Finding your own crew takes bravery and determination. It requires a willingness to own your interests and passions and to not care what others might think of them. But sometimes you need a little help finding that crew, or maybe your crew needs some support. Converse has been doing just that, by bringing diverse crews from around the world together through their Converse Crews campaign. One such crew is Melbourne-based collective Embrace Your Frizzique (EYF).
Founded in 2015 by Zarah Garbrah as an educational platform, EYF helps people of colour connect with each other. Their mission is to revolutionise the natural hair industry in Australia, by creating a community that celebrates the process of embracing your natural tresses. EYF holds discussions, runs educational workshops, distributes a range of multimedia content, and puts on events like Fro’z n Beatz, an evening aimed at unifying black female DJs in Melbourne. “For so long, people of colour have been told that there is only one type of beauty and whatever fits outside that isn’t normal. Embrace Your Frizzique is about unapologetically challenging these standards and making room for people to feel visible, and we do this through celebrating our natural hair,” says Zarah.
The shared experiences that the women in EYF have makes their crew a much needed support system. Together they share advice, create, and celebrate one another. There’s Ivy, a Kenyan born, Australian raised filmmaker who helps Zarah with creative direction, styling and video production, Charlotte, a DJ who spun at EYF’s last event Fro’Z n BeatZ, and Naomi, who’s also a DJ and is the founder of her own collective, Melanin Loading. Crews like EYF are a reminder of the importance of seeking out your own crew, and they show us that when you’re honest about your interests and desires, you’re never alone.
Hi Zarah! How did you come up with the idea for Embrace Your Frizzique?
Embrace Your Frizzique (EYF) came together through my own personal experiences. When I was 6 my mum, who’s Italian, began relaxing my hair as a means to maintain it. From 6 through to 14 my hair was relaxed for about 95% of the time and the other 5% it was in some form of protective styles like braids or cornrows, but my natural hair was foreign to me. It wasn’t until I began questioning my identity when I was 14–15 that I finally embarked on what was known as a ‘natural hair journey’.
Once I began getting more familiar with my hair texture, type and the importance of embracing my hair, I began getting questions from other people who were in the same boat, which came as a complete surprise to me at the time. Once I started sharing tips and tricks across Instagram, I turned to YouTube to demonstrate what exactly I was talking about. Soon I began vlogging my photoshoots, creative projects, and events which eventually started to establish a community.
Deciding to create a platform for black people and POC to come together and share our experiences as well as celebrate the wins and of course hardships was definitely needed, especially in regards to afro textured hair. My goal from the beginning was to create a space where people felt comfortable discussing natural hair and everything that comes with that.
I was also tired of searching for representation among brands, or seeing how a product worked on hair like mine. The lack of diversity among many hair and beauty brands in Australia made me determined, so I decided to do something about it.
When and how did the crew come together?
EYF is fuelled by creative individuals. The crew pictured here are people who have inspired and continue to inspire me and embrace [me]. Each person has their own uniqueness and talent and presents themselves unapologetically. We all met at different times, and shared similar experiences when it came to our experiences growing up in Melbourne. These girls are really dope, and being surrounded by down-to-earth and genuine people makes it so much better.
Why is it important for you to connect with your community?
Community is everything. Without community so many things can’t happen. For me, being disconnected from my Ghanaian heritage as a child inspired me to reconnect with my blackness as a teenager and now [as a] young adult. Without my community, I wouldn’t be able to put together events such as Fro’Z n BeatZ or The Natural Network. Having my community’s support means that I’m able to create inclusive spaces that celebrate the beauty, talent, and craft across the diaspora here in Melbourne. I get to share these opportunities like collaborating with Converse [and] with my community, and only hope to continue building this.
How have people responded to being asked to be involved with something like Embrace?
People are always down to help out, and I always do my best to reciprocate that and show my appreciation. Seeing as EYF is still a work in progress and I’m working across a range of fields from hairdressing, events, workshops through to educational seminars, there are many ways for people to get involved and I’m always searching for more ways to connect with people.
Who or what inspires you creatively in Melbourne?
There are so many people doing remarkable things from film and music production, creative direction, and styling—it’s hard to pick one or two things or people. I try and seek inspiration from a range of things like movies, books, galleries, even social media, but also my own journey. So many POC inspire me to be better and continue representing our communities. I also take every day as a new day and try and remember that sometimes inspiration is closer than we think.
Who do you look up to in the natural hair movement?
When I first went natural and still to this day, I’m inspired by Whitney White, [whose Instagram handle is] @naptural85. She was one of the first people on YouTube that was empowering people to look after their hair using DIY and natural products, which I’m also a big advocate for. Some other people I’m inspired by who aren’t only specific to the natural hair movement are Lauryn Hill, Angela Davis, [and] Maya Angelou, who are all unapologetic women.
What advice would you offer to someone who wants to start a crew?
To just do it! There’s nothing worse than dwelling on something or thinking I could do that. There is so much space in the creative spaces to do more, especially in Australia. The best thing you can do is just try, and there are so many people who are down to help out, but you won’t know until you ask.
Can you tell us what your Fro’Z n BeatZ event was about? Do you have any events coming up?
Fro’Z n BeatZ was an inclusive party that created a safe space to unify local WOC DJs and celebrate the power of music and art, through an interactive lens. The main purpose of Fro’Z n BeatZ was to create a space that uplifts and promotes boldness, individuality, and uniqueness within the community. We also incorporated some live art by local artist Sunday Makuach. The next event won’t be until November or December [and] I’m working alongside Andre Kodjo to create something unforgettable for the art and music scene which will focus on young Afro-Australian artists.
What do you hope the future holds for those in your crew?
Determination and success. Everyone is on their own journey and hopes to achieve different things. Ivy is breaking barriers in the film industry as a young African-Australian film maker. Charlotte is using her divine force and skills to share her DJing skills across the globe, and Naomi, who is also a DJ, is pushing her platform for the African diaspora [with her collective] Melanin Loading. But the beautiful thing is that we can all come together and share our skills in different ways.
There are so many opportunities emerging and being created that I can’t wait to share. I’m determined to continue building a multi-faceted movement where there’s space for many disciplines and not limiting myself to one or two areas.
You are part of the Converse_X_ crew in Melbourne, can you tell us a little about that and how you got involved?
Converse reached out to young people doing creative things within Melbourne. There were photographers, stylists, designers, and more, to get together and spend an afternoon just hanging out and vibing with each other. It was cool to finally slow down and have the opportunity to talk to people that you normally wouldn’t. Super grateful for the opportunity!