Walking into a beauty supply store in the hood is like walking into a parallel universe. Cheap bright lipsticks grab your eye immediately. Hair hangs from the ceiling. There is abundant hair dye, cheap gold jewelry, and every hair accessory known to man. It is a familiar home to black and brown women struggling to make themselves beautiful in a world that has no time to pay them any mind.

– Antonia George, “You Can Keep Your Baddie Aesthetic, I Prefer Hood Girls”

Appropriation. This word has been used in throughout the social justice community and can be heard within various communities. For those unaware of the meaning, appropriation is defined as “the action of taking something for one’s own use, typically without the owner’s permission.” It’s not about a cultural exchange of aesthetics but rather a claiming of it.

Over the last few years myself and other women have noticed the ever-growing appropriation of what we call “Hood Femme” aesthetics. Cornrows called “boxer braids,” Bantu knots called “mini buns” and Asian mesh slippers found at your local hair or convenient store being sold for $1500 by major fashion houses. With every Kardashian Instagram post, it appears that the style we influenced is being sold and consumed by those who simply don’t understand the history and importance of being a Hood Femme. Similarly, most fail to understand the racial connotations that are associated with the Hood Femme aesthetic, the nuances of being hood, black and female.

I grew up in a time when being a “baddie” or dressing “ratchet” was enough to get you ridiculed or sent home to change. Growing up in a single parent, low-income family, I wasn’t able to afford to shop at places like Aldo or American Eagle. Instead I had the local hair store at the corner of my street, or dollar store down the road. Faux golden hoops with the word “Love” in them could be found for $3.99 right next to the faux gold chains. Green and blue wigs for $9.99 sold at the back next to the $1 pack of braiding hair. For me, hoops were everything, and the bigger the better. The same could be said for my nails, done in acrylic with a design featuring eight different colours and a rhinestone to match.

It was a lifestyle you lived because you had to, not because it was a fashion statement. Being a Hood Femme means making everything out of nothing, like magic. It means being creative and innovative in a world that tells you that you can’t. A Hood Femme can take a pair of earrings going for $2.99, a dress for $5 and a wig for $10 and make herself look like a million dollars. It’s self-love in the purest form. So for this edition of Art Week, I wanted to showcase the greatest artists I know, through their own images and their own words. From Hood Femmes who live and breathe this aesthetic inspire all of us.

Hood femme: creativity personified. To be a black girl in the hood is to be a woman as soon as you develop a shape. Hood femmes gave me hope. Hope that one day I’d be free of the judgments from the women in my family. Hope that I could let beautiful words fall from between my glossed lips, let my backbone slip, roll my neck in the face of grown ass men. Hood Femme aesthetic is nails out to there that threaten any nigga that comes near. It’s edges laid, that were sweat out before the preacher prayed the benediction. It’s boots with the fur and timberland heeled boots that turned into fur jackets and Fenty slides. It’s survival of the fittest in ya best fitted. – Sydney-Elise Washington

I’ve been told often by other people that I am “hood” looking. That I am not a fem… that I look like I’m the more dominant one. I grew up mostly with boys, playing ball, video games but also loving very girly things. I was mostly raised in subsidiary homes, a.k.a. projects. I am a hip hop head, so this comes to me naturally that I don’t even see it. It is who I am everyday, and I love it. I adore the fact that my eyebrows can be on fleek and I can still cross you anytime at basketball. I love that people don’t expect for me to be smart cause I talk a certain away and I blow them away. I love that I seem girly but can probably beat you at video games. Hood Femme is being myself, not worrying about “do I look too hood or ghetto for this function? Should I wear heels or my timbs with this dress? – Saharla Guessalleh

Hood femme is Dollar Store braiding hair with tips on fire it’s the smell of burning plastic and vanilla dutches bamboo earrings and crisp white sneakers in the summer. It’s a lifestyle not a fashion statement. You had to live it to know it. – Shaniece Powell

Its a culture, a beautiful, rich, vibrant, strong, complex, culture. A lot of us grew up beautifying ourselves with very little money and/or access. The beauty supply store was my second home as a teenager, I’d rock purple weave one week and the next I’d have box braids. I always had the most bomb sneakers and you never caught me without three pairs of earrings on, two necklaces and a wrist full of gold bangles. Some of my best memories include the simple things like making up a dance with my friends & battling the other girls from down the block, in the middle of the street, and moving so cars could get by. Hood Femme is a way of life. I could go on and on about my crazy experiences.
– Reneé Gabrielle

Black girls from the hood who buy dollar doorknockers, get long acrylic nails for cheap at the salon down the block, who wear $20 wigs and who find their party outfits from Rainbow and rock bright colour lipstick from the beauty supply store. They are culture. They created this “baddie IG” trend years ago, back when black girlhood was ugly and scary and ghetto to you. – Aziza, @artsyandblack