The Curl Talk Project

When Johanna Yaovi noticed a gap in storytelling in the beauty industry, she took action. Fueled by her love of the people and cultures around her, she started The Curl Talk Project, a platform that celebrates curly or textured haired women from around the globe . More than just about their hair, The Curl Talk Project represents a whole community of people who, by embracing their natural hair texture, have learned to embrace themselves and become #CurlConfident. Read on to learn more about Johanna’s #CurlStory and The Curl Talk Project!

Interview – Johanna Yaovi

Tell us about yourself!

I am a marketing professional currently working in the ethical afro haircare industry. I grew up in Paris, France, but now live in London. I am interested in thousands of things, but I love anything linked to culture and knowledge transmission. Therefore, it would make sense for me to say that arts is my first love, and cultural discovery is a passion.

What inspired you to start The Curl Talk Project?

I was very inspired by the diversity found within the natural hair community, but I was also very frustrated by the repetitive beauty angle linked to it. Hair is more than just hair. Very often, it is a clear representation of your cultural background and heritage, but for some reason I couldn’t find anything about this topic. I couldn’t find anything about what it means to have curly hair in a society where it’s not seen as the norm. The curly hair experience is more than beauty tips and beauty routines. It’s much deeper as it is linked to our personal history or should I say life story. We can’t deny the fact that a majority of curly haired women, including myself, struggle with their natural hair – refusing this part of them and denying the essence of its profound meaning. Because this was missing, I created this project, which for me is a perfect way to start a conversation about beauty standards, diversity, and the struggle linked to a lack of representation.

What are the biggest insights you have gained while interviewing people and working on this project?

I made a point of interviewing women coming from diverse social and ethnic background, and from different age range. Even though they experienced being curly haired women in different ways, they all had one thing in common. They all felt highly pressured to relax their curls, from one country to another, from one culture to another. This confirmed my belief that straight hair is a standard that has been imposed all over the world and on every woman, as much as other types of unrealistic beauty expectations.

How do you feel about society’s relationship with natural textured/curly hair?

It’s improving, people have no choice anyway as so many women are progressively happier to accept their naturalness but also decide to be strong advocates of it. However, ignorance is still very noticeable, especially in the workplace.  Negative comments and “non-authorized“ hands in our hair are still commonplace. Interrogations such as “how did you make it look that way?” show the extent of the issue. Curly hair is as normal as straight hair. Having a hair type that is different from yours doesn’t make me an alien. It just makes us different from each other at that level and that’s ok.

You have created a place for women to share their experiences and hair journeys. We would love to hear your #CurlStory.

As a young girl, I always hated my hair. I started blow drying around nine, straightening at twelve, and chemically relaxing at sixteen. Naturalness kicked off around 22 when I started to be more comfortable in my own skin, more vocal. I simply wanted to be perceived as the woman I was ready to become: confident and proud. Big curly hair was the perfect tool to express this feeling. Out of nowhere, I decided to shave my head in October 2017 and started seeing tiny curls growing out of my head. I find it nurturing. When people tell me that no care is needed now, because I have short hair, I can’t help but disagree. I am giving my hair another chance to grow healthy from the beginning and I am really enjoying the process.

Is there something that people who don’t have naturally textured and/or curly hair can take away from this project?

Not having curly hair doesn’t mean that you can dismiss the curly hair experience. As I said, hair is more than just hair. It’s linked to identity, ancestry and can have a strong social meaning for many. Not understanding/experiencing this doesn’t mean that it’s a trivial or nonexistent topic.

How did you meet the women you interviewed? Do you plan on interviewing more people?

I started with friends of friends and then expanded, speaking to women I would cross paths with on the streets or at some networking event. But social media was my main source. Interviewing more women is definitely one of my plans for this year. I want The Curl Talk Project to become an ongoing project.

What is the best curl advice you’ve been given and/or given to someone else?

To people who keep saying that curly hair isn’t manageable I just respond that the minimum they can do is try to understand it better. Having your natural hair on your head is just a wonderful feeling, especially after having spent decades hating it! Try to listen to it, see what works, what doesn’t and embrace it, as this is totally part of the journey.

Of the AG products you’ve tried, what’s your go-to so far, and why?

Re:coil curl activator has been amazing to my hair. For the past year, I could see some of my curls becoming straighter for some reason. Re:coil acted as a miracle on these particular curls!

What is your favourite thing about your hair?

I simply love the versatility of it. That’s what curly hair is all about really.

Thank you, Johanna for creating an amazing platform for these stories, and for sharing your #CurlStory with us!


Image Credits: Johanna Yaovi, Ornella Kolle, Lydie Lyloutte, @thecurltalkproject