My project: Own Your Pajón

Yesterday I went live on my Instagram to sort of formally introduce myself to my audience and speak about my ongoing project Own Your Pajón. I then received messages from several people saying they loved it and expressing their interest in the project. Of course IG won't let us be great and after 24 hours my live video expired and a few who didn't get to see the video were curious about my project. So I decided to share more about it here for those of you who are curious and also to just be able to further communicate my intention with it.

As some of you may know, I have an 8-year-old daughter. She has a sassy personality that matches perfectly with her bold head of hair; it's super curly, kinky, thick and just about any hair stylist's nightmare to detangle. Growing up my mom always told me I had a pajón (pronounced pa-HONE). A pajón is a word used in the Dominican Republic to describe hair that is unruly, kinky and just has a mind of its own. So you understand that if my mom said that to me it meant go fix your hair. Lol.

 This is my daughter, Leyanna, 8 yrs old. Shot for  #OwnYourPajón

This is my daughter, Leyanna, 8 yrs old. Shot for #OwnYourPajón

In Dominican culture, as well as in many Latin countries, it is common to idolize the European standards of beauty: straight or blonde hair. So having curly or kinky hair is typically looked down upon and is believed to need "fixing". Hence young girls getting relaxers in their hair straight out the womb.

All that said, I wanted to embrace the word pajón. Thats how this project came about. I no longer wanted that word to mean something negative to me or any other Dominican girl/woman. I want my daughter to understand that her hair is not a problem, nor is it "pelo malo" (bad hair) - another term I highly dislike.

I began photographing women of color from Dominican heritage who felt that this project resonated with them. On my IG live I shared how this project is a longterm thing for me and it's still in its early stages. But I am so excited to share the journey with y'all!

What I have loved the most is the stories I get to hear from the women I have photographed. They tell me about their history, what it has been like finally embracing their natural hair and also how for some of them their families STILL criticize their hair and their decision to go natural.

So yes, there are a lot of moving pieces to this project. It is not just about the photographs, it is about the stories. And how as a culture we need to shift from only accepting one form of beauty and not embracing our roots as afro-latinos. It is about opening a dialogue to discuss things like colorism and how we only see one standard of beauty, fair complexion and straight hair, even on our TV channels and advertisements!

What's next?

Well, as I also said on the video I shared on my IG live, my intention is to take Own Your Pajón to the Dominican Republic this summer. To tell the stories of women there and help bring their message to the forefront. For now I am continuing to photograph women and document their stories. I also have other exciting things coming for this project that I can wait to share ! Like, my heart has been racing all day!!

Again thank you to everyone who has been following along and to those that are just learning about this thank you for being interested! I hope you guys stay tuned because this is (as Solange said) For Us, By Us.

 

Xx

Armelis

@melzlookwellz

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