I’m excited to introduce Her Campus to Rachel Topping, co-founder of Nappy Head Club!
For those who may not know us just yet — we’re the faces behind the brand — sisters from the DMV who started Nappy Head Club a little over two years ago. We had NO idea that it would grow this far… there was simply something inside of us pushing us to make a space for people like ourselves. And now we have a beautiful community that inspires us daily to keep learning and keep pushing. Happy #smallbusinesssaturday . . #nappyheadclub #nappyhair #nappyroots #nappy #nappyhead #blackfriday #blackpanthers #blackpanther #10pointprogram #blackgirlmagic #blackgirl #4chair #type4hair #type4naturals #naturalhair #webuyblack #blackhistorymonth #teamnatural #diaspora #blackowned #buyblack #blackcommerce #africandiaspora #blackartmatters #respectthefro #melaninmagic #veryblack #afropunk #cybermonday
Rachel (left) and her younger sister Rikki-Richelle (right) always had an interest in fashion and styling. They were no strangers to high fashion and impromptu photoshoots, but they were fed up with the lack of representation for 4C hair and what it was doing to their view of themselves.
What started as a way to uplift themselves and change their own view about their hair grew into a community that recognizes that to be nappy and beautiful isn’t mutually exclusive. It became a safe space for dialogue within the community about everything from racial injustice to baby hairs.
What inspired you to create a site like Nappy Head Club, and why this instead of creating something like a natural hair youtube channel?
“We were venting one day about how whenever we would think of high fashion or anything trendy and stylish our hair was never factored into that equation. Like, we didn’t even think that you could wear your own hair and create these looks. It was always “What wig am I going to wear?” or “Do I have a weave in?”
And we were just like, “That is a really wack way to think about hair and ourselves.” Around that same time, my sister hit one of those spots where you just don’t have the cash to get your hair done so she was trying to get creative with styling it and she was really getting into it! That was one of the first shoots we did where she wore her natural hair out and it turned out really great. It was received really well and the images were beautiful. If people saw more images like that then they wouldn’t always associate their hair with unkempt or unpresentable.
It was more so just for us. We were kidding around like, “Let’s start My Hair Has No Curl Pattern Club.” Being silly! But we decided to make an Instagram and reshare images of people who were just killing it with the type of hair like ours. The type of hair that’s un-glamorized and seen as un-aspirational. And make it aspirational! We wanted to post images to show that it’s just as fire, just as edgy and just as cool as these other hair types.
We never wanted to present ourselves as experts on hair. Every interview we do, we are always asking for tips. We want to position this brand as a catalyst for dialogue- mainly around why we feel certain ways about 4C hair and Afrocentric features in general. We want to disband and break down these narratives that we’ve been fed for generations. We’ve found that the community has grown organically from that Instagram page and we have really great conversations. The comment section is where people feel comfortable to just sound off and challenge each other and we love facilitating dialogue.”
“Self-esteem means knowing you are the dream.” @dimejones by @brandonhicks . . #nappyheadclub #nappyhair #blackgirlmagic #4chair #type4naturals #webuyblack #blackhistorymonth #teamnatural #blackowned #buyblack #africandiaspora #blackartmatters #melaninmagic #veryblack #afropunk #blacklove #blacklivesmatter #fashion #streetstyle #streetwear #blackexcellence #clothingbrand #clothingline #blackcommerce
Why do you think representation is important?
“Within the industry, a lot of the focus around advertising is centered around black women because we are a huge percentage of people spending money on hair and beauty. We’re already entertaining these brands that don’t acknowledge the hair types for a while. Because of demand, they are just now beginning to see our hair. But the natural hair advertising scope was not addressing type 4 hair even though that’s who was buying these products. We need products that work for us and take us into consideration because our hair needs very specific things and there is a huge market.
It’s important for younger women. I think me and my sister unknowingly harbored such negative thoughts about our hair because we never saw anyone inspirational with it. We’d internalized a lot of that. And just by simply having that imagery visible it has an impact on you subconsciously. To this day I am still inspired by type 4 women trying new hairstyles. Representation is really impactful.”
The name, “Nappy Head Club,” where did it come from?
“When we first started about four years ago we were called the 4C Only Club. And we spoke with a lot of small business owners and they were really pushing me to scale this brand and think about whether or not that was a recognizable and understandable name. We did a few exercises with our existing community and were just polling people. We were surprised to find that a lot of people still don’t use the hair typing system. People didn’t know what 4C was or meant. And with our audience being international, we just didn’t want to alienate people who should be a part of this community who don’t understand what the hair typing system is. While we do focus on being 4C hair specific, there was this element of feeling like an underdog and feeling like you’ve been overlooked from beauty standards. But there are some people who aren’t technically 4C who can relate to that feeling! Imagine being in Bulgaria and you’re the only black person for miles. Your hair might not be 4C but this community might relate to you because you understand what it feels like to be ruled out.
