Martinique-born Sephora Joannes has traded her smoothing treatments and blow dries to embrace her natural locks. The hair artist sculpts thick, frizzy and curly hair – and her dramatic styles are taking over the Instagram sphere and the world. FAB went to meet the artist.
“It’s Important To Show Who You Are – Without Hiding Behind Straightened Hair”
Born in Martinique, Sephora Joannes studied at the Beaux Arts before moving to Paris in 2009 to study cultural management. A regular of smoothing treatments and blow dries, she realized that her damaged hair was falling out and so decided to stop chemical procedures and embrace her natural hair, experimenting with African hairstyles. Her ’dos, which she photographs and shares on @sephorajoannes, soon became all the rage within her community on Instagram. “I’ve had a gift for hairstyling since childhood,” says Joannes.
“I was thought to be too smart for this career but in the end it caught up with me.”
She follows: “What I love is the texture that I’m working with, sculpting it and creating high ’dos. It’s important to show who you are, without hiding behind straightened hair that doesn’t belong to us, and to proudly wear our natural hair. For a long time, natural hair has gone through a sort of bashing. They say it’s unsightly, hard to style, not presentable. It’s deeply anchored in our values and as soon as we try to show an alternative, there’s a block. Many clients complain that they can’t wear their natural hair at work.”
“All the women around their world wear their hair natural, we’re the only ones to deny it. For me, it’s as important as self-esteem.”
Ancestral African Hairdos
Joannes’ artistic, inspired hairdos celebrate the rich tradition of African styles. Braids, buns, pearls, Afros true sculptures – she creates a style for each personality and lifestyle. During her research, she consulted the great names of the industry, such as the legendary Angela Plummer, but also history and pop culture. “I look at a lot of pre-colonization ancestral African hairdos,” she says, “and also science fiction, mangas, drawings, numbers and moments of my daily life.”
Joannes’ atypical journey has allowed her to share her sensibility with the world.
“At first I was struggling with establishing myself because there was no African hair show,” she remembers.
“Then when I started saying I wanted to present Afro haute couture, the industry didn’t react well. Slowly people started appreciating the beauty of what we did. I started with a small show in a Paris café and people began to call me after that. I post regularly on social media, it’s my window to the world. I was invited to Washington DC and Dakar to show my styles. I pick the music, the clothes and present this inspiration as an artistic performance. I also offer hairstyling workshops to teach mixed and African communities how to work with their hair. This is a massive advertising that cultivates my client base. That really helps me live from my art.”
And still, throughout her travels and adventures, the city that gave the artist her first push continues to excite her. “Paris is an opening to the world that I need.”