Jamila Rowser Honors Black Women and Their Hair in Wash Day

Wash Day by Jamila Rowser

The new comic, Wash Day, written by Jamila Rowser, illustrated by Robyn Smith, and script edited by J.A. Micheline, is a slice-of-life comic that follows 27-year-old Kim as she goes through her hair routine. The story also introduces us to her best friend Cookie and we find ourselves immersed in their everyday lives. It’s not yet published; however, you can (and totally should) support the Wash Day campaign on Kickstarter and pre-order a copy.

I had the chance to interview Rowser to find out what inspired her to write Wash Day, why she decided to link up with the very talented Robyn Smith, and to get her thoughts on Afro hair and on her own beautiful crown of curls.

What was the defining “aha” moment that inspired you to write Wash Day?

I don’t think there was a very specific moment. I have a lot of comic ideas that I write down and Wash Day was one of them. [I thought,] what am I going to make my first comic that will define me as a comic writer? And, which story is the most important for me to have out existing in the world and it was Wash Day. I love slice-of-life stories and I wanted to do slice-of-life stories for Black girls. I wanted to do something that was unapologetically Black.

Can you give some insight on your personal hair journey? Were you always a naturalista or nah? Did you ever do anything totally wild?

I had perms up until college. So, natural hair was a gradual experience for me because when I moved for college there weren’t any places nearby for me to get my hair straightened. So, I [eventually] just grew out the perm. But, I’ve always dyed my hair since high school; I have some cosplay I did when my hair was blue [laughs]!

Jamila Rowser
Rowser cosplaying as African Sailor Moon

Why did you choose a comic format as the medium for this story?

I wanted to write comics so I didn’t consider anything else. I wanted the parts of Wash Day to be seen as stand-alone tutorials. Like, here’s how to do a flat twist or how to do a head wrap. I felt it would be easier for the reader to follow the steps with visuals. Also, I want more comics that are for and by Black women because, why not? I want to serve the community that I’m a part of.

How did you link up with Robyn Smith? Why did her art style speak to you?

I saw her art when someone had retweeted it and thought it was beautiful. I loved her art and I loved the way she drew hair and Black women. I pretty much bought everything in her shop and I read her comic, The Saddest Angriest Black Girl in Town, and thought it was so relatable and beautiful. I knew that I wanted her to be a part of the Wash Day project.

Why did you decide to go with black and white illustrations instead of color?

I love manga and most of [what I read] is in black and white. I could have made it in color, but I always envisioned Wash Day in black and white. We decided on grey toning instead of just black ink because I really wanted the skin tones to come through.

Wash Day art by Robyn Smith

Are any of the characters based off of people you know in real life?

Cookie is the most similar to my friends. Some of my friends are really into yoga and are vegan with bubbly personalities. Kim is more like me, more chill than Cookie. But their names came from this OutKast skit called “Kim & Cookie.” The characters have nothing to do with the skit [laughs], but I love that skit and OutKast!

What do you hope people learn about Afro-Latinas and Black women from this comic?

That there are Black women and Afro-Latinas here in America, and around the world. I want them to have a comic about Black hair that they can relate to and be inspired by.

In recent years, we’ve seen stories in the news where young Black girls are sent home for wearing their hair natural. Did you ever feel that your natural hair would limit you professionally?

Oh, girl yes! I work in Boca Raton, Florida and my job is predominantly white and super conservative. When I wore my natural in the office for the first time, I had a lot of anxiety about it. When I had braids, two white women in the office touched it [annoyed sigh]. It made me angry. I wish we [Black women] could just live with worrying about whether or not our hair will prevent us from moving up in a company because we’re seen as “too Black.”

Do you find that wearing our hair natural can be seen as both a rebellion and as a form of liberation?

Oh, completely! Wearing our hair natural goes against mainstream beauty standards. To overcome that and still feel beautiful is super rebellious and empowering.

Totally! Our hair is like a giant f*ck you to the world.

[laughs] Yeah, yeah! And because our natural hair can be so big, it demands attention!

What advice would you give to other Black and POC creatives who want to write a comic?

Create what you want to exist. Don’t think about if it will sell or if it’s going to be marketable. Create what you feel strongly about. That’s what will be the most fulfilling.

That’s awesome advice. I love it! So, you know I have to ask . . . how long does it take you to wash and style your hair and what products are you currently using because your hair is GORGEOUUSSS?!

[Laughs] Thank you. With this Florida humidity, my hair is in a flat twist situation because I just can’t be bothered. A protective style, it would take—depending on how tangled it is—it would take two to three hours. But, I choose the path of least resistance when it comes to my hair. I have two pages dedicated to Kim detangling her hair because it can take a really long time so Imma need this to be highlighted in the comics [laughs]. I love Shea Moisture’s Moisture Retention shampoo. And I’m never satisfied with conditioners, but I do like Aussie’s 3-Minute Miracle Moist.

Jamila is currently working on another comic, but she’s not releasing any information about it yet, so be sure to keep up with her work! Don’t forget to follow her on Twitter and Instagram! Also, check out Robyn’s shop and follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr. Keep up with J.A. Micheline on Twitter!


Ayana Arnette Underwood

Ayana Arnette Underwood

Ayana is a blerd journalist who's obsessed with graphic novels and is the editor-in-chief of ComixBawse. She loves analyzing comics to speak on themes like: sexual politics, gender, race, and pop culture. She is currently pursuing her M.S. degree in Publishing at Pace University. She hopes to one day have a career in feminist criticism and graphic novel publishing. When she's not writing, you can find her walking in the sun, eating pizza, or watching Insecure. Find her work on Black Girl Nerds, Do You Even Comic Book!?, and Women Write About Comics. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook (@ComixBawse).