Image from Houston-born hairstylist Salma Ekambi's B.A.P.S-inspired series. Models: Courtney, Beza, Ausha, Summer, Ken'Nadi, Dochi. Wardrobe: Ashanti Lonzo-Minix. Makeup: Jazz L. Davis. 

Image: Megan Sumpton

Hair architect Salma Ekambi tells stories through avant-garde hairstyling. At the age of eight, the Houston native was a proactive child who grew up observing her Moroccan mother's hair techniques before quickly emulating the styles on herself.

It was clear then that Ekambi would blossom as a distinct talent.

In 2013, the hair connoisseur enhanced her technical skills by attending Texas Barber College before completing her cosmetology degree at Milan Institute of Cosmetology in San Antonio. While in school, Ekambi was a rebel who continuously pushed the boundaries of conventional styling techniques and even encouraged her college to produce their first hair show. The success of the show jumpstarted her journey in producing events. 

 

After college, Ekambi planted her feet in Houston’s creative scene through fashion and hair in the city. She launched the Black History Project in 2013 to shine a light on trailblazers contributing to the culture and preserving the community. “There was spiritual warfare happening against our people eight years ago," Ekambi exclaimed.  "With the rapid and rampant slaying of children and tactical things happening to us as a race. Spiritually, I needed to reclaim the time allotted to us to remember our history and our historians to shed light on people who are doing things in real-time, people who deserve their flowers now. I wanted our audience to take away a renewed sense of encouragement,’’ Ekambi shares.

Ekambi has been the brain of BHP for the past eight years. In an effort to amplify her styling skills and creative vision beyond organizing events, she created the KNKY Hair showcase. 

Initially set to debut in 2020, the showcase was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Ekambi’s mission was never relinquished. The project was reintroduced on a smaller scale on February 25, 2021, with featured work from Houston-based photographer Megan Sumpton. Inspired by the iconic American film B.A.P.S, Ekambi produced a revolutionary hair show sponsored by Sharespace. The 1997 film held significant meaning for Ekambi, as one of the earliest examples of innovative hairstyles in popular culture. 

 

The KNKY Hair show was filled with eager attendees basking in hair galore featuring models of various skin tones and body types. The showcase exhibited four distinct hair looks: a spunky blonde wig with wispy bands, bedazzled ponytails, a vibrant multi-colored purple wig, and an intricate parted bun separated by golden barrettes. In every direction on the floor, curated set designs were displayed for each hair look to be highlighted.

A crowd favorite, bejeweled pigtails worn on twenty-three-year-old plus-size model Ausha Simone. For Simone, hair is a reminder of resilience. "Since I was little, I would sit in between my mom's legs and she would start putting blue magic grease and applying barrettes. My hair reminds me of a tree. It keeps growing stronger and healthier. Black hair is a reminder of how we keep growing no matter the circumstances and what struggles we face,” she states. 

Ekambi is no stranger to overcoming personal circumstances and persevering through trying times. Upon the death of her mother in 2017, Ekambi took a step away from creative ventures to pursue commercial work in order to ensure her personal expenses were paid. This tragedy uncovered her purpose in the world and fueled Ekambi to produce the event despite the magnitude of her loss. “My sole motivation for producing this event is the pride that my mom had in me for doing it,” Ekambi reveals. 

Ekambi was the sole funder of the showcase, a gesture that ensured free entry for the public. Her efforts were not in vain, leaving a profound impression on many who were in attendance, including 32-year-old Houstonian Terrance Rice who shared, “It is always good to get our people together and celebrate ourselves. Our hair is part of the foundation of who we are as black people. When I got my hair twisted, I felt I was no longer going to be bound to the perceptions of how black people should be in the world. I wear my hair naturally with pride, no longer fearful of the backlash because of how I am.” 

Image: Megan Sumpton

KNKY Hair highlights the importance of providing the community with seeds of encouragement and knowledge to walk in their truth. 

The upcoming showcase, set to release at an undisclosed date, will continue to infuse Black culture and topics associated with Black women. “I want the audience to take it in and feel it. There is a lot more to come,” Ekambi reveals. 

For updates on the upcoming showcase, RSVP here.

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