PEOPLE: Coiffeur Widny Bazile on working all sides of the camera, the lack of haircare afforded afro-textured models in the fashion industry, and giving the ‘full package’ as an artistic director
Hair + Creative Direction: Widny Bazile
Interview: Hasadri Freeman
Photographers: Widny Bazile, Out Here Visuals, Juliet Wolf, Shikeith, Julia Silverman, + Tortee Roberts
Makeup Artists: Widny Bazile, Amreen Bean, + Maxine Christians
Stylists: Lisa N. Hoang + Hodo Musa
Additional Credits: Zanah Marie, [email protected] Billions, Annabel Snoxall, Jazmine Hughes + Picture House & The Small Darkroom
Models: Widny Bazile, Visto, Aluna, Aissa Umaru, Jasmine Daniels at Ford Models, Lil Nas X, Pink Siifu, Tiffany Lupien, Folasade Armani, Tortee Roberts, Lia Liza, + Jimi Rage
Widny Bazile was hairstyling long before she officially claimed the title. Hair functioned as a point of pride in her Haitian upbringing, but her labour didn’t end there. Entering the world of fashion and beauty as a model often booked for her powerful afro, most of the time she became the unacknowledged hair artist for herself while on set because the teams always lacked a hairstylist that worked with afro-textured hair. “It’s crazy to be asked for something specific that obviously needs care and attention, but then to routinely be the one providing that care.” Her experiences as a model were finally what launched her into taking the reins: now she’s working under her own brand, claiming credit for the work she’s done for so long. And it doesn’t stop there; on her shoots, she’s always the hairstylist – or coiffeur, as she’d say – but also the creative director, often makeup artist and even photographer to boot. Constantly paying homage to her homeland and the black textures whose ignorance and lack of care within the industry she’s experienced firsthand, she’s working to give what she never got – joyously championing black hair textures, challenging cultural gender norms around hair, and cultivating a creative space where everyone is afforded care and prosperity.
What is your relationship to your own hair? Has your ‘hair history’ affected your artistic practice? My relationship with my hair is infinite and personal. It is a major part of who I am, my upbringing. I grew up doing my own hair after not loving the way my father and others would do it. Of course, I was a little girl, and little girls love their hair and are particular about how it’s coiffed. I had freedom, and I took on the journey of styling my very own hair at a young age; ever since, it has always been my responsibility. My art is also infinite, personal and my responsibility, so my hair and art fit together like gloves.
How did you enter the hair business? I honestly believe I’ve always been a part of the hair business. My work as a model has always been featured in many different things, especially the ones with my hair out – and trust, I am very grateful for all that I’ve done. My move to the other side of the camera is really not a complaint, just growth. But I was always the one to do my hair for every single job, and I was never credited or acknowledged. One day, I decided to give myself the full credit and love I deserve. That’s really how it all started: with me.
How do you begin crafting a style? The beginning of crafting a style is different each time, but it’s always what I see and feel. My imagination runs free like a river, and it’s all about understanding where to take it.
Do you feel your experience on the front side of the camera as a model has informed how you approach a shoot or a hair creation? My experience on the front side of the camera as a model has definitely informed how I approach creative direction, with hair or anything else. You know, it’s not the easiest to be in front of the camera when you’re not given all the tools needed; preparations, directions, hair, makeup, styling, set designs, etc. It’s easier now to be officially in control of what needs to get done. On the majority of my shoots, even the ones planned by someone else, it’s always been my own duty and priority to get myself ready, because no one ever brings the full package. I never received what I offer as a creative director, on the other side as a model. It’s why I’ve created my own world where I feel seen, and where others belong. I know for sure I always and will always do everything in my power to bring the full package to a client or collaborator, because I’ve always wanted to receive that – not games or lesser treatment.
What about black hair textures lend themselves so well to your sculptural style? Black hair textures are the most beautiful textures. Losing your texture or damaging your hair feels like one of the worst feelings – to revive it you’ve got to cut it, even though this may not be a decision you were ready to make.
One of my purposes behind hair furniture designs is to remember and acknowledge the beauty behind our textures. The majority of my designs are incorporated in high class hairstyling and decor, which means they are sculpted to be worn out or to be displayed as sculptural art.
We came across your work in depth on TikTok. How has social media contributed to your business? It’s actually wild to me that you’ve found me on TikTok, because I had just started sharing and posting more, allowing myself to branch towards new audiences. I am honoured! I can honestly say social media has been a great tool for my businesses even as a model, but I had to take a break away from modelling and posting. There are many reasons for that, but one has been the heavy weight of “posting constantly” in order to get approval, or feeling like if things aren’t posted, a job wouldn’t come. But it’s simply not true; having my peace has contributed to so many new blessings and it’s allowed me to look at the bigger picture. I’m even ready to step back into modelling – after all, it is my first creative love – but this time, I will be in control.
