’t enjoy is when my Gemini mind wants me to capture everything and the other half is saying enjoy the moment, so it’s about finding a balance between the two.
Me and Lauren met through Instagram and we wanted to do something together, and just came up with Go With The Fro, and it just grew from there. It’s been a year now and we’ve got 40,000 followers, and we’ve travelled around Europe, we’re going to Africa on Saturday, so it’s taken off so quickly.
Every time I meet these women, it’s so fun for me because some of them have never been to a natural hair event, so they leave with this new energy to connect with other women and love themselves more. I love those aspects.
You’ll have to wait and see…
I just want to travel more, tan more, and my hair to get bigger!
Skimdo Curl Cream. It’s amazing.
Follow FroGirlGinny on instagram
Post by Kay
There are so many genres out there with highly questionable ethics, particularly genres of the past (which rather annoyingly have an enduring, appealing aesthetic). Take Blaxploitation – strong statements about the way women are seen, heard and portrayed, and of course the way people of colour are seen, heard and portrayed.
Then there’s the whole vintage Playboy thing; many of the photographs are fabulous, and their costumes (designed by African American Zelda Wynn Valdes) are often inspired. But when aesthetic brain catches up with ethical brain, we realise that women have been made into bunny rabbits! Oh.
Which brings me to the early 1970’s and the boom in feature films featuring a mostly, or all-black cast. Often, black scriptwriters wrote them (opportunities for these talented writers weren’t exactly raining from the heavens), and many set box office records.
The term ‘Blaxploitation’ was coined by Junius Griffin, head of the Los Angeles National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to reference movies originally designed to attract the large, U.S. black audience. Shaft, Trouble Man, Superfly, and Foxy Brown are just a few of a slew of box-office hits that crossed over.
young adult my friends and fellow club-goers all loved these film scores. They were our club classics, and we thought they were the coolest tunes ever.
For us late 80’s and 90’s London club kids of all classes and skin tones; it was retro, exotic and a little counter-culture. It exemplified one nation under a groove gettin’ down, “just for the funk of it” as Funkadelic said. For my generation, these were the soundtracks to many memorable nights out.
We Brits dug that jive-talking, that cartoon pomp, the pre-Tarantino theatrics, the bling, the ridiculous cars (Isaac Hayes had an actual chandelier in his car to embellish his Blaxploitation persona in cult classic Escape From New York) and the strong, sassy women like Pam Grier, with their outrageously ripe bodies.
Yes, people of colour had been let into the movie world, but only in roles that perpetuated derogatory stereotypes or to create counter-productive myths.
Forty years on, and is the regurgitation of this theme the most defining narrative in entertainment for anyone of the African Diaspora? To continually be defined by such cliched, negative stereotypes, and not being represented as simply ‘a human’ in a drama. A person whose skin colour is the entire arc of their character’s story is simply not the world I see around me. Why can’t more be journalists like my (late) Dad?
I find it impossible to deny that the look and sound of the 70’s has utterly permeated my visual and musical taste. Whether they be flower children in Haight Ashbury, San Francisco, or Pam Grier with an Afro in a low cut, tied-up silk shirt, hotpants and non-matching platforms, I’m there. What to do? Moral dilemma. I can’t ‘unlike’ the way Pam Grier looked in Blaxploitation flicks anymore than I can ‘unlike’ those amazing grooves by Curtis Mayfield, Isaac Hayes or Marvin Gaye…
The Afro hairdo was huge when I was very young in London, as was the Black is Beautiful movement sparked by the likes of Cecily Tyson. Ironically all of this coincided with Blaxploitation movies, and the aesthetic merged somewhat, crossing right over to mainstream fashion and back again.
I don’t have the answer, just an idea, perhaps a suggestion. Can we turn this negative into a positive by taking what we love, the image, and leave out what we don’t, the narrative?
Perhaps it’s too pick ‘n mix for some, but I can’t help but wonder if we can create a shift. Taking the idea that if you view the same something/someone through a totally different lens than before (which was ultimately just a creation of its time), that the story that previously clung to the image is no longer there and a new narrative emerges.
“When I read Kay’s terrific Post, I noticed that the Playboy picture she’d chosen (of first woman of colour on the cover of US Playboy publication) is an original magazine cover I have framed on my wall here in London. When my friend and mentor Eve Ensler came to visit me a couple of years ago, she noticed the same framed picture and commented that it was degrading. I completely understood her, and promptly took it down. But years before, when I framed the picture I felt proud of that model who broke a stereotype, and proud of her beauty. Since Eve came to visit I’ve put that picture up and down, depending on how empowered I feel! I want to take that image and make it impossible for it to be degrading – I want to make that woman empowered no matter what publication she’s paid to sell. Of course, the OWNER of the picture determines how the picture is going to be perceived…
Taking the old adage of ‘art reflecting life’; can we turn it around? We can wear what we want, have hair as high as we want, we can expose our cleavage and STILL be a Feminist. When the empowered woman (that I am) chooses to wear the Afro with 4 inch nails; I am dignifying that nail and that ‘fro into a political statement. The things I choose represent who I am, not the other way around. And I elevate the things I choose by allowing them to represent who I am.
As I evolve, so do the selections I make, and in wearing the trends that were created by these brave men and women of days gone by, I am saluting them – because they did as much as they could in the context that they were in. By taking elements from their struggle, I am honouring their strength and mine; which is timeless, radical and free.”
Lipstick Queen do a range of lipsticks encased in deluxe, deco-look silver called ‘Silver Screen’. This extraordinary shade of blue-purple that Thandie’s wearing is called ‘Stella’.
Thandie’s earrings by Marni, luxe fake fur by BombeSurprise
We know Afro and curly hair can be scarily brittle and needs a lot more TLC so we were curious to know how she manages to bleach and dye it without breakage. ..
‘ElvineOhlala’ shares a few of her haircare secrets and more…
I am originally from Gabon, my both parents are Gabonese. In my country people used to wear colorful clothes. I love the colour of African patterns. I think my love of color comes from my origins.
When I was younger, I didn’t like my hair and I used a relaxer to straighten it. Cut to the age of 18 with my next hair-changing phase, when a true hair-disaster happened and I lost my hair. My best friend was a apprentice hairdresser, and one day she made a mistake (you can see where this is going..) when she dyed my hair. A few weeks later she used a relaxer on top of the dying because of those curls that ‘I hated’.
The upside is that I now understand how to ensure I do not break my hair, while having the freedom to express myself by colouring it. These are my steps and the products I use to ensure my hair stays in well-conditioned shape.
Elvine and her favourites!
Mizani Supreme Oil Mask – nourishing treatment to boost shine and manageability.
Mizani True Textures Moisture Stretch or Mizani 25 Miracle Milk – reduces dryness and adds softness.
Adds shine and helps to give a perfect curl.
This definitely helps to improve the quality of relaxed hair.
Elasta QP Feels Like Silk Styling Gel – creates waves and generally styles and controls my frizz.
I first started my YouTube channel because a lot of people were asking me for advice and hair care tips, after seeing my hair. I love helping people out. So many people don’t trust themselves so I want to push them and try to help them do what they want to do. Whether it’s wear their hair a new colour or wear a colourful outfit.
My favourite vintage and secondhand shop in London in TRAID; I can always find a beautiful bargain in there. I also like Dotty Theresa Vintage where you can find fabulous clothes with good quality.
Follow Elvine on Instagram: @elvineohlala
Watch her on YouTube
Check out her blog: www.elvineohlala.com