Meet Helena Koudou, the Braider Whose Intricate Works Are the Star of a Mesmerizing Short Film

Akili King

“To me, rocking braids means protecting your crown,” 23-year-old Ivorian braider and model, Helena Koudou, says of her passion. She started braiding at 13 years old, the youngest person in her family’s shop, Alima’s Hair Braiding in Brooklyn. Ten years of watching her aunts, while practicing on her little cousins and clients, made her capable of creating intricate, artful braided looks that she showcases on her Instagram, @slayedinbraids, as well as in the exquisite short film, The Hair Appointment.

The Hair Appointment focuses on “the beauty of African braiding and the community surrounding getting your hair braided in a salon versus doing your hair at home,” Koudou explains. “The stylist-client bond is such a beautiful connection. We talk about everything in the chair.” The film also seeks to celebrate the natural hair community at a time when women still face discrimination for their hairstyles.

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From The Hair Appointment
Photo: Courtesy Jeremy Rodney-Hall

The film came about after the head director of Sunday School Creative, Josef Adamu, discovered @slayedinbraids and was inspired to create a longer work around it. In Spring 2018, it became an interactive evening at Okay Space Gallery in Brooklyn. The team wanted to celebrate their film and give it room to reach more people. “We pretty much took everything that was in my family’s salon and put it into the exhibit,” Koudou says. Koudou's aunts demonstrated braiding, then there was poetry, and songs, with a DJ and wine flowing the rest of the night.

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From The Hair Appointment
Photo: Courtesy Jeremy Rodney-Hall

The Hair Appointment has now made its way across the pond with a second exhibition that took place at Peckham Palms in London this weekend. Jay-Ann Lopez & Trina Charles of Curlture UK (an online empowerment platform for all things natural hair, beauty and travel) hosted. Koudou showcased her braiding skills on models, and guests could experience works including customized X-Pression hair extension packages from Tolu Oye of Oye Green; poetry by Lanaire Aderemi; sounds from Born N Bread, DJ Femo, and more. “It’s really just a magical moment of men and women coming together to celebrate our culture, hair, and one another,” Koudou says. The Hair Appointment is going next to Ghana, where Koudou will help host a 10-day exhibition this December. “I just want people to know that having braids in the workplace, or wherever they go, is okay. I want people to continue to embrace their hair and continue to teach the younger generation that braids and natural hair is just as beautiful—don't let society tell you otherwise.”

Koudou's braids on hosts Jay-Ann Lopez and Trina Charles.
Photo: Courtesy of Albert Donkor
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Originally Appeared on Vogue