Issa Rae has become a natural hair icon of our generation.
And while Insecure's final season has come and gone, I am all for nostalgically noting the many times Issa Rae's hair philosophy lent itself to her character as an homage to the show's cultural impact. As the multi-hyphenate says, "there’s just nothing like seeing a Black woman who switches her hair like the days of the week." That goes double for Issa Dee.
Read our inaugural cover story on Issa's natural hair journey and see below for the Issa hair transformations that will give you natural hair inspo for days. Preesh, Insecure.
The Tried & True TWA
Classic and understated Issa Dee. In season one, the character was known to rock her TWA (teeny weeny afro) more than anything and seldom switched her hairstyle up from episode to episode.
Blown Out Afro Puff
This traditional afro puff is a classic amongst natural hair girls everywhere. And Issa rocking it in this season one episode served as a great reminder as to why.
Changes in the way she wore her hair started being more apparent in the series' second season. Instead of just a scarf here or a hair tie there, Issa experimented with twists, braids, and adding length in her hairstyles throughout the seasons moving forward.
Sis switched it up and switched it up often, which was a slight nod to the character's growth.
Half Up Half Down
This half-up half-down style with a side bang is the definition of ease without sacrificing any chic.
Flat Twisted Pony With A Bang
A bang is a must in this protective style. Flat twisted at the sides, Issa's hair is pulled into a low ponytail and left out in an afro puff. Mirroring that puff is her bang in the front. The end result is balanced and giving protective style inspo for days.
Flat Twisted Bun
Merie W. Wallace/HBO
For this simple protective style, mini flat twists are created and pulled into a low bun with extensions added to give a bun effect.
The evolution of Issa Dee's hair from a simple TWA to more complex, "elevated" hairstyles was a journey stylist Felicia Leatherwood was intentional about portraying.
In reference to season 4's progression, Leatherwood told NYLON, "This last season, I wanted to make sure that it was an upgrade for Issa Dee, which means that I go talk to the wardrobe and makeup and see what direction they're going in."
Elevated Faux Hawk Updo
Merie W. Wallace/HBO
In the premiere of season 4, Issa's coif was polished in a faux hawk updo. While most of the audience was questioning if they should break up with their "Molly," we were pondering how to add this style to our must-try list.
Slick Down Low Afro Puff Ponytail
Merie W. Wallace/HBO
In the second episode of season 4, Issa wore two variations of the slick down puff ponytail style. This iteration is pulled low instead of up and also features accents by way of gold bobby pins.
Merie W. Wallace/HBO
Flat Twisted Ponytail
Merie W. Wallace/HBO
Jumbo flat twists twisted back into a low ponytail with some hair added is how this easy style is achieved. Leatherwood mentioned about the ease of some of Issa's styles on the show, "I really like to represent the natural hair community well, and that's my first step. How can I make this something that's reasonable for any naturalista to recreate? [That they] can look and say, 'Oh, I could do that,' or to see themselves with that hairstyle in their own natural texture and their own flavor."
Low Ponytail With Mini Braids
Merie W. Wallace/HBO
The classic low ponytail style got an update with the addition of two mini braids placed in the front.
Twisted Curly Updo
Merie W. Wallace/HBO
The curly updo is given a bit of additional flair with the help of four perfectly laid flat twists bringing the style together.
Two Buns Accented With Beaded Braids
Merie W. Wallace/HBO
There's no denying Issa loves her updos. In this particular look, Issa adds two beaded braids on each side, going in the opposite direction of her two buns.
Braided Bun Updo With Curly Bang
In the season five opener, Issa experienced a bout of self-doubt while revisiting her alma mater. But one thing's for certain and two thing's for sure, the braided bun updo with the curly bang was the star of the show.
Two Feed-In Braids
The unveiling of this feed-in braid style gave me the summer vibes my life currently needs.
Two Twists In The Front, Hair Out In The Back
This hairstyle is perfection and feels like an update to the classic half up half down ponytail styles. Instead, the front of Issa's hair is sectioned into two and then twisted to meet in the back, with the rest of her hair left out.
