As a young girl, I remember the thrill of excitement I would get every time my mum brought home Black Hair magazine, Black Beauty and Hair, and Sophisticate’s Black Hair Styles and Care Guide. Before mum could sit down with a cup of tea and flick through her new glossy purchases, I had already scoured them all and decided on the next hairstyle I wanted done on my relaxed tresses.
As you can tell, hair has always been an important fixture not just on my head, but in my life. Until I went natural in 2010, I thought I knew all there was to know about hair. But after I did the big chop (I told my friend to cut of my relaxed ends with Ikea scissors – wild, I know.) I realised I didn’t. Becoming natural was a journey, and I don’t just mean knowing what products worked best for my hair or how to do a bomb twist out, it was about learning how to be comfortable in MY skin, knowing who I was as black woman and the true strength and raw beauty I possessed.
That’s why the mission of CRWN magazine – “to create a progressive dialogue around what it really means to “go natural” – resonated with me. Over coffee at their work space in Chelsea, New York, I had the pleasure of chopping it up with CRWN co-founders Lindsey Day and Nkrumah Farrar. With Lindsey acting as Editor-in-chief and Nkrumah acting as creative director, this powerhouse duo have combined talents to execute a truly revolutionary product.
Lindsey on how it all began
Nkrumah and I connected way back in the day on the first project he creative directed and the first one I edited. We stayed friends for years.
Nkrumah has always been a little bit ahead of his time on the tech side of things. I had worked in a couple of women’s empowerment organisations and start-ups and within the media. One day I happened to be in town and he had an idea, it really struck a chord with me and my personal hair journey experience so we blended our perspectives, core competencies and skillsets and that’s how we came to be.
Nkrumah on being a man creating a product for black women
The state of thinking in our black women is so important. I understand that if we elevate the thinking of black women and engage them in higher thought (not just entertain them) then that benefits the whole world. Marcus Garvey spent special time and attention focusing on organising and empowering women. He in fact, had a newspaper specifically for women. The honourable Elijah Muhammad was very clear that 75 per cent of his work was with the sisters because he knew that having empowered and upright women, would make it so that all the men around them had to be the same. And so, my drive to do CRWN is really to serve the sisters and create content that builds esteem but also engages our readers in higher thought. As much as the magazine is an aesthetic endeavour, it is also fertile ground for new dialogue and and thinking. And we love thinking women.
If we elevate the thinking of black women and engage them in higher thought, then that benefits the whole world
The response to CRWN so far
Nkrumah: The response has been overwhelmingly positive. On Instagram, we get comments that are paragraphs long, so we know that what we’re doing is resonating with our women followers.
Lindsey: At Afropunk last year (2015), we decided to test our MVP (minimum viable product) by creating a small folded, printed piece. We really strategized around what type of content and imagery would be included. We had our problem that we solved, we had our promise statement then we had different content within that that was either useful, helpful or gave a sneak peek of what was to come. When we put it in people’s hands, saw their eyes light up and say: “Oh my gosh, this is amazing”, we knew why we were doing it. To see other people have such a strong reaction to the first part of our vision, we knew we HAD to continue. We had to answer the call. It’s only been a year since we’ve been a real thing and we’ve had sisters and brothers saying: “You need to be speaking here”, “I have a person that needs to write for you” and “I know a brand that you should connect with” so it’s been a joint effort. We now have interns and people that have stepped up a little more officially along the way. But our Huffington Post coverage came from a tweet. It’s simple things, but there’s an appetite for the subject matter, right now especially.
On what makes CRWN different to other natural hair publications or blogs
Nkrumah: I think one of the reasons why were different is because we’ve created a print product smack dab in the middle of the digital age. There isn’t a print magazine in the states that showcases the diversity and the beauty of a black woman in a true way. Usually, when you see photography of the black woman, the superstars are the only ones that get the diva treatment. All the other black women get the vixen treatment and there are a lot of oversexualised images. There’s no place to really see the truth about who black women are. We also differentiate in design and aesthetic.
The style of photography we use is different. When we are selecting photographers and I’m looking at portfolios, I can tell right away whether they’re a good fit to work with us just by the way they photograph women. We’re looking to capture the nuance, subtle beauty in black women. Also, we’ve been really smart about what we attempt to do with the magazine.
The genesis of all of this is the YouTube hair tutorial and having a sister from somewhere else in the world, look right into the camera and you being on the other side of the screen looking, and learning about your own hair.
We’re very clear that we can’t do a tutorial better than you can get on YouTube so instead, it’s about highlighting the women that do those for you [Whitney White aka Naptural85 graces the cover] and painting a picture of their lives and allowing you to connect with them in a different way.
On the content
Lindsey: There are different types of content beyond hair techniques. We have thought pieces on what’s happening in the world right now. We also discuss health, but from the perspective of what we care about and what affect us the most.
Nkrumah: We’re talking about family, relationships, re-productive health, nutrition and fashion. We also deal with travel – the importance of it and how it can affect a woman’s life for the better. This magazine is the portrait of the whole woman and all the sisters involved just so happen to have wonderful natural hair.
On the name
Nkrumah: We went back and forth but settled with CRWN. It’s a reference to something that you wear on your head that denotes royalty and importance.
It’s about engaging the crown chakra. It’s about engaging the mind of the reader and not just their vanity. A lot of our subscribers have been enticed by the aesthetic via Instagram and so when they finally get the magazine, they’re going to be quite satisfied. We’re going to put a crown on their mind.
Lindsey: Funnily enough, the conversation that started everything was on my rooftop in “Crown” Heights, Brooklyn. You can’t make that up! I feel that it was really meant to be.
CRWN is produced quarterly and is now available for order. Get yours at: crwnmag.com
Photos: Travis Matthews, Nkrumah Farrar, Victoria Sanders
Find and Follow CRWN on: