Dove’s Latest Initiative Wants to Make Black and Natural Hairstyles in Video Games Look More Accurate

Dove is expanding its efforts to improve diverse representation in the virtual realm.

After challenging unrealistic standards of beauty for women in video games with the 2022 launch of its Real Virtual Beauty coalition, the brand is introducing Code My Crown, a 226-page guide to coding natural hairstyles.

“Dove’s mission is to make a positive experience of beauty universally accessible to everyone. While gaming can provide a rich and positive influence…the portrayal of women and people of color in video games isn’t always so positive,” said Lauren Baker, senior brand manager of engagement and social impact, citing Dove research that shows 85 percent of Black gamers believe video games poorly represent natural hair.

To that end, Dove partnered with the Open Source Afro Hair Library and a team of Black 3D artists and animators to develop 15 hair sculpts including bantu knots, twists, a braided bob, an afro with a fade, cornrows and more in all their intricate glory — something video game animation has historically failed to do.

Dove tapped celebrity hairstylist Nai’vasha Grace to ideate and inform the 15 selected styles.

“When you think about realistic bantu knots, or when you think about the pineapple [hairstyle] or super cool cornrows that look real, that look like a person who’s walking up the street — that’s what I wanted to put out there. That’s what I wanted to share,” said Grace, whose clientele includes Tracee Ellis Ross and Alicia Keys.

Each style has a devoted chapter with step-by-step breakdowns for video game developers seeking to replicate the looks — even offering design adjustments depending on desired hair texture. Among the digital artists who created the guides are Diandra Rose, Chrissy Powell and Adésayo Adéoyé.

“When you have curly hair or are in any way part of an underrepresented group and you consume media that you don’t see yourself in…it’s easy to condition yourself to take a backseat in order to enjoy the things you love and the things which are available to you,” said A.M. Darke, who launched the Open Source Afro Hair Library this fall as a free database of 3D-modeled Black hairstyles.

“Open Source Afro Hair Library is about rethinking our relationship to blackness in a technological space. Fashion, beauty, race, gender — those are all things I’m concerned with in my life as a Black woman, and they’re a part of games. I don’t think it should be an afterthought to think about the care and detail of how I look when I engage with any kind of media.”

For Dove, this initiative extends the missions of its long-standing Self Esteem Project as well as its work to end hair-based discrimination via the Crown Coalition, to the realm of gaming, which has become an increasingly influential space for consumers of all ages, but particularly young consumers.

“I want this to be the blueprint,” said Grace. “I want this [guide] to be for all of the game developers globally to use as a baseline to share their perspective of themselves, what they look like or what they want to look like — and to have the option to do so.”

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