Braids In The Front, Ponytail In The Back
Forever in love with the way that a lot of Issa's styles are hybrids and seem to create the perfect style. This style from the current and final season features braids in the front pulled into an exaggerated braided pony in the back.
Featured image by Merie Wallace/HBO
Originally published December 13, 2021
Unapologetically, Chlöe: The R&B Star On Finding Love, Self-Acceptance & Boldly Using Her Voice
On set inside of a mid-city Los Angeles studio, it’s all eyes on Chlöe. She slightly shifts her body against a dark backdrop amidst camera clicks and whirs, giving a seductive pout here, and piercing eye contact there. Her chocolate locs are adorned with a few jewels that she requested to spice up the look, and on her shoulders rests a jeweled piece that she asked to be turned around to better showcase her neck (“I feel a bit old,” she said of the original direction). Her shapely figure is tucked into a strapless bodysuit with a deep v-neck that complements her décolletage.
Though subtle, her quiet wardrobe directives give the air of a woman who’s been here before, and certainly knows what she’s doing. At 24 years young, she’s a “Bossy” chick in training— one who’s politely unapologetic and learning the power of her own voice.
“I'm hesitant sometimes to truly speak my mind and speak up for myself and what I believe,” she later confessed to me a couple of weeks after the photoshoot. “It's always scary for me, but now I'm realizing that I have to, in order to gain respect as a Black woman— a young Black woman— who's still navigating who she is. And you know, I'm realizing that closed mouths don't get fed. And if I keep my mouth shut just because I'm afraid of what people's opinions of me will be or turn into, then that's not any way to live.”
For Chlöe, the journey into womanhood is about embracing who she is, without succumbing to the perceptions of what others think of her. From the waist up she’s everything you’d imagine. A gorgeous goddess with the kind of sex appeal that some work hard to embrace but fail to exude. But unbeknownst to anyone not on set, her bottom half is covered by a white robe, surprising coming from the girl who boasts “'Cause my booty so big, Lord, have mercy” on her first hit single “Have Mercy.”
But that’s the beauty of Chlöe. There’s more to her than meets the eye. More than what a few sensual photos sprinkled throughout an Instagram feed could ever tell you. Just like the photo-framing illusion of her portrayed from the waist up, what we know about the songstress is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much more beneath the surface.
Some hours later Chlöe leans back in a high chair as her locs are transformed from a formal updo to a seemingly Basquiat-inspired one. It’s pure art, and at her request, no wigs are a part of the day’s ensemble. She’s fully embracing her natural hair, a decision that wasn’t always a socially accepted one.
In the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, (Mableton, to be exact) Chlöe began to explore the foundation of her self-image. At an early age she and her younger sister, Halle, demonstrated a vocal prowess and knack for being in front of the camera that caught their parents’ attention. Soon after, they were sent on a parade of local talent shows and auditions, and eventually broke into the digital space with song covers on YouTube.
It was during these early years that Chlöe first learned that the entertainment industry could be unforgiving to those who didn’t fit a particular beauty standard. Despite the then three-year-old snagging a role as the younger version of Beyoncé’s character, Lilly, in Fighting Temptations, casting agents requested that her natural locs be exchanged for more Eurocentric tresses. Ironic, considering that growing up Chlöe saw her hair as no different than that of her peers. “I remember specifically in pre-K we had to do self-portraits and I drew myself with a regular straight ponytail, like how I would put my locs in a ponytail,” she says. “I just never saw myself any different.”
Chlöe would also learn the true meaning of a phrase that would later become an affirmation posted on her bedroom mirror: “Don’t Let the World Dim Your Light.” After attempting to wear wigs to fit in, the Bailey sisters instead chose to rock their locs with pride, which undoubtedly cost them casting roles. Yet they would have the last laugh when making headlines as the “Teen Dreadlocked Duo” who landed a million-dollar contract with Parkwood Entertainment, and the coveted opportunity to be groomed under the tutelage of a world-renowned superstar.
