Click here to read more on these patient's transitions to a healthy natural hair style with the help of our Do Good H.A.I.R. support team.

Click here to read more on these
patient's transitions to a healthy
natural hair style with the help of our
Do Good H.A.I.R. support team.

Salon Series Event

The Center for Aesthetic Modernism launched its Do Good H.A.I.R. Salon™ series on December 10, 2011, on the campus of the University of Maryland. Dr. Monte O. Harris, the center's founder, gave the inaugural talk, discussing "Do Good H.A.I.R: An Afro-Modern Approach to Restoring Beauty, Health, and Identity."

More than 100 guests attended the event housed in the David C. Driskell Center, which is named for the renowned painter, art collector, and leading scholar on African American art and artists. Surrounded by "Creative Spirit," an exhibition celebrating Driskell's life and artistic handicraft, guests listened expectantly to Dr. Harris reveal the purpose for the event and share his vision for the Salon.

"I know many of you are wondering what this is all about," he began. "Why are we here -- at the University of Maryland, in an art gallery, with a plastic surgeon, presumably talking about hair. It doesn't quite add up.

"This is the first of an ongoing series of conversations aimed at cultivating aesthetic consciousness, by exploring the intersection between beauty, health, and identity," Dr. Harris explained. "I hope to shed new light on the relationship between how we look – our physical beauty; how we feel – health and sense of wellness; and how we stimulate our unique creative capacity to live a purpose driven life, which ultimately determines our identity."

Through the series, Dr. Harris and the center's staff hope to bring together the medical, cosmetology, and museum communities, groups that typically do not engage in a meaningful way, yet together can harness the power of beauty as a catalyst to health and wellness. "We are looking to create a new team of health and wellness ambassadors, including the traditional healthcare practitioner, salon stylist, aesthetician and museum curators."

In his talk, Dr. Harris illustrated how popular culture and the beauty industry collaborate to promote a "misalignment" of beauty, health, and identity, particularly for those of African descent. To the untrained eye, the images we see every day in mainstream media appear benign: Beyonce on the cover of her newest album, Jennifer Hudson on the red carpet as a model of fitness and health, Venus and Serena Williams on the cover of Hamptons magazine. But through Dr. Harris' trained lens, we see an exaggeration of the unnatural in the name of beauty: skin that is lighter and hair that is inordinately longer and straighter than we know it to naturally be.

"What are these images saying to millions of young girls who are looking outside of themselves for models of beauty to emulate?" asked Dr. Harris. "Is this alignment?"

Every day in his practice in Chevy Chase, Md., Dr. Harris helps women of diverse cultural background confront this "misalignment." For many of these women, years of manipulating their hair in the name of beauty has left them with areas of baldness and hair that will no longer grow. Popular hair styles such as weaves and braids can traumatize the hair, explained Dr. Harris. Ironically, many women turn to these styles in an effort to "be healthy," either as an alternative to using excessive heat on the hair, or to protect or preserve the hair while exercising.

Using an innovative and modern approach that centers on the celebration of Africa and the African diaspora as a source of beauty, renewal, and wisdom, Dr. Harris helps his patients restore their own beauty, health, and identity. Following the talk, three of Dr. Harris' patients and his wife shared how that approach has changed their lives. They talked of their transition to natural hair as a spiritual transformation, of becoming their authentic selves. To contrast the popular images of beauty, Dr. Harris presented the women with framed images of themselves, adorned with wearable art from N'Diaye Design.

"Now this is alignment," said Dr. Harris. The audience enthusiastically agreed.

The center's next Do Good H.A.I.R. Salon™  is scheduled for March 4th at the Smithsonian Anacostia Museum in conjunction with the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage - Will to Adorn Project.