We wanted to be very careful not to detract from our core audience,which are these 4C women because this is specifically for them. But also there are people within our expanded community that understand this feeling of wanting to be closer to their blackness, who can appreciate the content.
Nappy is edgy, controversial and uncomfortable for some people. We wanted to have that energy in the brand. This is not an apologetic brand or one that asks for permission to do things. It’s gonna make you uncomfortable till you get used to it. Embracing Nappy was a way for us to show the spirit of who we are. We aren’t necessarily the, “come here for your next buttercream brand” but we’re gonna have some conversations and some of it’s gonna be a little uncomfortable. And hopefully, you leave much prouder to be who you are.”
Simon Sinek said, “It’s not what you do but why you do it!” Why do you do what you do?
“People will tell you that the way you know you’re doing something right is if it’s something you’d want to see. And to this day I feel like this brand is for me. I’m still continuously being encouraged by the content. And it’s uplifting for me every day to know that there is a reason to do this and I’m not the only person it’s impacting.
There is still a ton of dialogue to be had and any time I introduce the idea of what I do to someone it spans into this fifteen-twenty minute conversation about our hair, experiences, etc. It’s something people still want to talk about. There are a lot of people who are still unpacking things from their childhoods, it’s still important and necessary and it inspires me to keep going.”
Most fulfilling moment?
“Before the world shut down I was getting on a train in New York with a friend. We were just chatting and I wasn’t really paying attention but a girl was getting off. My friend goes, “She has on your shirt!”
The girl stops and is like, “Are you the girl from Nappy Head Club?”
The girl has on this super cute outfit! She has one sleeve on and she looks amazing. And just to know that my brand has reached far enough to see somebody out, styled up, rocking the shirt, feeling good about themselves, looking great! And then to recognize that I was one of the founders. I feel like that was supposed to happen cause sometimes you need those check-ins to know that you’re doing the right thing.”
What’s one thing every boss/professional/business woman needs?
“I would say a mentor or an advisor. Somebody who has either started a business or has worked with launching a business or worked in that space before. Someone to give you sound advice. It can be very daunting in some ways but also there is a lot to know. Having somebody with those skills to help you is invaluable.”
Are there any words that you live by?
“I would say, “Don’t ask for permission, ask for forgiveness.” A lot of people with the brand have encouraged me to soften up and be more universal with the brand or catch a bigger audience. But I’ve found that not apologizing for who I’m speaking to has gotten me really far because the people I am speaking to feel inspired, seen and appreciated.
Even in spaces with white people, I’ve learned to talk about my brand and not be apologetic or soften up the messaging to make them feel included. I feel like I’ve gotten a lot of respect because of the quality of the brand. People understand that it’s not for them”
Is there any advice you’d give to ambitious women who want to create a place for themselves?
“I would say be gentle with yourself. There is pressure to always feel super confident and on top of your game. I’ve had this brand for three years and there are days where I wanna cry because I hate my hair. I think that is a very real part of being confident. You have to allow yourself the space to be like, “I don’t love this” or “ I don’t feel completely there today.” Some days you are going to feel confident but you don’t have to kick ass every day. Treat yourself as gently as you would your friends. Take it one step at a time and always give yourself that assurance that if you’re not feeling something, you don’t have to do it that day.”
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We heard we missed #friendshipday yesterday, hopefully y’all let us slide with the late post. For those who are new—we are @rachel___danielle and @rikki_richelle And we started @nappyhead_club about 2 years ago because we felt that people like us, with 4c hair, were being under or misrepresented in media. We wanted to create a space for community, and to spark conversation. Anything you’d like to know about us or the brand? (Photo: @zeng___1) . . #nappyheadclub #Afriquette #Niijournal #afropunk #blavity #sunujournal #blackartmatters #blacklove #nappyheadclub #blackgirlmagic #blackboyjoy #blacklove #veryblack #buyblack #blackowned
Rachel and her sister have created a community for those who understand what it’s like to be overlooked by beauty standards. The Nappy Headed Club stands firm in its blackness, rewriting the high fashion narrative. It inspires us to embrace what society has written off for so long as undesirable.The platform disrupts the stream of content that fails to acknowledge the beauty in 4C hair, with a celebration of pattern less curls and afrocentric features.
Rachel Topping embodies the bold spirit of her brand and remains unapologetic in her mission. She is always black, never sorry. It’s her nappy headed world, and I’m proud to live in it!