Hazel aka “Blachaz3” is a Ghanaian creative, entrepreneur, and CEO of the Fists Up Afros Out brand. You may know her for her eclectic and ever so viral photoshoots with her brother, her clothing brand that promotes social work through fashion, or if you’ve been keeping up since Day 1, then you know her for her comedy skits she had when Instagram was still in chronological order. Either way, she’s been on her grind, pushing the envelope, and following her passion as a creator. We talked to Hazel to find out more about what drives her, her sacrifices, her roots in Ghana, and more. Read below!
When did you first realize your creative talents?
From a very young age. A lot of things happened in my childhood that I didn’t even realize affected my creativity, until I thought back about it. In Pre-K, we had a coloring book competition for Martin Luther King Day, we had to color in the drawing of MLK and I won out of the whole class. Little things like that started to stick out to me but I started to realize even further when I was around 6 or 7 years old and always told my mom I wanted to be a fashion designer. Of course, she canceled that. But from a very young age, there would just be a lot things I would say and do that expressed my creativity.
As you grew older, did that feeling continue to manifest?
For sure…creativity is one of those things that lives in you. You can’t run from it, you just got to live it. I wasn’t really running from it but it was conditioned by my mom. My Dad was very creative but my mom was more about the school, job, money, and always told me these other things wouldn’t get me anywhere. I went to school primarily for my parents because they sacrificed a lot to be here in America and it’s the least I can do but as you can see, it came back to me doing my creative works. After a while my mom kind of left me alone and realized this is just who I am, or as she likes to say “just like your dad.” He’s been a music producer my entire life so he’s always creating. He always had instruments in the house and had a funky sense of style but when they met, my mom wasn’t really feeling it so he toned a lot of his creativity down. I think when she saw that it came out in me and a lot of my siblings, she jokes around that she tried to stop it but it didn’t work.
What was the original idea behind Fists Up Afros Out?
When I was growing up, I noticed I always had a calling to help people. I vividly remember this commercial featuring the “hungry kids in Africa” with flies on their faces, begging for food, and I remember asking my mom, “why is the world like this? Can we help them? Can we bring them here?” That nurturing side of me stayed with me and it inspired me to major in social work in College. Social work put a band-aid over my caring spirit but it still wasn’t enough to quench the thirst of my creativity. I kept thinking to myself “Am I going to be doing this forever?” At this time I’d already worked as a social worker in New York and DC, a lot of it in dangerous neighborhoods, but I wasn’t being satisfied. I prayed about it and decided to merge my love for fashion with social work. The original plan was for me to have a clothing line that promoted social justice and illustrated social work through clothing. It was meant to show how social work doesn’t have to be plain or ugly. I wanted to illustrate the fact that there is play therapy or music therapy – and show it in a fashionable way. I ended up making a lot of T-shirts that had numerous messages on them. The guy who was making them messed up all of the shirts except for the ones that said “Fists Up Afros Out” on them. The plan was to premiere them at the Justice or Else rally in Washington D.C. that was coming soon and I didn’t have time to test another printer so I believed in my prayer and I just decided to wear the shirt and see what it does. My brother and I attended while wearing the shirts and it immediately caught reception. Everyone was wondering where I got it from, telling me they need it, sliding in my DMs. This is what I prayed about, so I decided to continue with it.
What made you want to tap into fashion?
In my middle school, they implemented school uniforms for everybody and my self-expression was stifled. Going into high school, I was so excited to show my fashion sense and to express that I’m not like everyone else. People started complimenting my outfits. It was always funky, bright colors, and I always had clothes that other people didn’t have. In college was when I really got into it, because I was away from my parents. I would wear crop tops, and have my stomach or legs out if I wanted to. Purple hair one day, pink hair the next. Around this time was when social media was popping, so I was always posting pictures and people would compliment me and ask me to style them. That’s when I figured out…I like this.
What’s the synergy between you and your brother (Dennis Haze)? Are you guys as friendly with each other as it seems in the pictures or do you guys fight like regular siblings?
We definetlyyyy fight like regular siblings. A lot of people don’t know because of how friendly we look in the pictures but we’ve had situations where a photographer would shoot us and they would be so shook on how much we would argue before we even get down to shooting. All you hear is “Nah, we’re not wearing that”, “you’re not posing like that” etc. I’m the only girl out of 7 boys, and its Dennis and I that argue the most, perhaps because we may be the more creative ones in the family. You’ve probably seen him say some wild things on twitter and people would tell me I’m canceled and I’m like, “WTF did I do??” We’re like complete opposites but I love him until the end, that’s family.
You recently announced that you quit your full-time job to pursue your creative works, have you felt the impact of that decision?
I think because I decided to go to Ghana immediately after the decision, I don’t feel it as much. This is actually not the first time I’ve decided to focus on entrepreneurship full time. After grad school, there was a six-month period of not working and focusing on Fists Up Afros Out. It actually helped because it taught me what I needed to do when it was time to come back full time as far as creating a plan, saving money, and learning how to promote. However the profits were going back into the business and there wasn’t any money for me to buy gas, food – basic things I need to survive. So now that I’m fresh from coming back my Ghana, I feel rejuvenated and happy that I don’t feel that same weight as before. Even though I may end up broke, it’s just the fact that I’m happy is more important. I realized while I was in Ghana, that I need my sanity over everything. Over there, it’s just you and peace. I didn’t have phone credit, wasn’t on social media heavy, I was just experiencing life and I was happy.
How was the Ghana trip?
GHANA IS FREAKING AMAZING! Of course I saw my family and got to see relatives I don’t get to see and a lot of people were home for the holidays. This particular trip, however, I made the effort to turn up. I’ve never experienced the beach, the clubs…the food! Real Ghanaian food, anything you can imagine. The architecture is amazing, beautiful colors, beautiful people, the music was amazing. Then there was Afrochella which was life. A lot of celebrities were there and it was everything. I got hip to a lot of new artists, got to visit new places and I was even asked to be in a music video for Pappy Kojo. It was just a dope time. The whole time I was in Ghana, I was working on a documentary featuring creatives in Ghana, coming soon!
What’s next for Hazel?
I have Bargaining with Black Haze, my web series I created about my thrifting. I used to get a lot questions on where I find my clothes so I decided to make a series about it. I also wanted to tie in social work in some way. I had a professor in grad school (@AccendatalIcon on IG) and she was one of the most brilliant people I had ever met and this lady came to class dressed up and down, just bomb, every single day. I’ve never seen anything like it. At the time I was battling on how to still be my usual Hazel while trying to become a more professional Hazel, and she taught me a lot about that. She pulled me aside and told me I don’t ever want you to think that you can’t be a social worker and still dress like yourself. At the time, that’s what I needed to hear. So bargaining with Black Haze is about not conforming to society’s standards, you can dress how you want to dress and still be professional. I have many segments from Ghana that I recorded interviewing different people on how creative Africans are as a people. I started out on Instagram doing comedy skits, so I’m going to bring that back slowly but surely. Just getting back to showing people more of me.
What is your overall purpose?
For myself, just to continue helping people, continue being creative and resourceful. As an African woman, you have to be resourceful, that’s just how we were raised. Nothing more, nothing less.