It took 28-year-old Anita Grant more than 20 years to let anyone outside of her close family see her natural hair.
The Toronto, Canada native said it was because she’d seen mainstream media tout euro-centered beauty standards that made her feel like, as a black girl, she had to hide—a notion not uncommon for her neighboring sisters in the US and beyond.
Black women’s hair has been a point of critique for centuries. As TIME’s Areva Martin pointed out, the hate reached as far back as when as when the US’s parent country, Britain determined that African hair was closer in texture to sheep’s wool than human.
This wasn’t lost on Grant.
Growing up, she found solace in reading popular 90s Black hair magazines like Sophisticate’s Black Hair and Hype Hair to draw inspiration from the confident models sporting versatile styles on their glossy pages.
“I always switched it up with different wigs and extensions because that was what made me most comfortable,” Grant shared with Essence, explaining that her mostly white classmates often made her feel like a spectacle because of her standout features.
Over time, she said she adapted, but never felt quite right in her skin. But when she learned she was pregnant with her daughter last year, Grant knew she had to make a shift. “I didn’t want my baby girl to feel the way I did growing up,” so she came up with the idea to pen a children’s book centered around Black hair confidence.
Hello Hair features 100 illustrated hairstyles to encourage creativity. “I really wanted to inspire Black girls ability to maintain their own hair, and reconnect with their personal identity through their crown.There comes a time in every girl’s life when they inherit the responsibility of washing, detangling and styling their own hair, the goal is to make that transition positive for the next generation. Through visual representation, this book showcases the versatility of Black hair and promotes a range of styles from afros, braids, twists and locs,” Grant said in a statement shared with Essence.
Hello Hair follows the story of four young best friends having a day at the salon together that soon realize they didn’t know all the things their beautiful Black hair could be styled. Their stylist then hands them a book displaying the possibilities, and there begins their journey of self-exploration and love.
The book is slated to be released on July 3, the date the Crown Act officially goes into affect. This was intentional. “I wanted to commemorate the special moment because it marks a time in our history where Black women are officially allowed to fully embrace our versatility from the inside out.”