Artist’s NameMarlee Coles
Address6701 Village Green Drive
Roanoke, VA 24019
United States
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Tell us about you, the artist. Please include a few sentences of biographical information.

Marlee Coles is not only a Mizani artist and texture expert with over 13 years of industry experience but also a true trailblazer in the world of hair. Her specialization in the Mizani Aircut, silk presses, and haircolor for textured hair showcases her exceptional skills and commitment to elevating natural beauty.

As the proud owner of Luxury by Marlee Coles in Roanoke, VA, she creates a luxurious and tailored experience for individuals with textured hair, ensuring they receive the utmost care and attention. Marlee’s dedication to her craft extends beyond her salon, as she shares her knowledge and empowers others in the industry as the host of the enlightening Hairfirmations podcast.

Marlee’s passion for connection and engagement shines through her daily live sessions for her “365 Days of Live” challenge on Instagram (@marleedidthat). Additionally, she imparts her expertise as a cosmetology teacher at the Burton Center for Arts and Technology in Roanoke County Public Schools, nurturing the talents of aspiring beauty professionals.

A woman of many facets, Marlee is an active member of the Roanoke Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., where she currently serves as the Jabberwock committee chair. She is also the co-founder of Nalia Closet, a custom Greek paraphernalia company, proudly serving as a licensed vendor for Delta Sigma Theta.

Marlee Coles is a force to be reckoned with, leaving an indelible mark in the hair industry while simultaneously uplifting her community through education, sorority involvement, and entrepreneurship. Her unwavering dedication to her craft and empowering others exemplifies her remarkable character and passion for making a positive impact.

Please describe your artistic practice including the media you work in and your approach to your art.

My artistic practice is a dynamic exploration of cultural identity, self-expression, and social advocacy, primarily manifested through the medium of Hair Art. As a multidisciplinary artist, I seamlessly integrate various mediums, including photography, sculpture, and mixed media, to convey compelling narratives.

My approach to art is rooted in a commitment to social impact and empowerment. I see my creations as a catalyst for conversations about inclusivity and the celebration of diversity. Each piece is meticulously designed to convey a message, provoke thought, and foster a connection between the audience and the subject matter.

In the context of the Crown Act, my approach involves using art not only as a form of expression but also as a tool for advocacy. Through the lens of Hair Art, I seek to amplify the importance of embracing natural hairstyles, dismantling stereotypes, and advocating for legislation that promotes equality, such as the Crown Act.

This grant would provide essential support for expanding this impactful series, allowing me to continue utilizing my artistic practice as a force for positive change within the community.

Describe the proposed work or project.

I am thrilled to propose an immersive and dynamic experience for this year’s Hairfirmations Festival, designed to celebrate the beauty of natural hair and promote the values of the Crown Act. The project encompasses three key elements: a captivating Hair Art Wall, a live podcast episode recording, and an array of interactive exhibits to engage and inspire attendees.

1. Hair Art Wall:

Central to the festival will be a striking Hair Art Wall, a visual feast celebrating the diversity of natural hairstyles. This curated display will feature high-resolution photography capturing the intricate details, textures, and unique expressions of various hairstyles. The wall serves not only as an aesthetic spectacle but also as a powerful representation of the cultural richness that natural hair embodies. Attendees will have the opportunity to engage with the art, sparking meaningful conversations about self-expression, identity, and the importance of embracing one’s cultural heritage.

2. Live Podcast Episode Recording:

As part of the festival, Hairfirmations Podcast will host a live episode recording, providing a unique opportunity for attendees to witness engaging conversations with renowned hairstylists and cultural advocates. The discussion will delve into topics such as the significance of the Crown Act, trends in healthy hair care, and the evolving landscape of hair expression. This live recording aims to amplify the festival’s impact by capturing the essence of the discussions, making them accessible to a broader audience, and fostering a sense of community around the celebration of natural hair.

3. Interactive Exhibits:

The festival will feature interactive exhibits designed to actively involve attendees in the celebration of natural hair. From DIY hair care stations offering tips for healthy hair routines to interactive photo booths allowing participants to capture and share their unique hair stories, these exhibits aim to create a dynamic and participatory atmosphere. Through hands-on engagement, attendees will not only learn about the importance of embracing natural hairstyles but also be encouraged to share their own experiences, fostering a sense of community and empowerment.

How will the work advance wellness, justice, or inclusion in Roanoke? Consider a community issue that you hope to address, something you want to celebrate or a condition you want to change.

The proposed project for the Hairfirmations Festival aims to contribute significantly to advancing wellness, justice, and inclusion in Roanoke by addressing and celebrating the cultural significance of natural hair. Here’s how the project will impact these critical areas:


The festival, through its live podcast episode, interactive exhibits, and the Hair Art Wall, will foster a sense of individual and collective well-being. By promoting healthy hair care practices and encouraging positive conversations around natural hair, attendees will gain valuable insights into self-care routines, boosting their confidence and overall well-being. The interactive exhibits, including DIY hair care stations, will empower individuals with practical knowledge to enhance the health of their natural hair.

2. Justice:

The centerpiece of the project, the Hair Art Wall, will serve as a visual testament to the beauty and diversity of natural hair, emphasizing the importance of justice in matters related to hair discrimination. The festival, in alignment with the Crown Act, will actively advocate for justice by challenging societal norms that perpetuate discrimination based on hairstyles. Through engaging discussions in the live podcast episode, we aim to raise awareness about the rights protected by the Crown Act, promoting justice in workplaces and communities where discriminatory practices persist.

