STANDING TALL: Lekia Lée in front of her campaign billboard
A MUM-OF-ONE who convinced a billboard company to display positive images of black women and girls with natural hair has vowed to make her initiative an annual event.
Lekia Lée, from Romford in Essex, approached UK Billboards just before International Women’s Day on 8 March in an attempt to redress the poor representation of black females with natural hair in the UK.
She was concerned that her daughter Siira – now 11 years old – was growing up in an environment where many black females she came into contact with were not publicly wearing their own hair.
Lée, the founder of Project Embrace, which promotes the visibility of black women wearing their hair natural in media and advertising, decided to design a billboard featuring ordinary women and girls showcasing their natural hair.
The former broadcast journalist set up a crowdfunding page with the aim of raising £20,000. She shared her initiative across social media and canvassed support from hair clinics and hair care brands.
Interest in the concept was strong but when the crowdfunding page went live, the response was “dismal”, Lée said. Undeterred by the poor response, she approached billboard companies and to her surprise secured a deal with UK Billboards.
The company donated two advertising slots for two weeks on the A4 Cromwell Road, near to West Kensington Tube station. The adverts ended on 22 March.
Following the billboard being featured on BBC London, Lée has been inundated with offers of support, media interviews and invites for speaking engagements. She was even contacted by a big hair care brand she had initially approached but had had no reply from.
“All sorts of people such as trichologists, dermatologists and those running hair clinics have been calling me,” she said.
“They are all saying the same thing, that something needs to be done because black women are losing their hair when they don’t need to and a lot of it is down to hair practices.”
According to market research company Mintel, the estimated size of the black hair care market in the US was $946 million (£766 million) in 2015.
“Black women can do whatever they want to do with their hair.
“They can chemically straighten it, cover it with a wig – but no matter what we do with our hair when it grows out of our scalp, it has got a curl and is afro textured.
“So really this campaign is for all of us.”
Keen to keep the momentum going, Lée plans to make the billboard campaign an annual event that will move to different parts of the UK every year. As part of the initiative, women and girls with natural hair will be invited to audition as models.
In the interim, Lèe is planning on taking the two existing billboards to Birmingham in the next few months and will be organising school visits and mother-and-daughter workshops throughout the year.
The public can still donate towards Project Embrace’s on-going initiative by clicking here.
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