the new, new: a diaspora take on the #selfie + mini albaso tutorial

I spent almost two hours on the morning of Friday, August 14 over thinking about what to wear. It was like any other Friday morning but started later. I woke up around 10 a.m. because I had woken up hours before and couldn’t return to sleep until the sun rose.

This week was the first week home since returning from working a month-long stint with a summer camp where I helped middle-aged school children from China, Turkey, Russia, Tunisia and other countries practice their English. When I wasn’t teaching, I chaperoned them on excursions to New York City – the closest metropolis near our green, mostly desolate campus. I quickly adapted to a daily routine of waking up at 7 a.m. and not having to worry about what to wear because the company had curb our choice of what to wear. I could either wear a cotton candy blue or New York Knickerbocker orange shirt with the unflattering “staff” written on the back. For nearly four weeks, including weekends while I was on duty, I had to be seen and made available for help to the campers and their group leaders, staff, and outsiders too. So, at the very least, my attire was limiting.

I took the first Friday of July and August (classic summer months, according to the increased likelihood of heatwaves in NYC) to assemble an outfit that expressed individuality, artistry, and elan.

I saw the few isolated checks lying around as an opportunity to leave the home and venture outside for a few hours. I took the long route, walking almost three hours to a library, bank and back home. I’m in a hunch for money and don’t need to give the MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority) any more coins that could be used as start-up money for my year of teaching overseas. I wanted to look and feel beautiful regardless if I was only running errands.

I premeditated what I would wear the previous night because I believe a significant part of one’s day begins with happy and formfitting clothing. A strong attire influences your thinking which enables you to tackle any part of what happens to you that day. When I’m unsure of how I look and feel, I think to a famous quote by Woody Allen: 80 percent of success is showing up.

Earlier in the week, I went on a shopping expenditure to one of NYC’s popular consignment stores. During the visit that cost me $93, I left with a soft cotton red sweatshirt with white buttons sewn vertically down the middle among other inexpensive items. I’ll admit, I’m a hoarder. I wear new items almost immediately after purchasing, usually a day after or on the day of. But I kept this supple wear tucked gracefully in the purple tote bag that helped me carry the clothes from midtown to home.

a sweater and my shidas which is a famed shoe worn by revolutionary fighters during Eritrea's 30-year fight for independence.
a pair of shidas dangle off the red sweatshirt’s clothes hanger. shidas are a famed sandal shoe in Eritrea as they were worn by revolutionary fighters during the country’s 30-year fight for independence. photo credit: Ariam Alula

I paired the sweatshirt with denim jeggings – pants that resemble jeans, but feel like leggings. The nice thing about recycling clothes more than you shop for them is that you don’t spend money as senselessly due to how comfortable and durable you feel in your recent purchases.

I wore the jeans despite it showing distress near the inner thigh area and coupled that with the only pair of congo sandals I owe called shidas. I wear these shoes religiously and knew that having it in my attire would confirm the look I was going for. I call it “the new, new” which symbolizes the path of new crossing with the old, the subtleties of diaspora attire where modern and homeland meets. The concept of “the new, new” is probably the loudest fashion statement, I, Ariam Alula, an Eritrean-American can claim.

I added a cast of sauce to this look with true matte red lips that I was able to do  with a lip liner bought at a local beauty retailer. Anyone who knows the details of how I apply my makeup, will know that I color my lips keen to how grade-school children in the United States color a bubbled letter that corresponds to their correct answer on a proxy exam. 

image1 (10)

I was alone that morning and afternoon. But I didn’t want to hide my vanity nurtured self-love. I deemed that taking a selfie was a befitting gesture to commemorate life’s appreciation. I love taking selfies and am not foreign to sharing them on any of my social media website which you may browse here: InstagramFacebookTumblrTwitterNewHive.


As someone with intrapersonal intelligence, I invite the camera’s cornea to myself and look in and not out. It shows what I am hesitant to see sometimes in the mirror. But more than anything else a selfie boosts my self-esteem. I take selfies with undivided attention at any given moment. The camera (my iPhone 5C) demands full command of my gaze and fingers.

It’s relatively simple. In order to take a selfie, you must hold your smart phone (or selfie tripod called selfie sticks) proportionally to your height taking account of your background and the amount of light you allow the camera to view.

A selfie is your way of saying to the world, ‘I am beautiful and I love myself and I won’t allow anyone to me differently’.

What solidifies the look in the selfie above is the hairdo and one particular braid amid several descending toward the back of my nape. (You will notice a bulging braid in the middle.)

The hair braid in the middle is an albaso braid and worn commonly by Eritrea’s Tigrinya ethnic group who mainly live in the Kebessa region. This intricate hairstyle is typically restricted to weddings and other national festivities. I last wore an albaso hairstyle on May 24, 2014, the day of my university’s graduation ceremony. By chance, the graduation ceremony was held on the day of natsinet, or independence.

On Friday, I replicated a miniature version of the traditional Eritrean hairstyle in the middle of my very chic cornrows. I recount how I successfully managed to install the albaso braid below.

step one: part your hair where you would like to implant the albaso braid using a pin tail comb

step two: add a few drops of an oil of your choice (my favorites are argan, olive, coconut, and avocado) on your scalp where you will plant the albaso braid. alternatively, you can rub the oil between your fingertips, too, and pat down your scalp.

image taken facing a mirror with one hand in my head and the other holding up the phone
image taken in the mirror with one hand in my head and the other holding the phone. photo credit: Ariam Alula

step three: this part of the process requires a pile of fake hair (the amount depends on how many albaso braids you would like). take a handful of hair (think long strands of thick hair) and fold it. next pull a strand from one side and interlock it with another strand which will help you keep the fake hair together and then wrap one side of the strand around the entire band of hair. (you are now creating an albaso braid). keep wrapping until you reach the middle or three-fourths of the hair band because you want to leave some out.

step four: make sure your greased scalp is exposed. then place the albaso braid in the middle of your part with enough hair on opposite ends to come together.

step five: you will want to use a bobby pin or have someone hold the middle of the albaso braid for you. once your albaso braid and pin/extra hand is in place start by braiding your own hair on top of the albaso braid. you are covering the albaso braid with your own hair. the front of the albaso braid shouldn’t be seen.

Here is what the back of a full albaso hairstyle looks like.

I was amazed at how simple braiding albaso is. I used a series of selfies to capture this small accomplishment that will now be stored in my digital archives forever. If you are someone who hasn’t taken a selfie or feel generally uncomfortable with it, I encourage you to take one today. You can keep it in your phone and pull it up when you need a reminder of just how beautiful you are. You can also post it online and have your loved ones tell you, too. I loved all the selfies I took on Friday in the hallway of my building, so the two hours spent in and out of the bathroom was worth it.

author’s note: if you would like a more visual representation of the albaso hair braiding process, please leave a comment below.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s