In Allure’s Talent Show, we’ll introduce you to on-the-rise makeup artists, hairstylists, and nail artists who are making the industry a more beautiful space. This time, we’re focusing on Laetitia Ky, an artist, model, and activist who creates elaborate hair sculptures to transmit powerful messages. Ky recently published Love & Justice, a book that documents the evolution of her work, accompanied by personal essays. In an as-told-to interview with associate features director Dianna Mazzone, Ky shares her personal hair journey and the inspiration behind her advocacy.
I was born on the Ivory Coast, in the city of Abidjan. [West Africa is] still deeply impacted by colonization, even though we’re independent now. Growing up, the dolls I had were all white and had straight hair. I would remove it and buy extensions at the markets and sew them in.
I first got my hair relaxed when I was five years old; it was the norm. When I went into middle school, I was forced to shave my head completely. In a lot of public schools here, it’s believed that if girls let their hair grow, they will be too attractive and the boys will not focus. My high school was private, so I was allowed to let my hair grow — and I was back to relaxing it again.
After I got my high school degree, I went to school for business management. But three years in, I told my mom I couldn’t continue.