Credit: Derek Blanks
While that could be the end of a beautiful fairytale of self-empowerment, the reality is that it’s just the beginning of the story of her evolution. For most girls, the transition into womanhood takes place in the comfort of their own worlds, often limited to the number of people they allow to have access to them. But for Chlöe, it’s happening in front of millions of critiquing eyes just waiting for an opportunity to either uplift or dissect her through unwarranted commentary.
Many in her position wouldn’t be able to take that kind of pressure. But Chlöe is handling it with grace. “I feel like all of us as humans, we have the right to interpret things how we want,” she says. “I put art out into the world and it's up for interpretation. I'm learning that not everyone is going to always like me and that it's okay.”
Chlöe isn’t the first artist to receive criticism for her carnal content, and she certainly won’t be the last. In 2010, Ciara writhed and rode her way to banishment on BET when the then 24-year-old released her video for “Ride.” In 2006, 25-year-old Beyoncé received backlash for “Déjà Vu."
"I put art out into the world and it's up for interpretation. I'm learning that not everyone is going to always like me and that it's okay.”
So much so that over 5,000 fans signed an online petition demanding that her label re-shoot the video because it was “too sexual.” Even 27-year-old Janet didn’t escape critical headlines when she shed her image of innocence for a more risqué appearance with the 1993 release of janet.
It’s almost as if public reproach is a rite of passage for young Black women R&B singers on the road to stardom. Good girls seemingly “go bad” whenever they embrace the depths of their femininity, and fans only like you on top figuratively. But Chlöe has learned not to bow down to other people’s opinions, but to boss up and control the narrative. As the saying goes, well-behaved women seldom make history. If sex appeal is her weapon, she wields it well.
On set, Chlöe exudes the energy of Aphrodite in an apple red, off-shoulder dress with a sexy high split. In between shots, she mouths the lyrics to Yebba’s “Boomerang” as it echoes throughout the space in steady repetition at my recommendation. The hour grows late, yet Chlöe is heating things up as eyes stare in deep mesmerization of the girl on fire.
Credit: Derek Blanks
Through music, she explores the depths of her being, a journey that seems to be, at its foundation, rooted in self-discovery. Whereas their debut album The Kids Are Alright (2018) boasts a young Chloe x Halle empowering their generation to embrace who they are while finding their place in the world, their second album Ungodly Hour (2020) shows the Bailey sisters shedding the veil of innocence for a more unapologetic bravado.
What fans looked forward to seeing is who Chlöe shows herself to be on her debut solo album In Pieces. In an interview with PEOPLE, she confesses that releasing her first project without her sister was “scary.” "It was a moment of self-doubt where I was like, 'Can I do this without my sister?’”
Chlöe has never been shy about sharing her insecurities or her vulnerabilities, all of which are laced throughout the 14-track album. “I want people to have fun when they listen to it and to just realize that they're not alone and it's okay to be vulnerable and raw and open because none of us are perfect; we're all far from it. And I think it's healing when we all admit to that instead of putting up a facade.”
The gift of time has given the self-professed “big lover girl” more encounters with romance and heartbreak. Love songs once sung for their beautiful riffs and melodies become more than just abstract lyrics and are replaced by real-life experiences, which she tells me is definitely in the music.
In her single “Pray It Away,” for example, she contemplates going to God for healing instead of going at her ex-lover for revenge for his infidelities. “With anything dealing with art, I am completely vulnerable,” she says. “I'm completely myself, I'm completely open and transparent. So it's pretty much all of me and who I am right now.”
Has Chlöe been in love? That still remains to be said. Of course, she’s been linked to a few potential baes, but dating in the digital age isn’t as easy as a double tap or drop of a heart-eyes emoji. It requires a level of trust and vulnerability that’s hard to earn, and easy to mishandle. To let her guard down means to potentially set herself up for disappointment. “It’s difficult dating right now, honestly, because you really have to kind of keep your guard up and pay attention to who's really there for you. And you know, I'm such an affectionate person and I love hard.
