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What is I ROCK MY OWN?

I ROCK MY OWN (IRMO) is a community experience exploring the journey of cultural identity through natural hair.

IRMO creates hundreds of images that are powerful and profound, celebrating the embrace of own’s own identity.

The images empower community members to see their true beauty, in living color.

In turn, the wider community gets to interact with authentic depictions of West Michigan’s true diversity, as each new image is shared publicly, in real time (Feb. 24.)


– an original West Michigan creation
– the world’s largest natural-hair portrait project
– a proven event (all images from prior year)
– 100% free for all participants
– a highly visual and shareable experience
– West Michigan’s cultural identity in living color
– pro-community, non-commercial collaboration
– an experience producing authentic interactions
– a source of pride for the greater community
– a process that enhances cultural competency
– a highly accessible experience for all

Impact of I ROCK MY OWN?

– Creates beautiful images of actual people.
– Provides context for the cultural and historical significance of the imagery.
– Provides each participant with artistic, professional portrait that is their own.
– Floods the community (and beyond) with hundreds of authentic, gorgeous, representative media.
– Produces positive representations of community members who otherwise often are marginalized with negative portrayals.
– Creates visibility for entire groups of people who otherwise often are unseen.
– Benefits those who cannot participate, who get to see people who look like them celebrated in local popular culture.
– “The making” produces interactions between diverse groups of artists, activists, and participants.
– “The sharing” produces interactions among audiences who see beautiful faces of participants (who are their neighbors).
– Creates a vibrant resource for non-minority residents who seek out and share examples of our region’s real diversity.

Previous I ROCK MY OWN

Blogger DaLoveLEE1 wrote a terrific blog about the previous I ROCK MY OWN.

DaLoveLEE1 wrote:

“We deserved to celebrate and affirm ourselves and each other. Taking pictures is a great way to do that. Nothing says you are wonderful than to get dressed up and preserve the memory of you looking regal. That’s exactly what happened at this photo shoot.”

“I enjoyed seeing different people respond in front of the camera. Their personality really comes out. Some people really own it. They have no problem showing off their swag. Others were more shy. One Sistah even said, “I’m an introvert.” She slayed though. People in the audience gave the models nods of approval and praise so everyone got through it. Some people took group pictures and there were a few family portraits as well. The photographers used a ladder to get certain angles. They had a monitor to review each shoot. They really did a great job giving directions. There was another photographer taking behind the scenes shots.”

“This was also great opportunity to network. Out in the lobby I sipped coffee and had discussions with Curl Friends about hair styles, products, self-love and the need to embrace each other to improve the community. I even connected with a fellow blogger too. There were tons of people from Grand Rapids but I also met a Curl Friend from Rochester, NY whose only lived here for a year. She just wanted to meet people with similar interests.”


All-day portrait project Feb. 24.
Panel discussion / showcase Feb. 25.

The all-day natural-hair portrait project starts at 11 a.m. at DeVos Place (303 Monroe NW, Grand Rapids, MI) and ends at 6 p.m. Participants who rock their own natural hair can show up anytime between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m.

The showcase of images and panel of experts will be at Muse GR (727 Leonard NW, Grand Rapids, MI) and it starts at 6 p.m. It’s open to everyone. People will start showing up after 5:30 p.m.

Both events (photoshoot and panel discussion) are free. No RSVP, VIP or tickets involved. It’s hard to say if/when there will be a wait during the portrait event. First come, first served.

The portrait project is designed to celebrate natural hair (see “Links for more info,” bottom) – all ages, genders, etc.

Portraits will be processed by the photographers, onsite. Each finished image will be uploaded in real time, to a gallery that will grow all day, on the ArtPeers website. Images will be shared all day long by partner organizations. If you are photographed you’ll get a link to a full-resolution digital copy that you can download that day – and it’s yours.

Images from the previous I ROCK MY OWN event will be printed and displayed at Muse GR during the panel discussion. If you were in a portrait last time around, you will be able to take your print home with you. If you can’t make it to the panel discussion, you can come by Muse GR anytime they’re open (3pm weekdays.)

Several of the partners have created FaceBook events and pages, where you can reach out – or email [email protected] and we’ll get you connected with the right person to answer your question!


Wikipedia article about natural hair

8 Truths About Natural Hair No One Understands
(Article from TheList.com)

Natural Hair 101
(Article from CurlCentric.com)

I ROCK MY OWN collaborators

Natural Hair GR
Aurrik Brand Movement
JoJo’s House of Beauty
Muse GR
DeVos Place & Convention Center
Holland Litho Printing Services
A Fearless Brother Project
SideCar Studios
The City of Grand Rapids
Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc. (DGRI)
Mobile GR and Parking Services
Goodrich Quality Theatres, Inc.
Detroit Natural Hair Expo
Ultimate Natural Hair Tour
Naturals United
Avanti Law Group, PLLC
Makeup By Angie Miller
Harmony Beauty Co.
Wege Foundation


I ROCK MY OWN events are free