Like many black women, Solange Knowles sees her hair as an important part of her identity.
Ahead of a photo shoot for Britain’s Evening Standard Magazine, artist Joanne Petit-Frére styled Knowles’s hair into an elaborately braided crown that towered above her head. The halo-like sculpture made for a striking image.
In the song “Don’t Touch My Hair” — which appears on the singer’s latest album, “A Seat at the Table” — Knowles also sings, “Don’t touch my crown.”
Yet, when the magazine released the final version of its cover photo, the braided crown was missing. An editor had altered the original version of the photograph, removing the most dramatic element of the hairstyle.
In an Instagram post following the cover’s release, Knowles posted the original version of the photo, which captured the full length of the crown. She captioned the photo “dtmh,” an acronym for the song, “Don’t Touch My Hair.”
Knowles also called out the decision in a series of Instagram stories, drawing a circle over her head where the braids should have been.
ES Magazine eventually apologized to Knowles, but the damage had already been done. Photographer Daria Kobayashi Ritch, who shot the images, said she was “saddened that they chose to alter the image by removing such a powerful aspect of it.”
Petit-Frére, the woman who created the braided crown, wrote: "a British publication removes the literal crown from a hairdo off a cover story . . . I see, double imperialism.”
In its apology, ES Magazine said it was “a matter of great regret” that the cover caused “concern and offence.”
“The decision to amend the photograph was taken for layout purposes but plainly we made the wrong call and we have offered our unreserved apologies to Solange,” the magazine wrote on its website.
The controversy was ironic not only because of the title of Knowles’s song, but also because of the way she described the importance of her hair in the magazine’s article.
Knowles said braiding is an “act of beauty, an act of convenience and an act of tradition.” It is “its own art form,” she added.
She described her mother’s hair salon as a “safe haven” growing up.
“I got to experience women arriving in one state of mind and leaving in a completely transformed way,” she said, according to the magazine. “It wasn’t just about the hair. It was about the sisterhood and the storytelling.”
Angelica Bastie, the journalist who wrote the article, said she was “publicly disowning” the piece.