"So when I meet the one person that I really, really am into, it's hard for me to see any others and I get attached pretty easily. And you know, I don't know, it's…it's a scary thing.”
Credit: Derek Blanks
“With anything dealing with art, I am completely vulnerable. I'm completely myself, I'm completely open and transparent. So it's pretty much all of me and who I am right now.”
While broken hearts yield good music (queue Adele), what’s in Chlöe’s prayer is the desire to be happy. What does that look like? Well, she’s still figuring that out herself. “Honestly, I'm the type of person who I don't truly learn unless I experience it. So it's like I can view and watch my parents and watch the loving relationships that I see in my life and be like, ‘Oh, I want that. I would love to have that.’ But then I also have to experience [love] on my own and see what my flaws or my faults might be or see what my good things about myself are. I feel like it's really all about self-reflection. And even though our base is our family and that's our foundation, we are still our own individuals and we have to find out specifically the things about ourselves that may be different from what we saw from our parents when we were growing up.”
Her ideal beau, she tells me, is someone she can feel safe to be her fun, goofy self with, but who also gives her the space to be the boss chick chasing her dreams. A man who understands that just because the world compliments her doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to hear those words from his lips or feel it in his touch. A bonus if he shows up on set after a long hard day of work with vegan cinnamon rolls. You know, the basic necessities. “I like whoever I'm with to constantly tell me they love me and that I look beautiful because I do the same. I am a very mushy person, and if I see something or you look good, I will never shy away from saying it out loud. And I want whoever I'm with to do the same, be very vocal. Tell me that you love me. Tell me what you love about me because I'm doing the same for you because that's just the person I am.”
Until she meets her match she’s married to the game, and for now, that seems to be perfect matrimony.
Credit: Derek Blanks
On stage at the 2021 American Music Awards, Chlöe solidified her position as a force to be reckoned with. It was a full-circle moment. In 2012, bright-eyed and baby-faced Chloe and Halle would walk onto the set of The Ellen Degeneres Show and blow the audience away as they bellowed out their future mentor’s song. Ellen would present the sisters with tickets to attend the AMAs, assuring them that they would be back and had a promising future. Nine years later, Chlöe descends from the sky cloaked in a snow-white cape and matching midriff-baring bodysuit for her debut performance. It’s the first time she’s graced the stage of the very award show that she was once an audience member of.
As she shakes and shimmies and boom kack kacks out her eight counts, it’s clear that she’s in her element. Just like her VMA performance a couple of months prior, and the many more stages she’ll continue to grace, she brings an energy that has earned her comparisons to the beloved Queen Bey herself. An honorable statement, considering few R&B songstresses are getting accolades for their entertainment capabilities. It’s on these very stages, in front of hundreds of astonished eyes and millions more glued to their televisions at home, that she tells me she feels most sexy. Powerful, even.
But off stage, it’s a different story.
It’s more than just the commentary about her image and media-flamed rumors that get to her. Mentally, she’s in competition with herself. The desire to be the best burns at the back of her mind with every performance, every production, and every time she steps into the booth. Before, she could share the weight of this burden with her sister. Being a part of a duo meant she could turn to Halle for quiet confirmation and encouragement without a word being exchanged. But lately stepping on the stage means stepping out on her own. And despite being a breathtaking, five-time Grammy-nominated star, Chlöe doesn’t escape the reality that sometimes we can be our own worst critics.
Over the last year, she’s been coming to terms with who she is on her own while overcoming the fear of failing to become who she’s destined to be. While the world waits to see how Chlöe wins, the real triumph is in every day that she chooses herself and continues to walk in her purpose. “I don't really have anything all figured out, honestly. But what I try to do, a lot of prayer. I talk to God more and I just try to do things that calm my mind down and just breathe.”
