Solange Knowles says that she pays a price for demanding control over her body and presentation. She discusses the topic in an abridged version of her Evening Standard magazine cover story, which ran online Wednesday (October 18):
“To be honest, owning my body this year was really important to me.
“That can mean a lot of things. That can be in physical form—wanting to have control over my physical body—and also wanting to have control in the way it is presented to the world.
“And it isn’t always easy. I often lose opportunities based on my will to want to navigate through that ownership of my body in the most authentic way.”
She asserts this message on her song, “Don’t Touch My Hair,” whose title references a common microaggression against Black women. The song’s lyrics call for the world to honor her personal boundaries and self-expression; they connect with the broader themes of Black women’s autonomy and healing through oppressive trauma that permeate her 2016 album “A Seat at the Table.”
Evening Standard’s design team apparently missed the point of the song and the interview. Teen Vogue reports that the cover photo omitted a tall, halo-shaped portion of her hairstyle. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the cover and the original photo, as sourced from Knowles’ Instagram:
Knowles posted the photo to her Instagram account yesterday (October 19), captioning it “DTMH,” in reference to the song:
Evening Standard did not address Knowles’ comment as of press time. The magazine posted the following gallery of cover shoot photos, which includes a shot with the full halo, to its Instagram yesterday:
Evening Standard published the full cover story online today (October 20), the same day that the print issue hits newsstands. In the following excerpt, author Angelica Bastien discusses seeing Knowles perform “Don’t Touch My Hair” and talks to the artist about her formative experiences in her mother’s salon:
This summer, I saw Knowles headline the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago. Largely made up of the songs from her latest album—”a project on identity, empowerment, independence, grief and healing,” she says. Her performance was astounding, acting as both a celebration of Black joy and soulful depiction of Black political identity. A fierce dedication to speak to her audience was apparent during “Don’t Touch My Hair”: specifically dedicated to the Black women in the audience who—myself included—blissfully sang along.
Braiding is important to Knowles. It is an “act of beauty, an act of convenience and an act of tradition”—it is “its own art form,” she adds. Every Black woman has a personal journey with her own hair, and for Knowles it began in her mother’s salon which was a refuge—”a spare bedroom so to speak”—for her as a young girl. Growing up there was pivotal. “I got to experience women arriving in one state of mind and leaving in a completely transformed way. It wasn’t just about the hair. It was about the sisterhood and the storytelling. Being a young girl who was really active in dance, theater and on the swim team, the salon was a kind of safe haven.”