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Meet the creator of viral hand-swatting hair game Hair Nah

This is the brilliant Momo Pixel, the game that allows you to play a black woman getting people the fuck outta your hair

If you’re a black woman or man, it’s very likely you’ve been in a situation where an unwanted hand thrust its way into your hair and you didn’t have the quick-thinking or the gall to slap it away. Now you can.

A new, viral computer game called Hair Nah, made by developer Momo Pixel, allows you to fulfil all of your hand-slapping needs. Nobody likes it when strangers invade their personal space and it’s exactly for this reason that the game has been so popular, with hundreds of thousands of plays since it was released.

To help the character catch her flight on time, you have to use all your wits and speed to swat away white hands wanting to get involved with your hair. Using old-school pixel animation, and a soundtrack punctuated by voices saying “can I touch it?” and “it’s so fluffy!”, the game gets progressively harder as more white hands approach at speed. 

Hair Nah takes things up a notch at a time when we’re having more conversations about the importance of black women’s hair. In the past year we’ve had Solange’s “Don’t Touch My Hair” single, Mena Fombo’s ‘Black Hair Attack’ video (showing her putting her hands in white people’s to see how they like it), and huge furores over the photoshopping of Solange and Lupita’s hair on magazine covers in the UK

We caught up with 27-year-old Momo on the phone from Atlanta and spoke to her about why she knew the game would go viral, and the advice she would give to other black people who are too polite to tell white people “nah” when it comes to touching our hair:

How has the reaction to the game been?

Momo Pixel: I think it was overwhelming on the first day. But after the first day it was cool – Wednesday was when I launched it. I knew it was going to go viral. I’m serious! Because I’m not like a crazy black woman, it’s so relatable. I knew making it, working on it, designing it, that it was going to go viral. I just didn’t know it was going to go viral on Twitter, as I have a following on Facebook. I was like, ‘dang, maybe this thing isn’t going to go viral’, so I put it out on Twitter and then it took off! I only had 200 followers (she now has 2.4k).

Black Twitter is a force to be reckoned with, even in the UK. Tell me a bit about your background in general?

Momo Pixel: So I grew up in Kentucky and I had a weird background. I had an abusive childhood, actually. I ran away from home and shit. I don’t think I had a normal childhood and I didn’t really get to be all kiddy all the time. I had a lot of stuff I was dealing with. College for me was an escape. I was like ‘If I can just go to college, I can leave all this and do what I want’. And then I went to college, and that’s exactly what I did!

Oh, good!

Momo Pixel: It’s been dope since then. I went to art school in Atlanta, and I love Atlanta because it’s like the black mecca of America. It was amazing and was where I really blossomed and got a lot of friends. I changed my major a lot and I ended up choosing advertising and when I graduated I had an internship working for Nintendo in Chicago – doing commercials. I left and started my own art show called Momoland, art, music, technology thing that was really dope. I ended up in New York and got a call from Wieden+Kennedy, who I work for now as an art director. They made Nike’s ‘Just Do It’ tagline.

So how did the game get started?

Momo Pixel: I’m a pixel designer, I’m not a developer, so a lot of the things I make already look like video games in that 8-bit style. And when I came up with this idea it was a no-brainer, the style it was going to be in and Wieden+Kennedy were really supportive. They said I could do it during work! The reason why it looks amazing and works is because I was able to do it with co-workers. It took almost 10 months – I had the idea in February.

I loved your attention to detail with the hairstyles and range of skintones. Did you want to make it inclusive for a range of black women?

Momo Pixel: Yes. When this happens to us we don’t really get a chance to defend ourselves. At least, I know when it happens to me that there was no prelude, so I didn’t know it was about to happen, or it happens just because our whole lives we’ve been taught that we have to be quiet and respect white people’s feelings and don’t really say what we want to say but as a whole you don’t hear of black women being like, ‘What the fuck! Why you in my hair?’ You want to, but you don’t do that. It feels like they finally get to say no, ‘I’m telling y’all, get the fuck out my hair’.

The hairstyles were fun and I was thinking of black Twitter, what would they clap me on, and what would they love? They would love baby hair. On the bantu knots, I went in!

You sound like you’re pretty good at saying ‘nah’ to white people who put their hands in your hair. What would you say to black women who are struggling to assert themselves (like me)?

Momo Pixel: We need to make somebody as uncomfortable as they’re making us. I think that it’s unfair in general that in this world we’re always at the bottom. I think we’re last. Everybody’s worried about everybody and we get oppression double time because not only are we a woman, we are a black woman. We’re already dealing with other stuff and then somebody invading our space – it’s so hard to be a black woman in this world and love yourself and not pay attention to everything that people are saying about your skin, about your life. When people do that at this point I think we should be like, ‘nah man’. It takes a lot of time to do our hair – you don’t just get to reach in and fuck it up.

“It takes a lot of time to do our hair – you don’t just get to reach in and fuck it up” – Momo Pixel

White people are always clowning us, but why are they so fascinated with us? Either you fuck with it or you don’t. I made it a point to memorise what body language happens when somebody is about to do it. I just read eyes. If a woman's eyes are excited, I just cross the street (laughs). I already know what you're about to say! The minute I see the eyes start to do that ‘wow’ thing I'm like, nah. Or at the club. I have dance moves that look like I'm dancing and I'm actually ducking. I grab my hair and sashay to the side. I have prepared! I've got to the point where I'll actually just say something. “If you touch it I'll beat you”.

I’m hoping that this game will make it easier for us.