Full Extension: Tariqa Waters’ Personal Art & Style

In arts and in fashion, Tariqa Waters is unapologetically herself

By Jennifer McCullum


May 16, 2016

This article originally appeared in the June 2016 issue of Seattle Magazine.

Hair Raising
Ask artist and Martyr Sauce gallery owner Tariqa Waters about her morning dressing routine and she’ll tell you it starts from the top. “My hair changes up everything,” she says. “When it’s in a ’fro, I like to soften things up a bit with my outfit. Go really clean-cut. But with braids, I can go across the board because I can shape and sculpt them.” Taking shape this month at the Northwest African American Museum is Waters’ pop art narrative exhibit “100% Kanekalon—The Untold Story of the Marginalized Matriarch” (the title refers to the brand of synthetic hair extensions), which further explores the traditions of African-American beauty. “It’s style inspired from where I grew up in Richmond, Virginia,” says Waters. “Crazy long nails, hair extensions…it’s all about how you change up your look and have fun.”

In the Family
While Waters cites Diahann Carroll and Solange Knowles as inspiration for her personal style, her family contributes to her collective fashion sense as well. “We all kind of wear each other’s clothes,” she says of husband Ryan, 11-year-old daughter Kaelau, and 14-year-old son named 9 (the numeral, not the spelling, appears on his birth certificate). “I’ll take things from my husband’s closet, but then I can share clothes now with Kaelau since she’s eye to eye with me. Even my son. I’ll get a dress from Goodwill, and if he thinks it’s a cool silhouette, he’ll be like ‘I can rock that’ and throw some jeans on under it.”  


Lips: Maybelline Color 
Sensational Creamy Matte 
Lipstick in Craving Coral 
(available at Target; target.com)

Summer in the City
As warmer weather returns to Seattle, expect to see Waters sitting on her stoop outside her Washington Street gallery in Pioneer Square sporting statement sunglasses, high heels, cutoff jeans and a swipe of bold lipstick. “I feel like I’m on another planet here and I like to exist in that,” Waters says about her signature style, which she describes as goofy, cool and “a little ratchet.” “What I’m representing, you typically wouldn’t see in Seattle, so I like to exaggerate certain things, to kind of bring that excitement and that sunshine.”

Get the Look
Maybelline Color Sensational Creamy Matte Lipstick in Craving Coral (available at Target; target.com)
Shirt: Ship ‘n Shore Collectibles (Bon Voyage Vintage, Pioneer Square, 110 S Washington St.; 206.412.7669)
Chain link bracelet Waters’ “engagement ring” from her husband. “He had it ever since he was 16 and never took it off,” she says.
Jeans: Lambada (Bon Voyage Vintage, Pioneer Square)
Shoes: BCBGMAXAZRIA (Nordstrom, downtown, 500 Pine St.; 206.628.2111; shop.nordstrom.com)

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