Solange Knowles wrote a whole song about the cultural and personal significance of hair to African-American women titled “Don’t Touch My Hair” on her (excellent) album, A Seat at the Table. It’s a relatively straightforward and simple request, one a magazine that takes the time to orchestrate an entire feature on the Grammy-award winning artist should be able to honor. But the Evening Standard Magazine managed to screw that simple (and culturally powerful) request up.
Solange was on the cover of the Evening Standard, looking gorgeous and sporting a unique hairstyle. Her bleached blonde hair was braided to create a large halo-like crown above her head. But the only reason we know that’s how her hair was styled is because she posted the original photo to her Instagram.
A post shared by Solange (@saintrecords) on Oct 19, 2017 at 9:25am PDT
The cover of the magazine, however, looked like this:
Her brilliant third album was both a critical and commercial success, but Solange is as focused on art as she is on music. @saintrecords talks about the influence of her mother, retaining control and where she’s going next… PLUS: A non-stop 24 hours in the @claridgeshotel kitchen, Extreme makeover: the #JEREMYCORBYN edition, @gracedent eats at @CorebyClareSmyth, we take an #ESescape to the Isle of #Eriska AND @anthony_joshua 's #MYLONDON #ESmagazine x #Solange Photographers: @elliott.jerome + @dritch Stylist: @mindy_le_brock Hairstylist: @jogoeswest + @vernonfrancois
A post shared by Evening Standard Magazine (@eveningstandardmagazine) on Oct 19, 2017 at 12:01am PDT
As you can see, the magazine Photoshopped the crown out. Clearly, Solange was feeling some type of way about it, because she captioned her own photo of the original hairstyle “dtmh,” a nod to her song, “Don’t Touch My Hair.”
If you’re still trying to give the magazine the benefit of the doubt—hey, maybe the art department lives under a rock and has never heard of Solange, right…?—well, don’t. When the magazine retouched the artist’s hair, they were explicitly erasing both Solange’s cultural identity. After all, this is literally an excerpt from the accompanying interview:
Braiding is important to Knowles. It is an ‘act of beauty, an act of convenience and an act of tradition’—it is ‘its own art form,’ she adds. Every black woman has a personal journey with her own hair, and for Knowles it began in her mother’s salon which was a refuge—‘a spare bedroom to speak’—for her as a young girl. Growing up there was pivotal. ‘I got to experience women arriving in one state of mind and leaving in a completely transformed way. It wasn’t just about the hair. It was about the sisterhood and the storytelling. Being a young girl who was really active in dance, theatre and on the swim team, the salon was kind of a safe haven.’
Not only that, but the specific hairstyle had personal significance to Solange. The crown is meant to symbolize Orion, which "inspired the name of her latest performance series, Orion’s Rise, and it is even tattooed on her inner right arm,” according to HuffPost.
“I had some revelations, in terms of my parents finding out they conceived me in Egypt after visiting the Giza pyramids, and connecting to that and the constellation of Orion that aligns with Giza,” Solange told the Evening Standard.
If this entire story isn’t sounding like a huge mess just yet, that’s only because you haven’t heard the final detail. Angelica Jade Bastien, one of the writers of the piece, was so offended with the way the magazine handled the entire feature that she publicly disowned the work and requested that her byline be removed. She explained why in a long Twitter thread.
I am publicly disowning the Solange piece London Evening Standard published today. The entire piece was a fiasco despite my efforts.— Angelica Jade (@angelicabastien) October 19, 2017
Which was heartbreaking given how much work I put into it and my interest in Solange as an artist.— Angelica Jade (@angelicabastien) October 19, 2017
I am writing this because I noticed my name on the online edition of the piece and want to be clear I didn't approve of it.— Angelica Jade (@angelicabastien) October 19, 2017
Also, yes I know they kept a "reporting by" mention at the end. That acknowledges I did the interview but didn't write the profile.— Angelica Jade (@angelicabastien) October 19, 2017