Laetitia KY's Instagram is stunning—that much is obvious from the moment you see it. What might take you a second longer to realise is that KY's art is also a major beauty feat, and one that sends a powerful message.
KY, who lives in Ivory Coast, started creating art with her hair a little over a year ago and already her account has over 48,000 followers. KY says ideas come to her like a flash, in a very intuitive way, and then she creates her art using simple materials like thread, needles, wire, wool, hair extensions, and of course, herself. 'In fact, I'm an integral part of the art itself,' KY tells ELLE.com, over email. 'It's part of the concept. Maybe down the road I will do it on a certain person. But if I advocate love and self-esteem, self-confidence, [then I can] inspire other black women to be proud of their entire heritage aesthetic.'
Her Instagrams range in emotion and topic, from a playful light bulb to a pistol meant to symbolise her opposition to gun violence.
But one of her latest pieces, a response to the #MeToo hashtag, has a particularly powerful message behind it. The art itself shows a man lifting up a woman's skirt. In her caption, KY wrote, 'NOTHING JUSTIFIES RAPE, SEXUAL ASSAULT OR HARASSMENT… Speak out because you don't have to carry this burden alone, talk to help other women who are afraid, talk to start a revolution, talk to change things.' She also wrote that her direct messages were open for anyone who wanted to talk, leading a number of women to write and confide in her.
'As a feminist, everything related to women's issues, including violence done to women, is something that greatly touches me,' KY says. 'I don't think that one needs to be a feminist in order for this kind of thing to affect us. To be human is enough.' For her, joining the #MeToo movement was inevitable. She says that even though she's never been a victim of sexual aggression, sexual harassment is part of her life, and she knew sooner or later she had to speak out.
'What has accelerated things is when a friend of mine told me how she just narrowly escaped rape a few years ago. This revolted me. This wasn't the only woman around me in this situation. I had to scream loudly that something was wrong. I had to join all the courageous women who had started what I consider to be one of the most important battles ever.'
In addition to hair sculpting, KY intends to launch a clothing line and dive into other artistic fields, but she's very aware of how this particular kind of art can affect a social movement like #MeToo.
'Thousands of people can say the same thing without it having the same impact. What makes the difference is the way you say it. Art makes it possible to reach more people because it finds an original, particular way to speak about the subject so that many people will linger.'
And looking at KY's art, you know that's exactly what people will do.
ELLE.com interviewed KY over email and translated her answers from French for this story.