June 17, 2024

New Jersey illustrator publishes books to help Black girls love their ‘princess hair’

Author and illustrator Sharee Miller didn’t see a range of diverse characters in the books she read as a child, so she created her own as an adult. 

Greg Bledsoe and his Family Geography Project caught up with Miller in Jersey City, New Jersey, to speak about her journey and her popular children’s book “Princess Hair.” 

“When I’m drawing I feel like, a sense of relief,” said Miller, noting that she loses herself in her imagination in the process.

“My mom loves to tell me the story of when I was younger before I could even write, I would dictate stories to her and have her write them down for me.”

She now pens her own inspirational tales for young Black girls using watercolor, colored pencil, and pen. Miller self-published her first book “Princess Hair” in 2014.

Sharee Miller via Instagram @coilyandcute

“I was inspired to write Princess Hair after I went through my own natural hair journey,” said Miller in an interview with Brightly

“I stopped chemically straightening my hair and let it grow naturally. When I was growing up, there weren’t many representations of girls and women with natural hair, and so I didn’t really have anything to encourage me to love what came naturally.”  

“As an adult, I finally saw images of women loving their natural hair and that inspired me to embrace my natural hair,” she said. “I wanted to go back in time and show myself how beautiful and versatile my hair was. I decided to make Princess Hair for the next generation of girls discovering their hair so they feel empowered to love their hair.”

“If we look back at how princesses have been portrayed in the past, they generally have the same characteristics — long flowing hair and a lack of agency. Often princesses are portrayed not so much as characters, but as objects for a prince to acquire or save, but we are starting to break this archetype. Princesses are more diverse and empowered.”  

“Hair is an important part of this revolution because it represents more than diversity, it represents personality. The more individuality and personal style we can give to our characters, the more opportunities we give readers to identify with our characters,” she said. 

Miller told Bledsoe that “Princess Hair” aims to teach little Black girls to love their hair.

“I didn’t really grow up appreciating my hair, she says in the clip below. “The things I was drawing didn’t look like me. All my main characters would be white.”

Miller saie it makes her sad knowing that children today still struggle with similar identity issues that are often triggered by the lack of representation in the media.

Princess Hair is a celebration of our differences,” she said.

Per Miller’s website, she authored many picture books including “Don’t Touch My Hair,” and “Michelle’s Garden,” published by Little Brown for Young Readers. She is also the illustrator of The Shai And Emmie Series, written by actress Quvenzhané Wallis and Nancy Ohlin published by Simon and Schuster, and “The Excursion” published by Homebound Publications.

Miller is currently working on her debut graphic novel series “Curlfriends”.

Hear more from Miller in her interview below.

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