This one is a bit special as I (TCO Founder and curly-haired gal) am passionate about celebrating curly/afro hair and Johanna is a leading voice in the fight against curly/afro hair discrimination. Founded in 2017, The Curl Talk Project is exploring what it means to have textured hair in a society where the standard is otherwise, and challenging the prevailing narrative that curls are unmanageable, unprofessional and unpresentable.
In this chat, Johanna shares what she’s learned from her ‘bad’ career choices, how she’s learning to rest when her body needs to and what makes her a ‘proud introvert’.
This is not a Black History Month feature (as we celebrate black creatives every day, of course), but if you need another reason to explore the experiences of people with curly/afro hair – often an indication of background and ancestry – then let this be it!
Johanna, what’s your creative occupation?
I am a Marketer by trade and have been working on purpose-driven campaigns for different clients, from Google to Greater London. I am also the Founder of The Curl Talk Project, a Community Interest Company and ‘portfolio of experiences’ that aims to tackle curly/afro hair discrimination. By organising photography exhibitions, panel events and digital campaigns we are exploring the link between natural hair and the notions of race, culture, femininity, diversity and representation.
Where have you been?
I have been to many places I shouldn’t have, career-wise. However, these ‘bad’ career choices and experiences made me understand how essential purpose and mission-driven work is for me, but also how strong my intuition is. As much as red flags should be considered in relationships (whether they are romantic or not) we should also pay attention to them when they manifest at the professional level. I’ve learned that the hard way but am now proud of where I stand, of my relationship with work (which shouldn’t be seen as more than what it is… it is literally just work and shouldn’t take over your whole life!) and how meaningful and impactful my side project became. Where I’ve been defined, where I’ve been heading towards, but will never limit what my future has to offer.
Where are you now?
I am slowly learning to stop and accept that whatever people expect from me creatively isn’t what I should necessarily provide. I am learning to stay still and rest when my body needs to instead of keeping organising events and content for The Curl Talk Project just because I feel pressured to. I am also learning (or at least trying!) to make peace with challenges related to leading a non-for-profit organisation, which to me is the hardest bit, especially considering that very few people around me can relate.
Where are you going?
I am going towards a version of myself that makes me proud. I will continue being the ambitious, driven person I am, evolving into a proud introvert willing to make deep and genuine relationships in a world where surface-level networking is often praised.
Finally, what’s occupying your thoughts today?
My birthday trip abroad (to the Gambia or Costa Rica!), my next business move, and what I should gift my mother for her birthday this year.
Thank you, Johanna. Head to thecurltalkproject.com/stories to read a huge selection of stories that define what it means to be different because of an element that is still seen as a condition for beauty: hair.
…and keep up with The Curl Talk Project on Instagram.
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