Vatika UK recognises that women come in all shapes and sizes, and we all carry stories that make each of us unique. Often our hair is more closely tied to our personal journey than we think.
OVERCOMING INHIBITIONS TO BE YOURSELF!
Why can't we have it all? Karenjeet is proof that you can.
A powerlifter and the first British Sikh female to represent GB, she is 3 times all England champion, two times British champion and was the Commonwealth champion 2019, as well as a full time, qualified working professional in the corporate world. She remembers her mum waking up early to plait her hair - two plaits, the stereotypical hairstyle for young South Asian girls. She takes pride in her hair and keeps it long because it's a representation of her culture and heritage.
In terms of her sport, it's always been important to keep her hair well maintained. Working in a male dominated sport is challenging in itself, let alone the added judgement of not conforming to the perceived norm. The norm is whatever you want it to be. She wants to inspire other women, if she can do it, anyone can. She smashes stereotypes, is proud of her heritage and represents a strong woman.
Thank you Karenjeet for sharing your story.
Rani found her #strongerroots and inspires others to find theirs
So many people feel a huge sense of distress and trauma when they lose their hair. Hair is such a huge part of our identity; so many change it during key milestones in their life, be it the cut, colour, even style. But when hair loss is due to an illness, that choice is taken away. When a cancer diagnosis is given, one of the many thoughts that might go through a patient’s mind when facing chemo is often about whether they will lose their hair.
South Asian women are traditionally associated with long, dark, flowing hair. Therefore it comes as no surprise that south Asian women in particular feel many psychological distresses of losing hair. These are ironically both helped and exacerbated by cultural issues: family, community, and faith.
Thank you to Rani who has bravely, for the very first time, shared her personal journey and where the root of her strength lay in getting her through this difficult period in her life.
"MY STRONGER ROOTS HAVE ALLOWED ME TO BLOSSOM!"
Raheem Mir is a dancer and choreographer who has graced many a stage. Raheem identifies as gender fluid and ticks the “gay male” box when he has to. Indian classical dance has allowed Raheem to explore his sexuality as a person, by allowing him to express both his femininity and masculinity.
Growing his hair has been part of this journey, allowing him to feel more comfortable in who he is. It’s allowed him to feel more powerful to just be himself and it's become a political statement of his queerness. However, long black silky hair is also a traditional symbol of South Asian feminine beauty, and it’s no different for Raheem.
His strong connection to his roots and heritage doesn’t just come from dance. He is incredibly close to mum and grandmother - he says his mum is like his sister! As he grew his hair, his grandmother showed him how to plait and look after his hair traditionally, oiling it regularly and imparting love and wisdom at the same time. He knows he’s lucky to have a family that supports his choices and encourages him to be himself.
Raheem has hair that many South Asian women would envy! Swearing by hair oils, he explained to us that so many people in the queer Indian community have grown up using hair oils as a rasam (ritual) and he’s proud to represent his community, both South Asian and queer.
Raheem is far from any stereotype: he’s articulate, intelligent, funny and has just that right amount of sass we all wish we sometimes had!
Thank you so much to Raheem for agreeing to be a part of our story.
Huji's story #strongerroots
Why can’t grey be glamorous? Make up artist Huji shows us how it’s done!
Historically, South Asian women have used henna and other natural methods that colour hair, but these were used more for their other nourishing properties than for the purpose of changing hair colour. Did you know, it was not until the early 1900s when hair dye was first introduced to the market, that the negative connotations around grey hair and ageing emerged to advertise the product!
Just before Lockdown, Huji had a huge epiphany in regard to hair and decided to ditch the dye and embrace going grey, and during lockdown, it’s something we know so many women have been trying to embrace.
The biggest issue for Huji is how she would be perceived amongst her clients as a MUA. She constantly works with models on shoots in and around a glamorous scene, and even everyday women who want to look “perfect”, making them up and dressing them to conform to modern day beauty stereotypes. Going grey is perceived as an “imperfection”. Would her clients and younger women that come to her lose faith in her. But why couldn’t grey be glamorous?!
Traditional South Asian beauty has always been synonymous with long black flowing hair, and she reflects that there is a definitely a stigma; in the Indian culture once you go grey you're seen as a 'Bibi' (old aunty), and perhaps because our hair is darker, it is always more noticeable.
Huji has been documenting her grey hair journey to show that going grey is glamorous and even more - it is actually extremely liberating!
Henika’s story #strongerroots
Henika is an international yoga and meditation teacher, but her career started very differently. Though things have moved on somewhat, so many still feel the pressure of academic and professional success with a “proper job”.
Henika caught malaria a few years ago and due to the medication, lost a lot of her hair. At that point she felt she lost her identity and realised how important her hair was to her and went on a journey to regain her hair through natural methods. During this process, she left the corporate career behind and embarked on this journey of listening to her body and helping others to do the same for a healthier and more fulfilling life, whatever you want it to be.
Focussing on the things that matter to you is important; when she worked in the corporate world, she had questioned even small things such as getting regular haircuts to fit in with what was expected of her. When she quit her corporate job to travel and teach Yoga she allowed it to grow and be natural, and has not cut it since. It feels like it's been a journey back to her roots, and cutting it represented trying to fit into a world where she didn't belong. Like everything else in her life now, she's looked after it intuitively by listening to her body, rather than subscribing to the idea that you have to cut it every six weeks!
As a young girl she remembers always wanting to do her own hair, hating Sundays when her dad would do her hair and it would be really tight! She reflects on the ritual of massaging oil into someone's hair as a way of showing love - Indians aren't always so good at overtly showing love but it shows through rituals of self-care and passing those lessons on - it's a beautiful way to connect and a luxury.