It’s no secret that the culture is moved, shifted, and adjusted in accordance with Black women. We set the trends in hair, style, beauty, and streetwear is no exception to the game. Content creator Keia Kodama paid homage to Black culture through her latest project — the Hair Force 1s. The self-proclaimed habitual artist customized a classic pair of Air Force 1s into a masterpiece complete with a Nike checkmark made of bamboo earrings, braiding hair throughout the silhouette, and baby hairs laid on the outskirts of the sneaker’s eye.

“I love to play with ideas that I feel are relevant in the representation of Black women,” Kodama reveals to ESSENCE about the inspiration behind the sneaker. During the pandemic, she retired from her position as a “Kitchen Beautician” and sought out new creative outlets. While many concepts floated around her mind for a few months, Kodama gave herself the creative grace to allow her ideas to manifest on their own. The Hair Force 1s were at the front of her mind and she described the conception as “so organic.” As a kitchen beautitician, Kodama spent her days ensuring the Black women who came through her space know that all Black hair is beautiful, as is every Black woman no matter what her texture, length or curl pattern. “I spent my days in the kitchen making sure every black women understood that logic,” she says. “I was never able to do all the cool 80’s and 90’s hairstyles, so I was also fueled by my envy to celebrate what I couldn’t achieve.”

The Northern California-based creative’s love for sneakers sparked at the young age of 9-years-old. Kodama reminisced back to when she wore a new pair of Air Forces on the playground, sending the young boys into a frenzy who didn’t understand at the time that girls could wear sneakers too. “That set a path for sneaker appreciation and validation; now it’s really all about the appreciation,” she tells us proudly. When asked about the importance of giving flowers to Black culture outside of just streetwear, specifically giving proper accreditation to Black hair, style and beauty trends, Kodama noted the importance of the Black hair experience for any member of the Black community.

“It’s a major part of our journey and life experience. I love how Black women can change their hair every few days; it breathes life back into us,” Kodama explains. As someone who has “lived through decades” of the negative connotations attached to the versatility of Black hair, the content creator has always been amazed by the creativity, art, and skill that we demonstrate through our tresses. “We are so conditioned to hate our hair, [and] I always strive to change that narrative. My hair experience is one of a mixed girl [and] I always had the ‘good hair,’ according to everyone else. My grandmother would joke and say she didn’t marry a Japanese man to give me all that ‘good hair’ just so I can cut it off. Through my lens, we all have ‘good hair’ — it was how you treated it that mattered.”

Kodama continued, “Black women don’t get the credit we deserve because most people are highly undereducated when it comes to us, but mainly because it would be admitting to cheating on the test. We are the architects, the blue print, a whole vibe from head to toe. Black women are a land that is always colonized. We brought the property value up but are never given ownership of then land. I owe it to us, to myself, my daughter – all of us – to create work for the world to understand the beauty, innovation, creativity and originality in our struggle.”

To keep up with more of Kodama’s work, be sure to follow her on Instagram.

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