Hair Story: Ayesha McMahon

At Glasshouse we experience day by day just how much people’s hair means to them. Young or old, male or female, a transformative treatment or look can leave you with a new found confidence and a spring in your step. The connection with our hair is often more than just aesthetic however. For many people, their hair is linked to their cultural heritage, their religion or another aspect of their identity.

It’s this concept that we want to embrace and explore in our Journal series; Hair Story. Speaking to women of different backgrounds and cultures, we want to know exactly what their hair means to them and the stories that surround it, celebrating both diversity and style.

Having discovered model and all-round creative Ayesha McMahon on Instagram recently, we immediately wanted to get her involved in the series. You may have seen her freckle-adorned face in and around London’s billboards this month, as the face of the recent World Afro Day campaign, shining a light on the way black women are made to feel about their natural hair in society today.

Image: Tytiah
Image: Tytiah

Take a scroll through her growing Instagram platform and you’ll find endless beauty inspiration from Ayesha’s various shoots, with her hair styled in everything from Bantu knots to dreads. Her bold and contemporary style paired with her glowing skin certainly makes her one to watch.

We sat down with the up and coming model to chat about her hair and her thoughts on black hair in the industry.

On childhood tangles:

Childhood feels like a lifetime ago! A particular memory that’s stayed with me is having my hair washed and detangled weekly by my mum. Every week my hair would be washed, conditioned and then I would sit on the floor, in between my mum’s legs as she would comb through my hair. It really takes love to look after someone else’s hair.

Image: Jamal Anthony
Image: Jamal Anthony

On conformity:

I’ve actually had a mixed experience - pressure from others as well as pressure I put on myself. In school there’s often comments about curly hair. You’re made to feel messy and ugly because it isn’t ‘smooth’ and ‘tamed’ like the other girls’ hair. The pressure I applied on myself was while job searching or on special occasions. I would make my hair straight to make sure I would get the job or to feel beautiful on my birthday. Thankfully, I’ve outgrown the pressure I’ve placed on myself and from others on what I should do with my hair!

On identity in hair:

I’ve grown to love that it’s mine. I’ve also learned how to understand my hair better and give the love it’s always needed. Simply put, at any stage it’s wonderful; clean, dirty, messy, smooth, tangled, pulled back or out and free. There’s beauty in all of it in every shape, form and crazy style I may wear that day.

I’ve had to explore my hair a lot when it comes to styling and caring for it – some products that may have worked for someone else’s hair, may not work for mine and it’s about understanding what my hair loves and what it doesn’t. My hair is certainly a part of me, but by no means does it define me. It grows, but I tend to it, like you would anything that needs to be looked after. I define me in so many ways and I can express myself through my hair, but my hair is just another way to do that – it’s not wholly how I express myself.

Image: Lily Bertrand-Webb
Image: Lily Bertrand-Webb

On perceptions of black hair:

There’s curiosity and then there’s just unnecessary comments. ‘Your hair must be hard to do’ ‘How long does it take to straighten’ ‘It’s so soft, I didn’t think it would be soft’ ‘Can I touch it?’ ‘Is your hair real?’

For me, the perception that black hair is difficult to handle is so irritating. It’s really easy. Its versatility alone amazes me every single day. It’s unfortunate that I have to face these kinds of questions so often, as I want these negative perceptions to be a thing of the past. Being different and coming across people with hair you’re unfamiliar with should be celebrated and if you wish to ask anything ensure it comes from a positive place. Words can be so hurtful and although you may be asking something so small of someone, it can affect the other person in ways you won’t know. Even the comments I hear now about my hair can be so rude.

Image: Giselle Makeup
Image: Giselle Makeup

On versatility:

Whenever I’ve been in spaces where a hair stylist is unfamiliar with my hair my heart sinks. It’s the assumption that my hair can’t do anything. It does everything! I feel disappointed because I know they’ll be scared and unsure of what they’re doing. I understand that they haven’t been trained but surely Afro hair education should be as prominent as European hair styling, no?

It’s not great feeling like the outsider and left to do your own hair on a shoot while someone with typical European hair will be taken care of. Despite the unfamiliarity, I have the upmost respect for hairdressers and hair stylists who still try. It’s the willingness to want to do something amazing even though this is something you may have never done before.

Image: Lily Bertrand-Webb
Image: Lily Bertrand-Webb

On her favourite styles:

I change my hair so often it so often it’s hard to choose! The classic fro will always be my fave, but I do love wearing it in crotchet faux locs or other elaborate braided styles as they show more of my actual face (the fro can often take the limelight).

You can follow Ayesha on Instagram here.

