Why Madisin Rian’s Decision to Shave Her Head Is a Revolutionary Act of Self-Love

The model buzzed her hair six years ago and has never looked back.

Madisin Rian was photographed by James Macari in the Dominican Republic. <em>Earrings by Lele Sadoughi.</em><p>James Macari/Sports Illustrated</p>
Madisin Rian was photographed by James Macari in the Dominican Republic. Earrings by Lele Sadoughi.

James Macari/Sports Illustrated

Madisin Rian has made her mark in the modeling industry over the course of her 15-year career. She became the face of Armani Beauty in 2018 and has starred in campaigns for fashion-forward brands like Polo Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan and J.Crew.

Outside of work, the model is passionate about human rights and is working on a foundation that will provide clean drinking water to impoverished areas in Africa.

The self-described introvert says that she loves having fun and living in the moment, a trait that led her to make a bold and beautiful fashion choice in 2017: Rian shaved her head.

“I just woke up one day and I just buzzed it off,” she says. “I did that because I just wanted to be free.”

Rian says that since Black women are often judged by their hair, shaving her head was an act of self-love. In doing so, she proved to herself that her worth is not defined by her hair.

“I think that Black women are judged a lot by their hair, and for me, I just wanted to be free of all limitations and just change the narrative that like, as a woman, you don’t need hair to be beautiful,” she says. “We have spirits. We’re actual human beings. And beauty is not defined just by the length of your hair, the texture of your hair, or makeup or anything.”

Furthermore, Rian says she doesn’t miss her long hair, and, six years later, she has no plans to grow it back out.

“I actually love it, “ she admits. “I would never grow my hair back out again because I feel like I’m so liberated and free from that stigma and I really just want to represent for women out there like myself who feel that same way.”

Rian shares that shaving her head helped free herself of self-imposed limitations. She says the act made her feel free and confident. She also hopes she’s inspiring women to live more authentically along the way.

“What I’m doing is definitely, in my opinion, making a statement and changing a narrative for just women in general, but especially Black women in fashion,” she adds. “To have this platform to also be the face of Armani Beauty, it’s like a duty. It’s a responsibility for me to represent for so many women out there that feel the same way and to free them of judgment or any pressure that anyone may have on them.”

In fact, when Rian posted a video clip of herself cutting her own hair on Instagram, the moment quickly went viral. She says she was then flooded with requests from women asking her to teach them how to buzz their own hair.

“I had no idea how many women also were really inspired to just cut their hair from that,” she says. “Cutting my own hair was something that I learned just from not having the access to a barber whenever I’m traveling, so it was really cool for me to see the reaction from that and to inspire women to learn how to buzz and shave their own hair.”

Meet Madisin Rian—read the 2023 SI Swimsuit rookie’s full feature profile here.