It’s almost inevitable: By the time April rolls around, you’re inundated with thousands of stories on festival beauty. Fast forward to the dog days of summer, and you’ve probably seen enough glittery highlighter and unicorn hair “inspo” to last you three lifetimes. There’s an exception to the rule, though — and that’s Afropunk. The music festival is obviously open to all, but known as a safe space for Black people to celebrate their heritage — one that’s frequently ignored yet constantly appropriated. And, while Afropunk’s beauty street style is reason enough to go, you’ll also find plenty of great tunes (this year’s lineup included Janelle Monáe, Erykah Badu, and Miguel, for starters) as well as an eyeful of African wax prints straight from the continent. And the beauty will always be a step up from your typical glitter brows and neon two-toned lips.
“It sounds so typical, but it’s so important to come to a space — such a large space — and see myself,” Chanelle Marshall, a sound selector from Toronto, tells The Zoe Report. “On billboards, TV, when you look on your phone, everywhere you go… you have to curate your life to see yourself in this western society. And it sucks. Afropunk is an experience I want to have every day.”
And sure, we spotted our fair share of well-placed glitter and curls in every color imaginable. (It wouldn’t be a festival without ‘em, right?) but the real standout looks all boasted a single theme: pride. Ahead, hear the stories behind them — and find some inspiration for your next totally casual, not-at-all extra Monday evening.
“I’m wearing a crown by Tribes of Joseph, a Black-owned business. For so long, religion has had a Caucasian face. I wanted to show that Black people can be holy and magnificent. We can represent these things in the world, too.” — Nehemie, @modelnehemie
“This year, I wanted to go more punk. It’s my fifth time here. I have a big Afro, and wanted to do something different [with my bantu knots.]” — Jennnile, @starfishjelly (right), with Chanelle Marshall, @chanlmarshl (left)
“I wanted my makeup to match my outfit, and my outfit is a reflection of my art.” — Jewel, @whateverjewel
Jeida was this close to going for a glitter brow, but decided to stick with a simple (but stunning) vibe: white waterline, loads of lashes, and a nude lip to compliment her finger waves. — @S0ulamazin
“These are bright and summery colors that make me happy, so why not have them on my face at a celebration of magical Blackness?” — Allyson Umoru, @allysonumoru
“My inspiration was Selena, especially with my bell sleeves and ruffles. Plus, I love red. The lip is Matador by L’Oreal.” — Seshat Queen-Tut, @Thine_Queen_Tut
“My sister did my makeup, and I did my hair — I make wigs. It’s a family business!” — Ashley, @Billybad_ash
“I wanted something fun and a bold color, with [an element] to outline it and make [the look] stand out even more.” — Jordy B, @jordychaos
“I don’t follow a gender binary. I love being soft and hard at the same time. I love the intermingling of masculinity versus femininity, and breaking all of that. I wanted to be feminine, masculine, and make people question. I’m breaking the comfort with the binary, because that’s not what I fit in. I want everyone to see that.” — Tree, @urlocalplantmom
“My look is inspired by Janet Jackson’s Velvet Rope era. And motherhood! I’m due in seven weeks.” — Crys McDade, @crysmickeyd
What’s not to love about this? If you’re looking for a temporary dye that’s safe for natural hair textures, try Crownpaint Colors — it’s vegan, cruelty-free, and lasts up to five days.
“I have MAC on most of my face, and NYX for the yellow and orange matte lip. I love that MAC has different colors for our skin... and when I want to be outside and colorful, I go with them.” — Thandisizwe Jackson-Nisan, @artistbyynature
Breaking news: This is what cotton candy dreams are made of. To get your lip glitter to stay on, use a sticky, clear gloss — and be sure to keep it in your back pocket for touch-ups.