3. Inclusion:

The Hairfirmations Festival is designed to be an inclusive space that celebrates all hair types and textures. By showcasing a diverse array of natural hairstyles on the Hair Art Wall, the project seeks to dismantle stereotypes and promote a culture of inclusion. The interactive exhibits further encourage participation from attendees, fostering a sense of community and shared celebration of cultural diversity. By engaging with the festival, individuals from various backgrounds will feel seen, heard, and celebrated, contributing to a more inclusive and tolerant community.

Community Issue Addressed:

The project directly addresses the community issue of hair discrimination, a pervasive problem affecting individuals of diverse backgrounds. By promoting the Crown Act and celebrating natural hair at the Hairfirmations Festival, we aim to challenge stereotypes, dismantle biases, and contribute to creating a community that values diversity and inclusivity. The festival serves as a platform to address the unjust treatment faced by individuals with natural hairstyles, fostering a community that appreciates and respects cultural differences.

In summary, the Hairfirmations Festival seeks to advance wellness by promoting healthy hair practices, justice by advocating for the rights protected by the Crown Act, and inclusion by creating a space that celebrates the beauty of natural hair and fosters a sense of community among Roanoke residents.

When do you anticipate undertaking the work? If the project is tied to a set event or date, let us know.

I anticipate the Hairfiemations 2 Festival will take place Summer 2024.

Are there partners in this effort? If so describe the partnerships and what each partner brings.

Robyn Mitchell is a key partner providing expertise in website development and graphic design. Her creative talents will enhance the festival’s online presence, ensuring a visually appealing and user-friendly platform.

Mizani’s partnership brings high-quality hair care products to the festival’s gift bags. This collaboration adds significant value to the attendee experience, providing access to professional products that align with the festival’s celebration of natural hair.

Jennifer Hayward Photography contributes essential skills in capturing the essence of the festival. Her artistic eye and experience ensure that the visual narrative of the event is documented comprehensively. Through captivating photographs, Jennifer adds an enduring dimension to the festival’s impact, preserving memorable moments and conveying the beauty of natural hair.

Currently in the exploration phase, partnerships with industry giants like Loreal USA, SalonCentric, CosmoProf, and Salonory would bring extensive reach, resources, and industry expertise. These potential collaborations could include product contributions, promotional support, and networking opportunities. Partnerships with these organizations would elevate the festival’s impact, connecting it with broader industry conversations and trends.

The search for podcast contributors is underway, aiming to bring diverse voices and perspectives to the Hairfirmations Podcast. Collaborating with individuals who share a passion for hair, culture, and inclusivity will enrich the podcast content and extend its reach to a broader audience.

Through these strategic partnerships, the Hairfirmations Festival aspires to offer a holistic and enriching experience that celebrates natural hair, promotes wellness, and advocates for justice and inclusion within the Roanoke community.

Your theory of change: How will the work advance your efforts as an artist toward an established goal? How will you, a partner organization, or the community be changed?

Through the Hair Art Wall, live podcast episode, and interactive exhibits, the community will be exposed to diverse representations of natural hair, challenging stereotypes and fostering a sense of pride in cultural identity.
Attendees will actively engage with the festival’s content, leading to increased awareness about the importance of embracing natural hairstyles and understanding the societal impact of the Crown Act.

The live podcast episode featuring local hairstylists and cultural advocates will serve as a platform for empowering conversations. Attendees will gain insights into healthy hair practices, the significance of the Crown Act, and emerging trends in the world of natural hair.

Collaborating with Robyn Mitchell, Mizani, Jennifer Hayward Photography, and potential partners like Loreal USA, SalonCentric, CosmoProf, and Salonory will amplify the festival’s impact.
These partnerships will contribute to the festival’s sustainability, ensuring continued growth and influence beyond the event.

The Hairfirmations Festival, through its multi-faceted approach, aims to create a lasting impact on the Roanoke community. The theory of change revolves around cultivating awareness, empowering individuals, celebrating cultural identity, fostering collaborations, and creating platforms for ongoing dialogue. As an artist, this project represents a step towards my goal of contributing to a more inclusive and accepting community, where natural hair is celebrated, discrimination is challenged, and cultural diversity is embraced.

How much money do you need to accomplish the project? (The allowed range is $500 – $3,000.)3,000
What other resources do you need to accomplish the project?

Technical equipment for the live podcast recording, ensuring high-quality sound, video, and streaming capabilities. This includes microphones, cameras, and audio-visual support.

Attach a full budget for your project. Include all costs and revenues. This can be a spreadsheet, word document, PDF, or image.
Submit your CV, resume, or brag sheet here.Copy-of-Copy-of-Marlee-2022-Media-Kit.pdf
Submit a PDF of up to five images representing recent projects or works. (Max file size 10 MB). This should be one file containing multiple images. This must be a PDF. Include captions describing the work. (A PDF can easily be made using the “print as PDF” function in MS Word or “Download as PDF” in google docs.)Hair-Art-Wall.pdf
Do you have general liability insurance coverage for your arts-based business, either through your own policy or through a project partner?No