CRWNMAG is on a mission to create the most beautiful and honest representation of black women in the history of print
“Oh my god, can I touch it? It feels, like, tufts of cotton or something. Is that all yours? But how do you get it like that?” Unapologetic afros, protective styling, silk sleeping scarfs, post-relaxer bliss (or anguish, depending how long you left it in and if you scratched) and adolescent days of not yet unearthing the wonders beyond pink oil – black hair has long served as one of the earliest and deepest alterities while learning to negotiate the canons of race and femme gender. Most girls of colour experience some sort of racial awakening, a sobering moment of realising your identity doesn’t quite carry the same social currency and visibility as others. Similar to the pang of hurt you were struck with when devouring your favourite childhood magazines for “all girls”, yet never being able to apply any of the hair or make-up tips to yourself, it’s often a confusing rite of passage. While society at large has a long way to go, thankfully, an influx of fresh voices are changing representation as we know it.
Aiding in the quiet revolution of the beauty industry is quarterly print magazine CRWNMAG. After a successful launch at Brooklyn’s vibe-fuelled Afropunk Festival last year, founders Lindsey Day and Nkrumah Farrar are gearing up for the highly-anticipated premiere of Issue One. Expect a visual sanctuary boasting everything from voluminous kinky tresses, faux locs, marley twists, bantu knots, dreads, cornrows, and a myriad of other traditional black hairstyles. Seamlessly weaving the sartorial beauty rituals and various journeys of black women, the duo has conjured a haven that’s long overdue. Below, we speak with editor-in-chief Lindsey Day on showcasing a new standard of beauty and what’s in store for the publication.
How did the inception of CRWN come about?
Lindsey Day: As fate would have it, the idea for CRWN was born on the rooftop of my apartment in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. My (now) business partner, Nkrumah Farrar, and I were having a general conversation about ownership, business and sisterhood – which turned into a more specific discussion of the natural hair movement that had been gaining more and more traction in the digital space over the last several years. We noticed that when we flipped through magazines, black women were almost always airbrushed, lightened and contoured beyond recognition. Black hair magazines would tout that weaves are the obvious first choice for black women, while mainstream magazines routinely omitted our hairstories. The question was raised: who was immortalising the natural hair movement and our authentic hairstory in print?
I looked at my own hair journey and had an epiphany. Most of my close friends and I had all “transitioned” from flat ironing, relaxing or weaving our hair to embracing our natural textures. I had been emotionally involved in my mother’s intense hair journey. I saw how so many of my loved ones seemed to have a spiritual and emotional reawakening after embracing their natural hair; even if they still faced challenges because of it. Hair is not “just hair” for black women – it’s intrinsically connected to how we see ourselves in this world, and the value we feel we offer.
Nkrumah and I talked through the business model(s) and monetisation strategy, developed the concept for about six months, created our MVP (our Zero Issue, released at AfroPunk Brooklyn in 2015) and hit the ground running from there!
“Hair is not ‘just hair’ for black women – it’s intrinsically connected to how we see ourselves in this world, and the value we feel we offer” – Lindsey Day
Why was it important to create a celebratory platform centring on black women?
Lindsey Day: We noticed there was a void when it came to publications that were really celebrating and edifying black women, not to mention doing so with high creative and aesthetic quality. So many publications seem to tell us we need to change: straighten our hair, lighten our skin, contour our noses to make them seem thinner, etc. We are celebrating the diversity, the uniqueness and the beauty that black women naturally embody. We really want to reclaim the narrative, one that has existed online but hasn’t really been reflected and immortalised in a print publication. We’re creating something we can all be proud to situate on our coffee tables or at our desks. We’re creating something we’ll want to share with each other – a place that we can truly see ourselves and read our stories.
How do modern beauty standards shape the direction of the magazine?
Lindsey Day: CRWN Magazine exists to challenge modern beauty standards. We found ourselves unsatisfied with the way black hair culture is often represented in print, so we set out to create something aesthetically pleasing that also had substance.
We want to shift the standard of beauty away from silky straight hair with airbrushed and lightened skin tones. CRWN is showcasing real women with naturally gorgeous hair and skin – who also have beautiful minds and much to share with the world beyond the superficial.
While CRWN emphasises black women's hair stories and hair care, you've stated hair is merely the starting point of the conversation. Can you elaborate on how CRWN addresses "the whole woman”?
Lindsey Day: CRWN’s brand pillars are Sisterhood, Knowledge of Self, Self-Love and Authenticity. These themes are woven throughout the pieces in Issue One and beyond. Beyond the hair tips and style inspiration, we are addressing the real issues that are most important to our community and engaging our readers in higher thought. We’re also covering lifestyle topics and showcasing dynamic thought leaders, creatives, makers, entrepreneurs and more.
“We deserve to see ourselves as we are, not through the lens of whitewashed conglomerates. We want young women to flip through CRWN’s pages and finally see themselves” – Lindsey Day
Ideally, how would media representation look in years to come, with respect to black women?
Lindsey Day: There are so many platforms in media that send negative messages to black women – whether that’s through reinforcing unattainable beauty standards, portraying narrow stereotypes, or playing and replaying images of our brothers and sisters being gunned down and disrespected by law enforcement.
In years to come, I hope that we own more of our own media platforms. I hope that more black women are cast in roles that don’t require weaves and straight styles. I would love to see more of the diversity of our community represented on pages and screens across the globe.
CRWN cannot solve every issue our community faces, but Nkrumah and I are committed to doing our part. We envision a world in which all young girls grow up feeling empowered and valuable, not pitted against their sisters in the battle of “bad hair” versus “good hair.” We believe that our community deserves beautiful, authentic representations of our culture – not just trendy hashtags and click bait. We deserve to see ourselves as we are, not through the lens of whitewashed conglomerates. We want young women to flip through CRWN’s pages and finally see themselves.