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  • Writer's pictureAntonia Rainey

Sisters Prove How Black Hair is Art


by Antonia Rainey | WeINSPIRE Journalist

AUSTIN, Texas — Some think of art as a Mona Lisa painting or the David sculpture by Michelangelo Buonarroti, but does anyone ever see hair as art? Take some hair extensions, glue, party hats, and even a working toy helicopter, and there you have it, art at its finest. Meet sisters and co-founders of the wig and hair product business The Hair Closet, Toni and Nicole Fulton whose hair art has gone viral on TikTok and won accolades. Toni and Nicole Fulton learned about hair art when attending cosmetology school in 2015. During their schooling, hair art was taught as an avant-garde skill between periods where they weren’t actively studying hair. However, they didn’t end up using this skill until last year when the COVID-19 quarantine hit. Out of boredom, the two sisters took inspiration from the flashy ‘90s hair art shows and the exquisite hairstyles featured in American rappers Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B’s “WAP” music video to create their own hair art.


Cardi B (front) and Megan Thee Stallion (behind) in their music video “WAP”. Screenshot from YouTube.


Using some styrofoam and hair extensions, the sisters ended up with tall, breathtaking hairpieces that formed multiple abstract shapes. Afterward, wanting to show off their creations, the sisters found a photographer online. “We thought, ‘Okay, let’s go to him and let’s do something fun and not normal at all. Let’s really take it up a crazy notch’, and that happened to be right before the ‘WAP’ video came out,” Toni Fulton said. “Then when the ‘WAP’ video came out, and our photo came out at the same time, people just really connected the two, and it blew up for us.”


Toni (right) and Nicole (left) Fulton’s hairpieces from their 2020 W.A.P (Waves And Ponies) Lookbook shared over at their website, thehaircloset.com, and TikTok, @thehaircloset. Photo Courtesy of Nicole and Toni Fulton.


The popularization of hair art can be traced back to 1947 with the start of the Bronner Brothers’ bi-yearly international hair shows in Atlanta, Georgia. The Bronner Brothers’ first trade show attracted around 300 attendees and became memorialized for its renowned hair competitions. Hair art gained more traction in the ‘90s with Hairs Wars, a then hair competition between beauty schools in Detroit before it became a touring hair show.


Toni and Nicole’s next piece, the hair helicopter, or better yet known as the notorious “hairy-copter”, came in preparation to participate in Charlotte, North Carolina’s Durag Festival. The Durag Festival is an annual Juneteenth celebration held by the art studio Black Market Charolette (BLK MRKT CLT), commemorating Black art, culture, and expression. The festival’s aim to uplift Black identity, especially Black hairstyles, comes at a time when activists and organizations are bringing awareness to hair discrimination. Recently, the CROWN Coalition has pushed for legislation to pass the CROWN Act, which would ban discrimination of employment and educational opportunities based on hair texture and styles.



Two weeks before Juneteenth, BLK MRKT CLT held an old-school yearbook theme photoshoot where participants would take pictures that would later be compiled and sold as a yearbook at the Durag Festival. The hair-making process for the Fultons usually starts with an intense week of pitching and planning ideas before crafting for a couple of days. Since the yearbook photoshoot was based in nostalgia, Toni said they tried to figure out a style based on the Y2K era. “If you think about girls from the 2000s, [they had] lots of lip gloss, big hair, tall hair, but how can we do that but a lot more fun? So the 2000 style— which was the theme of the Durag Festival: the 2000s— was like a bump it. So, we thought, ‘okay, we could do like a bump it, but what if we did the helicopter with that too, so there’s a spinning aspect?’, and it just really came together it was really fun,” Toni Fulton said.



The helicopter hairpiece was also influenced by the late “Godfather of Hair” Mr. Little Willie — a Detroit hairstylist known for his eccentric hair designs such as the hairy-copter in Hair Wars. The Fulton sisters’ design took parts from toy helicopters and built motors in the hair to create huge, extravagant hair bumps with spinning diamond helicopter blades on top.


Moreover, the Durag Festival also hosts multiple events and encourages attendees to wear durags, especially ones that are fully decorated in preparation for the fashion show at the night’s end. At the event, Toni Fulton saw amongst the dense crowd of people a variety of decorated durags. Some were as long as capes, and while others were adorned in glittering diamonds and jewels. One durag that caught Toni Fulton’s attention was from DJ Fannie Mae, who covered hers in the imagery of Black historic figures and art, including the 1991 American coming-of-age drama film “Boyz n the Hood”.


Nicole Fulton was in Paris at the time, so Toni Fulton and her boyfriend participated in the fashion show wearing a matching flower-covered afro hairpiece and durag vibrant in the colors of reds, oranges, and purples. “I wore the afro, and then I made like a matching durag flower for my boyfriend… and that was great because that was the first time that we were able to have people show us what they thought of the pieces. Other pieces, normally, it’s just on the internet, you don’t know what people really think but to walk through crowds and hear people’s gasp and stuff like that, that’s really exciting,” Toni Fulton said.


While the fashion show competition was stiff, with most people having just as vivid durags and hair designs, Toni Fulton and her boyfriend ended up being the first runners-up. Toni Fulton hopes that showing their hair art online will bring more exposure to the craft and push for specialized tools being produced for people interested in the artistry. For now, when it comes to making hair art or any other art, Toni has one simple piece of advice: Go bigger than Beyoncé. “Whatever Beyoncé would do, try to go bigger than Beyoncé, which is absurd,” Toni Fulton said. “She’s Beyoncé; she has decades in the game, she has billions of dollars of resources, she has people who’ve been doing this for years. However, even if you’re just starting out like what we did with our first photoshoot, that was our goal. We all want to be Beyoncé, but someone one day will be bigger than Beyoncé, and don’t you want to be that person.” Recently, the Fulton sisters created cone-wrapped hairpieces inspired by a style worn by the Mangbetu tribe in the Congo of Africa. The look sparked a feeling of cosmic-futurism in the sisters, resulting in them planning to work on an Afro-futurism comic book in the future.



Toni (left) and Nicole (right) Fulton Mangbentu inspired hairpieces for their September photoshoot. The hairpieces took about 10 hours to make using pre-braided hair and party hats. The traditional cylinder hair design of the Mangbentu people served to enhance their beauty up until the 1950s. Courtesy of Toni and Nicole Fulton.

For more information about the Fulton sisters’ hair art or company, visit their TikTok and Instagram @thehaircloset.

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