@widnystudios 23rd episode of “HAIR BY WIDNY” | @jordanblake105 in our “CHANDELIER” which is also one of our furniture pieces we showcased earlier ! We’ve yet to release the photos but soon to come | #WidnyStudios #WidnyCoiffure #CoiffedByWidny #HairFurniture #HairByWidny #CoiffedFurniture #makeupbyWidny ♬ Fire for You - Cannons
@widnystudios When people ask how long it takes to make a #coiffedfurniture …. Lol, it takes a full day just to braid alone & this piece i’ve created is for someone very special to us & we can’t wait till they receives the gift ❤️ #HairFurniture #WidnyStudios #CoiffedByWidny ♬ you look lonely - jimbotheboy
You’ve recently begun a furniture line based around braids and sculpturally formed black hair. What inspired you to incorporate hair into furniture and decor? Yes, indeed I have. There are many inspirations, and one that I am not ready to speak on just yet, but…
Growing up in Haiti, my hair was always known to be beautiful. It was always coiffed. There’s not a baby photo of me in which my hair doesn’t look good. My hair was never a problem, and my father made sure I had the right tools. Moving to America, black hair was seen as something people spat on, which caused many young black girls to perm, add products that weren’t made for our roots, or get rid of our kinkiness.
I want to preface that I respect all cultures. However, in many African countries, most children would get their hair cut against their will, with many schools mandating that girls cut their hair in the belief that it removes the distraction of hair upkeep so they can focus on school. There are also laws created in the U.S. to prevent discrimination against black hair, because our roots are so hated. But our hair isn’t who we are, it’s simply part of us – and we must cherish all of us.
People see the furniture and they think “wow, beautiful,” but do you feel this way when you look at me? Because if you can look at my hair furniture pieces and think of them so highly, then this is exactly how you should view and approach black hair at all times.
You’ve mentioned in interviews what it means, emotionally, to do a man’s hair for them. Can you elaborate? Coiffing a man’s hair is always an emotional moment for me. It is a comfort like no other, because our generation was taught to have a certain perspective on boys and the men they grow up to be – but truthfully, I don’t believe there should be a specific way to live as a man.
These ideologies and stereotypes like blue vs. pink are questionable and unnecessary, because a colour cannot identify who someone should be, how they should act, nor what they should wear. We are all experiencing a life and one should be able to live their experiences to the fullest extent.
Hair is natural, it grows. But it is taught where a woman should have it or not, and that a man basically has no options, because once they do something more creative, they are automatically judged or designated “out of character.” These things should not determine who someone is. I recently traveled back to Haiti a few days ago after 14 years away. When I left as a young girl, my dad did not have long hair, but over the past few years, he’s been growing it. To be able to return home as an adult, do his hair, and take his photographs was something I cannot explain. It was a blessing. I want to continue my journey, learn, grow, and be able to create a space where more men feel seen and comfortable.
How has your Haitian background and upbringing influenced your creativity and/or creative foci? Haiti is home. You always feel comfortable and loved at home. It is your sanctuary. Everything that I do is for my people, upbringing and future. Without my home, I wouldn’t fit in anywhere in the world. Anywhere I go, I must bring my aesthetic, and it is always going to be Haiti-inspired.
You’ve also talked about feeling tokenised as a model due to your Afro, citing that as the reason for your current bald shave. Oh yes, this topic could honestly be a movie! It has been a ridiculous journey in modelling when it came to my Afro, and I am so happy I was able to bring this side of myself out into the world for the ones who truly needed me. But I truly believe at some point it was fetishised because if I didn’t have my hair out, it’s like I wasn’t there.
Trust me, I get it, it’s the textures, it’s the puff of it all, but I was never just my hair – it was a part of me. It’s crazy to be asked for something specific that obviously needs care and attention, but then to routinely be the one providing that care. I would be the one forced to do my own hair without being credited properly, all the while being asked for it to be a perfect circle. It truly became a curtain with no wind – stifling. I couldn’t get out of the shadow of my hair. So much weighed on my puff, and finally, I needed to release it. There are many reasons for my cut, and it’s been one of the best moments of my life. If anyone told me I’d feel this beautiful and free, I would’ve had my cut a long time ago. But this isn’t something you can be taught, told or something that can even be done by someone else. It is a journey you’ve got to take yourself. The weight that has been lifted is unspeakable, and my face – you truly see my face.
What is your dream project? Wow, I have so many dreams, and I always say, “your blessings already have your name on them.” But one dream job I’m sure of is to work on a special project with the lovely Robyn Rihanna Fenty, building a foundation for Haiti. I truly cannot keep up – I lose my he(art) when I know my people are dying everyday, that the little help we do get always ends up in the wrong hands, causing disasters and costing lives.
There came a moment where I truly couldn’t keep sharing my art if I didn’t go back to Haiti. Nothing made sense anymore. What was I doing all this for? Where was my soul in this? I needed motivation, to feel, my family, love…after 14 years, I returned to visit.
Everyday I pray to God for patience and the perfect opportunity to really start something. All I know for now is that that something is my art. I will forever use my privileges and advantages to create opportunities for the ones who have not had a taste of true life, love or care. So, yes, that is my dream project, and it is my dream to make it come true.