Meet Laetitia Ky, the Viral TikTok Hair Artist With a Powerful Message
She breaks down pre-colonial hairstyles, creative intuition, and more for NYLON's Favorite Follow.
Welcome to Favorite Follow, a series highlighting NYLON's favorite creators and the stories behind some of their most memorable content.
TikTok is overflowing with hair content—new hair trends, the latest hacks, and even DIY shag haircut tutorials, but no one does impressive hair quite like Laetitia Ky. Based in Abidjan, in West Africa’s Ivory Coast, the 25-year-old artist and activist creates hair sculptures designed to spark political debate, with looks that have already garnered over 5 million followers on the video-sharing app.
Ky’s creations are timely art pieces exploring the most important issues of today. During the Black Lives Matter movement last year, she shared a Black Power fist created from her own dreads and extensions on Instagram. She even created a body hair piece to raise awareness for female genital mutilation in Africa. Over on TikTok, her hair art remains powerful but playful. She traverses between spelling out song lyrics for Black Lives Matter, to creating a hair art figure to partake in viral TikTok dances. Each time, the dances attract millions of views.
Arguably the most impressive part about Ky’s work is the versatility. She responds to her followers hair art requests (from emojis, to sharks, to the beloved Peppa Pig) with ease, creating intricate designs with some hair extensions and wire. This has already captured the attention of the fashion world, partnering with Giuseppe Zanotti earlier this year. A true multi-hyphenate creative, Ky left business school to pursue art full-time. Her work expands beyond hair to include drawing, painting, dancing, and acting.
Below, she shares more about pre-colonial hairstyles, creative intuition, the desire to show her art offline, and more.
On Pre-Colonial African Hairstyles
“Five years ago I was following a guy on Facebook who was showcasing a lot of information about African culture. One day, he posted a photo album of African women before colonization with incredible hair. Their hair was sculptural and I felt immediately very inspired. This was then I started my first experiment with my braids. It was something very simple, I just made a peak. I posted it on social media and the reaction made me continue to experiment.”
“I started using TikTok because of the Elite Model competition in 2019. It was the first year with a category for influencers and I won. After that, I just continued to use it because of the response. There are lots of positive responses and people saying that what I create helps them to be themselves a bit more so I choose to focus on only the positive.”
“What I create on TikTok is always specific to TikTok because it works very differently from other social media channels. On Instagram, I just share my work, my life, my point of view, and my activism but on TikTok I have to adapt it to trends. I’m always trying to adapt my hair art with the trends going on the platform at the moment.”
On Creative Intuition
“I don’t think a lot before creating, I’m a very intuitive person. When I want to speak about a special subject, the idea just comes to my mind. If I force myself to think about what to create, I have no ideas. But once an idea comes, I just do it. I try to draw as much as possible to see what is possible and not possible, then I do it on my hair. I don’t even use a lot of stuff, just hair extensions, wire, and needle and some thread. That’s it. Some pieces can take only 20 minutes and others take three hours.”
On Rihanna (And Being a Multi-Hyphenate Creative)
“I’m inspired by so many women but I would say my biggest inspiration is Rihanna. First of all, she’s very polyvalent. She does everything—sings, acts, is a business woman. I’m also a pretty polyvalent person too. I dance and I love acting. I really imagine myself being able to make money off all of those things, so she’s inspired me because of that.”
“My painting journey only started a few months ago. I’ve always drawn since I was little and , while my painting work doesn’t really influence my hair art, my drawings do. I want to use all of my creative skills.”
On the Desire to Make Art Off of the Internet
“I would love to move from the digital space to a more physical space in the future. I’m actually working on a book for next year where I create a lot of new images and share my experience as an African woman and feminist. That’s the first step for me to getting my art out offline. I also want to be able to showcase my art in an art gallery because there are a lot of people who ask to buy my work as prints.
“I’m not entirely sure the next steps to follow to bring my work to the real world, so I’m just taking my time. There’s a lot of things I want to do, including acting. I think I will definitely have more opportunities if I’m able to move from Abidjan.”