Beauty and the Braid - Spreading Body Positivity through Colouring

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At just 22, Sadie Jordan has earned a first-class degree in Fashion Illustration and published her own colouring book.

Unlike most, Beauty and the Braid is a colouring book with an important message: one of empowerment for women of colour, encouraging positive self-reflection with a combination of inspirational quotes and celebratory illustrations to colour. 

We spoke to Sadie about her book, as we felt that projects like hers are crucial in combatting the eurocentricity of Western beauty standards. Read what she had to say below. 

Tell us what inspired you to create Beauty and the Braid. 

Beauty and the Braid is an illustrated colouring book that I created in my final year of BA Fashion Illustration at the London College of Fashion. On the course, our tutors constantly encouraged us to explore topics that we could relate to on a personal level to ensure we stayed engaged. As a mixed raced woman, I have always struggled with knowing how to style my hair and what products to use. Back when I was in school, I straightened my hair every single day because my older sister did it and I just didn’t have a clue how else to deal with it! The constant use of heat severely damaged my natural 3C curls and eventually I had to do the dreaded big chop. If I had known more about protective hairstyles such as box braids back then I’d probably still have booty length curls today! I want my book to encourage girls to nourish and protect their natural hair and stop using relaxers and straighteners despite what western beauty standards promote.

Don’t get me wrong, I love switching up my look with different hairstyles and I have nothing against straight hair! I occasionally have weaves installed but I’m more at ease knowing my natural hair is braided safely beneath those bundles. The book includes mandalas that I made by tracing over synthetic hair strands digitally. These are reminiscent of your everyday art therapy style adult colouring books and I included these to allow people time to de-stress and self-reflect.

How do you feel about the current level of representation Afro-Caribbean women receive in the beauty industry?

I have noticed an increase in the amount of positive representation women of colour are receiving in the fashion and beauty industries. I think the Western world still has a long way to go in terms of equal racial representation, however we are definitely taking steps in the right direction. It is refreshing to see a less tokenistic approach to representation in magazines and advertisements. I am hoping the days of brands poking a single pretty dark-skinned girl into the shot to appear more racially inclusive are coming to an end. If anything, these ‘token’ girls just highlight their lack of inclusion even more.

This being said, since Edward Enninful has taken over as Editor-in-chief of Vogue, the magazine’s narratives and imagery are genuinely more relatable to me as a woman of colour. I am happy to have been able to witness such a huge transition in fashion publication history. I love to see black excellence in any field! It’s a tough world to navigate so it’s inspiring to see those who excel and break boundaries.

As a young black woman yourself, do you think that publications like Beauty and the Braid would have helped you with your own body image issues growing up? 

Being confident is something I have struggled with personally my entire life and I’m still working on it to this day! It’s so hard to not compare yourself to others, especially in the soul sucking abyss that is social media. It’s hard not to feel insecure when you are bombarded with black barbies and BBL’s on a daily basis. However, I have recently tried to shift the focus from what other people want me to look and act like, to what version of me makes me feel good about myself, inside and out. One of my favourite quotes from Beauty and the Braid is “Whatever state I choose to show up in will always be enough.” This mantra from Chidera Eggerue (aka the Slumflower), screams ‘no fucks given’ to societal pressures on appearance. I am working towards her level of autonomy and self-love but I am definitely not there yet!

I’m sure if I had a copy of my book when I was younger, I would have seen all the pretty brown girls with cool hair and begged my mum to take me to the nearest hair salon immediately. Having a white mum style my hair throughout my childhood made for some pretty questionable school photos. Put it this way... edge control was not a staple in our household! I was always envious of mum’s 20 second ‘brush and go’ hair routine in comparison to my 20 minutes of detangling and a literal basket full of hair products and accessories. These are the things that probably drove my sister and I straight into the hands of Mr Remington Straighteners the second we were old enough! 

During my creative process, I spent a lot of time sourcing images of women of colour whom I thought exuded beauty and confidence whilst also rocking their own individual hair texture or braided hairstyle. I also drew from images of my braided besties. I wanted Beauty and the Braid to double up as a look book to inspire your next hairstyle.

What are you working on following the release of Beauty and the Braid? 

At the moment I just want to get Beauty and the Braid out into the world and spread its positive message. I am planning on creating an activity book with a combination of self-reflective and creative exercises. I have also been thinking about directing and shooting a look book inspired by Beauty and the Braid. A sort of photographic homage to the colouring book if you like! This would be in collaboration with the talented women who have braided my hair over the years including; Taiba Akhuetie, founder of Keash, Liah Lewis, owner of Signed by Liah and family friend Kathia Palmer, who gave me my first ever set of box braids - I never looked back since.

Beauty and the Braid is available to purchase online now.

Follow Sadie's illustration account for information on her upcoming projects and to view more of her work.