We talk to the hair artist recolouring the natural hair movement
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As the natural hair movement ebbs and grows, Sportydidit (real name Lia Markia) keeps spinning the colour wheel, pioneering new matches and effects with dazzling dye jobs. Single-tone to full-blown rainbow, rinses, ombré, shaved shapes, glitter, even a basketball (in tribute to the late basketball legend Kobe Bryant) and more, the self-described ‘hair artist’ wields her brush like a master painter would. She lets her imagination run wild as she paints colour on the curls and locs of her clients, and her own signature finger waves and braids, with a flourish.
“I freestyle every style and colour,” the 30-year-old explains. “Whenever my clients challenge me on a colour scheme and style that hasn’t been seen yet, I make it fit them and I post on Instagram because it’s the biggest platform right now.” Scroll down her feed and you’ll find videos of Sporty at work, sometimes with her adorable daughter in tow, and in self-transformation mode – combing her multi-coloured crop into waves, proving that you don’t need super long hair to be creative.
Easily living up to her ‘Dare 2 be Original’ Insta bio, the US-based hair artist is defiant when navigating the politics of black hair. “Black hair is usually politicised as unmanageable, untamable, ugly, scary, and more. I overcome that because my styles are eye-catching without it being prejudged... when that good energy shows, it frightens any bad energy,” she says.
As talented as she is, her journey hasn’t been without its difficulties. “I have dealt with discrimination,” Sportydidit continues. “A Caucasian lady asked how I got my fingerwaves to look so good. She was appalled and baffled at the same time and told me she’d never seen waves look so good. She was asking me questions about the school I went to, how long I’ve been a stylist, am I still attending different classes... It was crazy.”
Here Sporty talks through her key influences and inspirations, and why she can relate to Disney’s Princess Jasmine.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and where you grew up?
Sportydidit: I grew up in NE Washington DC and the DMV (DC, MD, VA) area. It’s not easy being raised there, I had a rough upbringing within my community but I’ve always made the best out of any situation. You have to be strong to stay afloat and strong-minded to stay content in believing your true dream will come true.
What is it you do and why do you do it?
Sportydidit: I’m an innovative hair artist. I do colourful finger waves and invent creative hairstyles because I love to bring my imagination and passions to life, and being original is such an understatement nowadays. The (only) difference between creating finger waves on Caucasian hair and Afro hair is is the texture – just rock it.
How did you get into it?
Sportydidit: I’ve been working in a hair salon since I was 13 and fell in love with it the first time I stepped in. My cousin took me under her wing as her assistant and taught me all the basics of African-American hair. The first styles I did were cornrows then weaves but I made finger waves my signature.
What’s your earliest beauty-related memory?
Sportydidit: One random day when I was five or six, my dad took me to the clubhouse he built for me, pinned three strings into the wall, and showed me how to braid. That’s when my journey began with braiding my hair and innovating creative braiding techniques.
Who or what inspires you?
Sportydidit: God is my number one inspiration – without God nothing is possible, without faith everything is a failure, without knowledge there is no wisdom. My mum inspires me because she installed it in me to be natural, respected and a soldier of God.
Talk us through some of your favourite hair looks and how you created them. What response did they get?
Sportydidit: I did a rainbow scheme on one client and she loved so much she almost cried. She never thought that she could pull off a colour scheme so bold because of her dark skin tone. I did a green colour scheme with pretty waves on another client’s natural hair, and I got one client of colour’s hair snow white without breakage which floored her.
It's 30 years from now. You stumble home at 3 am and catch your reflection in the fridge door. What do you look like?
Sportydidit: My hair will be in a messy low ponytail, I wouldn’t have make-up on but my skin would be flawless. I will definitely be all-natural aged 60 – my hair, my nails, hopefully, my teeth lol.
Describe your beauty aesthetic in three words.
Sportydidit: Bold, creative, and sexy.
Which fictional characters do you most relate to and why?
Sportydidit: Princess Jasmine. My father was a multi-millionaire and I was my daddy’s princess but my life got completely twisted when I was six and placed me in poverty (my father left me behind as well). Cat Woman and Betty Boop were SMOOOTHHHHH.
As a warning to the other members of the resistance, your head is to be mounted above the gates of the city. How would you do your make-up and hair that morning?
Sportydidit: My hair would be in finger waves because that’s what the world knows me for and my make-up would be natural because I’d want the world to remember that way. I want to communicate that it is ok to stay true to yourself, be natural, and be original.
Who is your beauty icon/favourite look of all time? Why?
Sportydidit: Besides my mum, Madam C.J. Walker and Josephine Baker. Without Walker, I wouldn’t be the passionate and loving hairstylist I am today. My favourite look of hers is the fly-feathered hat she wore in her carriage. I wouldn’t have known about finger waves without Josephine Baker and how beautiful they are on her.
What does beauty mean to you?
Sportydidit: Self-representation, genuineness, kindness, prosperity, and self morality.
You encounter a hostile alien race with an inability to see colour, while sound is their only mechanism for communication. What would you play to them to inspire them to spare you and the rest of the human race?
Sportydidit: Tupac “Keep Ya Head Up”, LL Cool J “Around the Way Girl”, DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince “Summertime”, and Justin Bieber “Changes”. These feel-good songs will hopefully loosen the aliens up so they spare our lives.
What is the future of beauty?
Sportydidit: The cultivation of new trends as there’s a lot of innovation and creative talent that the world has yet to see. Unity of races as the world is one big platform now thanks to technology and apps so it’s much easier for the world to catch a wave.