To whom much is given, much will be required. She’s been chosen to walk this path for a reason. Once she fully embraces that everything she’s meant to be is already inside of her, she’ll be an unstoppable force. “My grandma, Elizabeth, she just passed away and my middle name is her [first] name. So I feel like I truly have a responsibility to live up to her legacy that she's left on this earth. I hope I can do that.”
There’s no doubt that she will. With a role in The Fighting Temptations at three years old, a million-dollar record deal, a main role on five seasons of Grown-ish, five Grammy nominations, a number one solo record in Urban and Rhythmic Radio, a debut solo album, and starring roles in recently released movies Praise Thisand Swarm (just to name a few), Chlöe’s certainly already made her mark, and she’s just getting started.
Photographer & Creative Director: Derek Blanks
Executive Producer: Necole Kane
Co-Executive Producer: EJ Jamele
Producer: Erica Turnbull
Digitech: Chris Keller
DP: Alex Nikishin
Gaffer: Simeon Mihaylov
Photo Assistant: Chris Paschal
2nd Photo Assistant: Tyler Umprey
Features Editor: Kiah McBride
Special Projects: Tyeal Howell
Hair: Malcolm Marquez
Makeup: Yolonda Frederick
Fashion Styling: Ashley Sean Thomas
For More: Cover Story: Issa Rae Comes Full Circle
Amanda Seales Opens Up About The Changes Within Her Body After Turning 41 And How She Felt Posing Nude
Actress and comedian Amanda Seales is combating beauty standards by fearlessly showcasing how acceptance of one's body, primarily through its changes, could improve how an individual views themselves.
The 41-year-old, widely known for her controversial commentary on various topics, including news and pop culture, recently generated buzz online after posing nude for Women's Health. The nude photoshoot was part of the magazine's Body Issue edition.
This spread also featured other successful women, who also posed nude, sharing their stories about their journey with their bodies and how it helped shape who they are today. In an interview on April 25, Seales revealed why she wanted to participate in the photoshoot and how freeing the entire experience was.
Amanda On Posing Nude
In the video discussion with Women's Health, the Insecure star disclosed that the main factors that motivated her to accept the opportunity were her values and what she stood for overall.
Seales added that because she's been transparent throughout the latter half of her career, regardless of the subject, doing this photoshoot, even with fluctuating weight, was the best way she knew she could be honest about her journey and notes that it could possibly inspire others dealing with the same thing.
"I feel like there's a lot of women who are looking at their bodies and don't feel comfortable, and for me, I went up from a small to medium this year which I know for some people are like 'whatever.' But I have been the same size for a very long time. Then I turned 41, and my body was like 'goodbye,' and I've had to just adjust," she said while opening up about her body's changes.
"I feel like so much of my work at this point in my career has become about my transparency being a part of my philanthropy, and so how much more transparent can you get than just like letting it all hang out."
Amanda On The Nude Photoshoot Experience
Later Seales shared that although posing nude came with its uncertainties, all that faded away when she walked on set and was cared for by the crew.
The podcast host further elaborated that once everything was established between both parties, she was more than willing to do the photoshoot.
"Anybody that's ever done this kind of shoot, you're going into uncertainty. You're going into no man's land. So you're just kind of going with the flow. Once I got here, it was just so quickly established that everything had very carefully been thought out," she stated. "So that makes you feel taken care of, you know. You're just nuzzled against the bosom of efficiency. So once we do that, it's like, where am I posing? That tree? Yeah, alright. At a certain point, I was like you don't have to hold the robe up anymore. We've established that this is my vagina, and these are these titties. What are we doing?"
As the Women's Health photoshoot and the spread became public, Seales took to her Instagram account to reiterate the vital message of loving oneself.
The star explained that despite what others may think, she did the photoshoot to inspire others to be their "full selves" unapologetically.
"This week, my Women's Health magazine nude photos came out. I felt like, you know what, as a over 40-year-old woman and somebody who really is like, all about the importance of true self-actualization. These photos I decided to take because so many of us are afraid to be our full selves. These photos are not about sex. These photos are about self," she said.
The Body Issue edition of Women's Health magazine is on stands now.
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Feature image by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images