Why Is It So Hard for Some Animators to Illustrate Black Hair?

ALLURE: What did you learn through the testing process of making your brushes?

VJP:  I learned that some hair is really intricate when I was developing for the 4C hairbrush texture, which is really, really tiny coils. My dad has 4C hair texture and I said, “Here’s the brush. I made it for you. And it was my first iteration.” He said, “That’s not how my hair looks.” I’m like, “Yeah, it is.” He’s like, “No, that does not look right.” I’m like, “OK then, can I see your hair closer?” He’s like, “Sure.” I’m like, “That’s not close enough. Can you cut some off?”

That’s why that series began — because he [said] his hair wasn’t accurate. And I cut a little tiny piece of his hair and it’s a little circle. There’s a lot of intricacies in it. It interlaces in a pattern I didn’t expect. And having a lot of reference images was great, especially with braids and how they interlock. It’s like triangles, interlocking together.

ALLURE: Do you incorporate your daily hair routine or styles into your digital designs?

VJP: I feel like I do. My hairstyle changes all the time and I feel like the brushes have pushed me to do [new things with] my hair because I’m researching different hairstyles all the time. I’ve never had braids in my hair because I’m allergic to a lot of different kinds of hair products — florals, aloe, and certain ingredients. [If I use those ingredients,] I’ll get a sore throat and a runny nose, and my eyes will be burning.

But I want to try all the different hairstyles, especially box braids. And now, I know every single time type of braid you can have. I know the difference between crochet braids and Ilani braids, lemonade braids, every single kind of braid, because people come to me as the hair expert. The brushes have really inspired me to push myself more and the different hairstyles I do. 

ALLURE: You mentioned experiencing allergic reactions to some beauty products, but do you have any hair products you’ve loved?

VJP: Yeah, I use TRESemme products, because they actually make one of the only shampoos and conditioners [I’ve tried] that isn’t super scented. I really like the Got2B Invincible Styling Gel for slicked-back styles. It doesn’t make your hair crispy. It makes it still soft afterwards. But your hair does have to be a little bit wet before you can put it on or else it won’t really work.

ALLURE: As a digital artist, how do you hope to push the industry forward?

VJP: As a digital artist. I hope that I can push the industry forward to help people think about others who aren’t themselves, or people who don’t look like them [if they’re not Black]. I hope that the industry becomes more inclusive, [and that] because of me that people can draw others more accurately. I hope to create more educational tools, whether it’s through digital art or from our real world. And, hopefully, people become more educated and more accepting and positive because of the art that I create.