Emojis have transformed the way many of us communicate these days. While the signature smiley face always has a use, we’re now able to express ourselves by selecting one — or more — of nearly 3,000 emojis. Though from the surface it may appear as if the selection of emojis includes all expressions, items, ages, skin tones, and hair textures — it actually doesn’t.
Rhianna Jones grew tired of typing “asterisk, insert afro emoji here” in texts, she explained to CBS New York, and started a petition on Change.org called “Let’s Make the Afro Hair Emoji Happen #AfroHairMatters.” In the petition description, the Brooklyn-based stylist and writer details that she’ll be submitting a proposal to the Unicode Consortium, which is the governing body that decides which emojis are added, at the end of March. Approximately 60 emojis are added each year, according to Unicode.
After learning about a successful campaign powered by Tinder to get an interracial couple emoji added, Jones started her petition.
“As a woman with afro hair, I, and many other afro’d users, don’t have any emoji that reflect our hair or cultural identities. I spent half my life straightening my hair because that was the only vision of beauty I saw growing up,” Jones tells HipLatina. “The ‘straight hair is good hair’ mentality is mimicked in our digital conversations and our keyboards. Emoji are a universal language of self expression, but aren’t representative of the diversity of its users.”
They might just be emojis to some, but as the 28-year-old creative notes, it goes far deeper than digital icons. The lack of hair diversity is a reminder of the universal hair preference embedded throughout our daily messages. That exact message is what has fueled the natural hair movement both stateside and abroad.
It’s starting with emojis, however, Jones intends to spark a larger conversation about hair inclusivity.
“Natural, afro hairstyles have been neglected from societal beauty norms for a long time, and it’s only recently that we’re seeing more visibility in media,” says Jones. “We live in a digital world, and people should be able to see themselves reflected in those spaces. The same goes for media and advertising. We have big hair, personalities, stories and voices. The addition of Afro Hair Emoji — Afromoji — will diversify the conversations we’re having, and allow us to celebrate our culture on and off screen.”
She partnered with fellow ‘fro wearing friend and graphic designer Kerrilyn Gibson to create the Afromoji design. After spending an entire day together, Gibson birthed an Afromoji woman and man in a variety of skin tones and hair colors. The pair decided to name the woman Frolange.
“I’m hoping to impart a small change that could possibly make a big impact,” Gibson shared in an Instagram post. She also noted this hasn’t been the first petition of its kind, but hopes it’ll be the last.
We’ll have to wait and see if Afromoji makes the 2020 selection. Whether you rock a ‘fro or not, you can sign the petition here.