I’m amazed at how many talented and inspiring people I’ve come across via social media, especially Instagram. NYC artist/illustrator Sharee Miller is one such person. One look at her drawings and you can’t help but smile. But, there’s more to this naturalista’s art than a series of lines and pretty colors. Here’s her story…
Have you always worn you hair in its natural state? If not, when and why did you decide to go back to your natural texture? What was the reaction of your family and friends?
Sadly no. Just like many others, I begged for a relaxer in 6th grade and I got it. My hair was long and straight but by 8th grade it all broke off. Since then, I have had short hair and grown to like it. Then while I was in college all my friends were beginning to make the transition back and loving it but I was still scared so I continued relaxing. Then, one day during senior year (2012) when I was too busy to get it relaxed and I saw that I had at least an inch of my natural hair, I just took the leap and cut it all off. I loved the feeling of the sun on my scalp and the way it framed my face. I’ve always loved changing my hair and I love how much more you can do with it in its natural state and if I want it straight I can do that too. I’ve cut it at least 5 times since then. Everyone loved it but I think it was easier for me because all my friends had already done it and I had been talking about doing it for a long time so they probably thought, “finally, now we don’t have to hear about it anymore.”
Why do you love being natural? How have you been able to overcome any personal challenges along the way?
Oops, guess I already answered this. I just love the freedom of changing my hair and not being afraid of how the chemicals in my hair will react. I still have a problem with growth but that could be because I also have a problem with patience. I hate how my hair looks when it is growing out and I always end up cutting it off which annoys my fiance but he gets over it once he sees my cool new hair cut. But I would LOVE to have a big fro one day so soon I will have to resist they allure of the scissors.
When did you discover this amazing talent of yours and how did you hone your skills? Was art school involved?
I have always loved to draw. Both of my sisters are artistically inclined so we would all draw together. We would pause the tv and hold the paper to the screen to draw Sailor Moon. I’ve always loved art class and I even got out of taking gym in JR High because I was taking advanced art. I took AP art in high school and I went to an after school art class. Then I went to Pratt Institute, a great art school in Brooklyn. So yes, art school was involved. It wasn’t about teaching me how to draw, though, it was more about learning how to use my skills. Pratt taught me how to put my work out there and how to create things I never even thought about. It’s great to be open to the fact that art is all around us. It’s on our books, our clothes, our furniture, not just on the walls.
With your talent, you could be drawing anything. When and why did you turn your focus to images of curly/coily-haired girls? What do you hope to accomplish with Coily and Cute?
I love making art for children. I love drawing cute and colorful things. I was looking for an outlet to get all this cute out of my system and keep me drawing everyday. At the same time I was in the natural hair community looking at YouTube videos and going to hair expos and I wanted to be a part of that as well. So the two came together and I created Coily and Cute. There was a lot out there directed at women but what about the little girls still growing up and asking for perms? I wanted to make art for them so they could see how cute their hair is. I wanted to give mothers tools to show their children how they should view themselves. Everyone wants to see themselves portrayed in the world and I knew I could do that. I love when people comment “that’s my daughter” or “that’s us” on my photos because I want them to see themselves in my art. I want them to feel inspired and empowered to continue their journey or start it.
How much of a role do art and the media play in women and young girls embracing their natural beauty today? Do you think things are changing for the better?
I believe art imitates life and we are seeing natural hair come back in a big way because we are bringing it back- in commercials, in movies, even celebrities are posting pictures of their natural hair. People are learning it’s not healthy and it’s not necessary to permanently alter your hair with chemicals. Women are learning to be proud of their hair in all its glory.
Is there anything you’re currently working on or future endeavors you’d like to share?
I recently just self-published my first book so I am still excited about that and the reaction I am getting. I am currently working on the second and more cute items for my Etsy store. I want to get enough stuff built up so I can start selling at Hair expos! I am aiming for the 2014 Let Your Hair Down Expo here in NY so fingers crossed!
Any advice for new naturals or those struggling with the decision to go back to natural? How about a word or two for aspiring artists?
Just cut it all off! You will feel free. Especially in the summer. I loved the feeling of the sun on my scalp. Uh oh, here come the scissors.
Any inspiring artist should just draw everyday and any project you are waiting on doing, just do it. Don’t wait on an audience and don’t aim for sales because then you will just be miserable. Find what you love to do and do it every day, even when you are in a bad mood because doing what you love always makes things better.
Sharee, thank you so much for sharing your story!