Positively Las Vegas


'Wearing my CROWN': UNLV exhibit celebrates the beauty and strength of natural hair

Posted at 1:48 PM, Feb 13, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-14 13:13:43-05

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — It's a very real and common story for many people of color: discrimination based on hair.

It's also what encouraged many states, including Nevada, to pass what's called the CROWN Act. Channel 13 anchor Rachel Moore spoke to a group of women at UNLV who are putting natural hair on display and breaking down hair barriers.

"It's wild to me that my whole body is legislated, both as a Black person and as a woman, that there has to be laws to specifically protect me in my workspaces," says Ingrid Ruffin, associate dean and division director for Research and Education at UNLV University Libraries.

Ruffin wants everyone to know, it's not OK to discriminate against someone because of their hair. Historically, Black men, women, and even children have been at a disadvantage when it comes to their hair.

"Students being forced to cut their hair or not participate in school activities because of school rules that say that their particular way of showing up in the world is unprofessional, unkempt, unattractive, and just improper," Ruffin said.

She's part of a team to create a new exhibit, Wearing My CROWN, celebrating the CROWN Act. CROWN stands for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural hair. Nevada is the 12th state to join in on the fight to ban hair discrimination, with legislation passing in 2021.

"Who am I really? Who am I apart from my race? Who am I apart from my hair, my nationality, my ethnicity? Who am I, the person inside, really?" asks local artist and photographer, Chantal Chandler.

She felt compelled to cut her locks and have a fresh start. The UNLV student is sharing her story and others through her work on display at UNLV's Lied Library.


"I did this piece, It was more focused on self-acceptance and challenging those things within us that want to conform to whatever it is that we would conform to, which hinders our own self-expression," Chandler said.

Tabiya Conyers is also showcasing her gallery on Black hair with photos she says capture the emotions of each person's story and make others feel connected.

"I think it was important to really make hair the forefront, because we're not beating around the bush. We've got to throw it in people's faces and make them listen," Conyers said.

Conyers says the exhibit not only celebrates natural hair, but allows students, faculty, and staff to share their stories.

"I wanted each and every photo to present their identity, because hair is identity at the end of the day. Whether you shave it or whether you keep it out, it's your identity," Conyers said.

Chandler is encouraging people to go even deeper than their roots — to find out who you are, with or without your hair.

"Who are you? Not just women, everybody. Who are you, apart from everything you identify with? Who are you? That's the biggest question that I want people to ask themselves. Know who they are apart from it all. Who are you?" Chandler said.

The Wearing My CROWN exhibit can be found inside the UNLV campus Lied Library and is on display until this summer.