Feature image: Yumna Al-Arashi

Words: Phoebe Grace Ede

Share this:

More From The Journal

  1. Glasshouse x Otiumberg

    ​We got together with photographer Thea Lovstad and jewellery brand Otiumberg to create a warm, summer inspired editorial featuring elegant gold jewellery and natural, glowing makeup.

    More +
  2. What Is Sustainable Fashion?

    ​As Fashion Revolution Week kicks off, we are exploring what it really means for fashion to be sustainable or ethical. With help from Sandra Capponi, co-founder of the Good on You app, we have put together a guide on how to made your wardrobe as planet, people and animal friendly as possible.

    More +
  3. Local Loves: Straw London

    Our newest East London neighbourhood shop is home to an enviable collection of vintage straw, wicker and crochet bags, sourced from far-flung corners of the world. Straw London has taken up a temporary home in London Fields - we catch up with brand founder Emily to learn more about all things Straw.

    More +
  4. Q&A: Holly Allenby of The Acey

    ​With a brand new business model that aims to tackle clothing waste in an innovative, stylish way, we catch up with Holly Allenby of The Acey. Proving that sustainability and style needn’t be separate entities, Holly tells us what she’s doing differently and how her latest collection is her most sustainable solution to date.

    More +
  5. The Plastic Problem

    Our ocean has a microplastics problem; these tiny pieces of plastic that will never quite disappear have been found on beaches across the planet, in the bellies of marine animals and even in our own food chain. The beauty and fashion industries have a big part to play in the plastic clean up and so we’ve dived into the issue to find out exactly how these particles are getting into the ocean and what we can do to help stop them.

    More +
  6. Beauty Trend: Coral

    Fresh, bright and full of optimism: coral is the springtime update your makeup bag is ready for. Inspired by Living Coral, Pantone’s colour of the year, we delve into coral’s many guises and recommend how you can introduce it your beauty routine.

    More +
  7. Reads: Body by Alexa Coe

    We chat with London based illustrator Alexa Coe about self-portraiture, our relationships with our body and her newly released photography and art book, Body.

    More +
  8. Hair Trend: Headbands

    Embracing the ongoing revival of 90s accessories, we’re now turning our attention to headbands. Spotted across the SS19 catwalks and striking a balance between playful and chic, the grown-up headband is a practical accessory that makes an unfussy statement.

    More +
  9. Adaptogens in Beauty

    With the ability to regulate the body’s reaction to stress and anxiety, adaptogens have been a key part of Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda for centuries, but also contain a plethora of benefits for the skin when applied topically. From turmeric to aloe vera, we’ve rounded up our top adaptogenic ingredients to look out for in your skincare routine.

    More +
  10. Q&A: G Binsky

    Taking the Instagram world by storm, G Binsky combines the worlds of ceramics and jewellery in a unique collection of London made, wearable art. We speak to the founder Gabriela Bins about the inspiration for the brand and the importance of handmade items.

    More +
  11. Beauty Forecast: CBD

    The skincare world is constantly abuzz with new ingredients and technology, but one ingredient in particular seems to have taken 2019 by storm. CBD is popping up in our facial oils and cleansing bars and here at Glasshouse we have cut through the buzz to find out what CBD is really all about - and how it can benefit our beauty routines.

    More +
  12. Q&A: Scarlet Crawley

    ​Having left her publishing job to launch contemporary bodywork studio MASAJ, Scarlet Crawley is redefining the concept of massage, using the power of touch to cleanse the body and mind whilst restoring anatomical balance and combating the negative effects of city living. We sat down with her to discuss the benefits of massage and how best to incorporate it into our modern lifestyle.

    More +
  13. Ingredient Spotlight: Rosehip Oil

    ​Transform your skin with the latest ingredient on our radar, rosehip oil. Packed full of vitamins and essential fatty acids, find out how this cult ingredient can improve the over appearance and texture of your skin.

    More +
  14. Hair Trend: The Ear Tuck

    Effortlessly cool and extremely practical, the ear tuck is the latest - and easiest - way to style your hair this Winter, and it’s something you probably do already. Carefree, relaxed and the opposite of try-hard, this is a lazy girl’s dream that lets your facial features do the talking.

    More +
  15. Winter Dry Skin

    ​Cold temperatures drying out your skin? You’re not alone. When winter hits hard, sometimes our face is the first to feel the consequences, with dry skin becoming a more common occurrence than usual. With a little help from the founder of Evolve Beauty, we’re here to guide you through your seasonal dry skin woes.

    More +
  16. The Vegan Beauty Trouble Shooter

    ​As the vegan diet and lifestyle continues to grow in popularity, an increasing number of vegan and cruelty free products are flooding into the beauty industry and whilst this is a step in the direction, not all ‘vegan’ products are created equal. We’ve put together a guide on the subject to help you discern what is, and isn’t, 100% animal and environmentally friendly.

    More +
Load more posts