Zarah is the founder of Embrace Your Frizzique, a platform helping women of colour claim back their natural hair.
Every now and then, you come across someone doing something so inspiring it makes you stop in your tracks and immediately want to hear more. Zarah is one of these people. She’s the founder of Embrace Your Frizzique, a platform that works to empower people – especially young women – with the ability and confidence to reconnect with their natural hair.

Zarah’s mission is to celebrate those who are often excluded from mainstream fashion and media. To do this she takes a multi-faceted approach, harnessing everything from content creation and creative projects through to events and hairdressing itself. We caught up with Zarah – who we first met on the Hype shop floor – to find out all about Embrace your Frizzique and what she’s currently working on.

Hey Zarah, thanks for taking the time to sit down with us. Can you tell the Hype community a little about what you do?
My life is composed of various jobs and positions but I have recently moved to Sydney as a full-time curl stylist, where I get to be physically creative and master the art of curly and coily hair. It’s allowed my knowledge to grow immensely and gives me the ability to deepen my understanding of natural hair from a different perspective. When I am not at working as a curl stylist, I invest my time in my platform Embrace your Frizzique.

How did you come up with the idea for Embrace Your Frizzique? And tell us a little about it.
EYF came together through my own natural hair journey which found me transitioning my damaged, relaxed hair back to my natural roots. Through this I found myself questioning my identity and my blackness which lead me to having more conversations around black identity, natural hair and existing in white spaces. EYF began as an online platform where my goal was to make caring for and maintaining natural hair an easier experience. And to create a more accessible community than what I found at the time of transitioning. I started with creating YouTube videos comparing and reviewing hair products, demonstrating simple hairstyles on my hair which also included fun and engaging vlogs. Soon the community began to expand and I found myself curating and hosting events such as community picnics, meetups and networking events. Most recently I collaborated with Converse on my event Fro’Z N Beat’Z which is an event made to connect black female DJs across the diaspora in one safe and inclusive space. Whichever route I take, the message of empowerment, unity and inclusivity always remains.

What do you hope to achieve with EYF?
Through EYF I hope to continue constructing a bigger and stronger community, creating awareness through community events and creative projects and having the physical skills to showcase the limitless possibilities of natural hair. I hope to build an aware society regardless of if you have natural hair or not – and deepen the understanding of the importance of celebrating those who are commonly excluded from the mainstream market. In the future however, my goal is to create a multifunctional space where I can do all the things I love around the people who have supported me the most.

What advice would you give to women who are struggling to embrace their natural hair?
My best advice to people struggling to embrace their crown, is to first identify what is making them feel discouraged about their hair. Once they can acknowledge this, then it would be to find easy strategies they can build on to get to a level of confidence and fulfillment to embrace their hair. It’s also important to understand that everyone's hair is different – this is something I struggled with in the beginning especially being surrounded by long, loose curl types. A lot of the natural hair market was centered around this, which made me feel like my hair type was still outside of the norm. The journey to embracing yourself wholeheartedly is not a seamless one, it’s difficult and I definitely feel social media makes it seem like an overnight job. The world will make you feel insecure but it’s your responsibility to hold your head high and love yourself the most.

What advice would you give your teenage self?
I would tell my teenage self to remain authentic, to embrace her hair, her features and her skin at all times – even when the world says it is not good enough.

And how about the best advice you’ve ever received?
The best advice I have received in most recent times is to live for now. In a fast paced world where everyone seems to be doing one hundred different things at a time, you can easily find yourself doing things for your future self, while neglecting your current self. I often find myself busy, trying to move onto my next project or idea without taking enough time to check in on current Zarah. Doing so, has given me a sense of peace and stability which I was struggling to find for some time.

With IWD coming up, can you tell us about the women you’re most inspired by?
I am inspired by the women who surround me on a day-to-day basis – being my mum and nonna (grandma) who raised me to be resilient and to not take no for an answer but to strive for what I want. They taught me to never settle for less and to stand tall for what I believe in. Other women who inspire me are my friends Ivy (@whosivy) and Cat (@cpash). Both are ambitious women in the creative industries who have supported the journey and growth of EYF immensely.

What do you think women can do to help and empower other women?
Empowerment to me is encouraging and uplifting women without jealousy or feeling a sense of competition. I think as young women we can learn to embrace change and differences better and uplift someone without second notions. The world is huge and everyone can have a seat at the table without knocking someone out of the way.

What does feminism mean to you?
Intersectional. Feminism to me is including women of colour, in particular black women, at the table when it comes to the discussion of feminism. It’s to understand that different women have different struggles and to move forward in the fight for equality, to understand that individual women face distinctive challenges in different complexities. For some time, the face of feminism has lacked representation of all races, religions and cultures. The fight for equality has excluded women who are still fighting for basic human rights and once we can acknowledge this we can move forward, collectively.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing young women in 2020?
I personally believe that one of the biggest challenges we face as young women is comparison. Again, social media can make you feel like the work you’re doing is not good enough or you are not doing it fast enough. We can often find ourselves comparing ourselves to people we’ve never met, and forget that everyone is on a different journey – one that we often know nothing about. It’s super important to hold ourselves accountable and be aware that the only way we can come together is to do our best at empowering ourselves and those around us.

This year’s IWD theme is #EachforEqual. What changes do you think we can all make as individuals to work towards a gender-equal world?
As individuals, the best change we can make is to prioritise, listen to and protect all women. Whether that be through work, institutions or everyday living. It’s also important to use your voice and to speak up when someone is being discriminated against or treated unfairly, if it’s safe to do so. To move forward means to use the power you have and to make change whether big or small. Change is change, and the world needs more of it urgently.
Another important change comes internally. Many people may be uneducated when it comes to understanding race and power, but in order to achieve a more gender-equal world it’s up to individuals to hold themself accountable and educate themselves on issues that may not directly affect them. This is not to be mistaken for understanding the struggle of being a minority but instead to be aware that racism and privilege exists and how to use it in the scope of protecting not only POC but members of the LGBTQI + communities.

What are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of my resilience to keep pushing forward. There have been many obstacles throughout the years – whether that be personal circumstances, people or environments that have discouraged the growth of EYF and its ability to move forward. However, I’ve always known that this platform is bigger than me and that I have the opportunity to empower a young, black child to love their hair and see the beauty in their skin. Knowing that I am making changes whether big or small, inspires me.

You’re obviously super busy. If you do find yourself with some spare time, what do you like to do?
In my spare time you can either find me cooking something new and interesting, finding top memes on twitter to diss my friends, or listening to a wholesome playlist.

How would you describe your style? And what sneakers are you wearing at the moment?
I have a very mixed masc/femme style. You can catch me in a bandana, extra large T-shirt, baggy jeans and Jordan 1’s on Monday and in a classic chic fit with a pair of Converse 70s on a Tuesday. I dress how I feel for the day, and whatever is most comfortable. Currently, I’m tossing between my Chuck 70 Logo Play Low and black adidas Superstar 80s.

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