CRWN magazine launched the first official issue of its natural-hair publication at an intimate rooftop brunch in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, on Aug. 28. The launch comes almost a year to the day after CRWN saw its first iteration as a zine, which was handed out for free during the borough’s Afropunk music festival.
“[With the zine], we just wanted to put the essence of who we were out there and put it in people’s hands as soon as possible rather than waiting and building this huge thing to sell,” co-founder and editor-in-chief Lindsey Day tells Yahoo Beauty a week before the launch. Now, that “huge thing” comprises 137 pages and almost 20 contributors all on topics and issues of interest to women with natural hair.
“Black women have not been represented in an honest way in print,” Nkrumah Farrar, the publication’s creative director and Day’s business partner, tells Yahoo Beauty. The pair met working together on a blog on the West Coast, where Farrar still lives, but eventually reconnected and came up with CRWN on the very rooftop that the brunch was held. “The approach that has been taken is outdated visually and otherwise; we don’t just mean in hair magazines, we mean in magazines in general.” His statements ring true.
See yourselves in Whitney White, a woman who has impacted millions of lives and disrupted the Black hair industry by staying true to her authentic self. @naptural85 as seen by @a_kid_named_trav for the cover of #CRWNissueone Styling by @_ravenroberts Makeup by @delinamedhin More details via @lilly_works over at HuffPost @blackvoices [link in bio]
A photo posted by CRWN Magazine (@crwnmag) on Aug 17, 2016 at 4:01pm PDT
The cry for diversity and honest representation for women of color in the fashion and beauty industries is longstanding. Whether it’s no representation at all or representation based on outdated or ill-informed stereotypes of diverse cultures, the need for improvement seems ever present. Even in publications specifically targeted at black women, there seems to be a dearth of information available in print for women who have chosen to live a natural-hair lifestyle. As Farrar points out, the publications available now for the black hair market like Sophisticates, Hype Hair and Black Hair — few of which are owned or operated by black women — focus not only on “overprocessed” imagery but also on straightened, relaxed or otherwise processed hair. With its stark contrast to that approach, CRWN developed a cult following quickly.
“When we released our first zine, people were immediately interested,” Day says, pointing to inquiries about advertising and involvement with the brand, which boasts more than 15,000 followers on Instagram. “That was when it was really clear: OK, we have a product here, we just have to start building it out. People saw themselves in the product so much, and it wasn’t even the product yet. They wanted it so much they were, like, ‘No, this is going to come to life.‘” It was support from those fans, as well as contributors like Michaela Angela Davis and others like the Alley co-work space where CRWN has its office, that got things rolling.
Since the first zine, Day and Farrar have released three others on an ad hoc basis, all supported by advertising dollars. The first issue of the magazine was available for preorder that, according to Day, allowed them to print at a profit. The book also includes advertisements from celebrity hairstylist Vernon Francois and Mixed Chicks hair products. That strategic business plan, coupled with only Farrar and Day being employees of the magazine, makes for a profitable model.
The content also goes deeper than hair. “People are going to be pleasantly surprised,” Farrar says. “I think people are expecting to open up a natural version of Hype Hair, and it’s not that. We probably have more thought pieces and essays in the issue than we do things that are specifically pertaining to hair. We use natural hair as a pivot point to connect with an audience of African- American women who share similar psychographics that led them to eventually becoming natural.”
The first issue includes essays about how the majority of black beauty businesses aren’t black owned, along with selfie-themed beauty photo spreads on lipstick colors. The first-person narratives are a definite standout as is some of the photography. However, in some places, the photography is lacking due to pixelated large images that seem to be stock photography and interrupt an otherwise beautiful aesthetic.
A photo posted by CRWN Magazine (@crwnmag) on Oct 1, 2015 at 7:48am PDT
The publication turns educational in an editorial about coconut oil, as well as in a spread about Irun Kiko, a Yoruba method of hair threading most recently seen in Beyoncé’s Lemonade imagery. The publication shines in this latter story, as well as in “Finding Love in Forgotten Cities,” which features the photojournalism of Brittani Sensabaugh.
According to Farrar and Day, this first issue was the manifesto, introducing fans to the world of CRWN, and subsequent issues will become more theme oriented. In cover stars, the pair are looking for authenticity as with this issue’s Whitney White feature. “She was just like the natural choice,” Day says of White, who boasts more than 67 million views on her YouTube channel that delves into her transition to a natural-hair lifestyle. “Funny enough, I met her at Afropunk on Day One of CRWN.”
“The genesis of all of this is digital,” Farrar says, noting that most of the natural-hair conversation has happened online. “We were thinking of an actress at first, but we decided to go in this direction. Whitney is one of the most important people in this culture because she was so early and she touched so many people.”
And through CRWN, they are hoping to touch a lot more.