Janice Mascarenhas is an artist, and hair is their medium. From sculptural braids spelling out words and dreadlocks fashioned into shapes, to styles that incorporate flowers, pearl beads, miniature figures and clay masks, Mascarenhas’s creations are both visually striking and rich in meaning.
Now based in São Paulo, the Brazilian hair stylist, visual artist and creative director grew up in a favela outside Rio. The daughter of a manicurist, their childhood was spent in salons and it was here where they were first inspired by the power of transformation. “I watched my mother and her co-workers rebuild people’s self-esteem with their hands and I fell in love with that space,” they say.
Today, it’s this potential for transformation that drives their practice, which focuses on uplifting the self-esteem of Black people and improving the representation of their community in the media. Drawing on their ancestry, culture, and the Candomblé religion, Mascarenhas brings their identity to all the work they do. In 2018, they presented a performance around the act of braiding at the CUTIE BIPOC festival in Berlin, the highlight of their career so far. They have also worked on campaigns with brands including Telfar and Brazilian editions of magazines including Marie Claire, Glamour and Vogue.
Text Alex Peters