Hair Raising: Iconic Women Who Changed the Standard for Black Hair

February 7, 2012  |  
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I love looking through Google Images at all the fly photos of black female figures wearing their hair in such an eclectic array of styles. Going against the grain, their jet-setting looks and fierce-ness opened up a lot of doors for the sistas of today to do just about anything to their hair. From Blaxploitation stars to famous singers and models, these iconic women gave us hair envy, as well as lots of innovative idea for things to do with our own strands. Check these hot mommas out.

Billie Holiday

If Billie taught us something about hair, it’s that a gal always has to have her signature style. Reinvention is for the birds! Billie’s head full of gardenias started off as an accident with a curling iron (isn’t that always how it starts??). After burning a section of her hair, a fellow jazz singer went and bought some gardenias for her to use temporarily to cover up that section. But Billie loved the gardenias so much, she decided to keep wearing them for every performance. What a smart move. It’s the accessories ya’ll! They matter…

Diana Ross

When you think of Dirty Diana, sure, you could think about her music collection or her few movie roles. But when we look at the icon, all we see is hair. Literally. Big bold and beautiful hair, Ross was rocking the most ornate and glamorous wigs and weaves at a time when other people weren’t trying to. The rules to her hair moves include growing hair out instead of worrying about it growing down in length, and not being afraid to go wild with it. Fake it until you make it…

Pam Grier

Pam’s afro was everything! A perfect circle (and sistas with fros know how hard that can be to achieve) with fun, tight curls, the actress’ hair had just as much character as Ms. Grier did. Sure, there were many women with much bigger fros (Marsha Hunt, Angela Davis, etc.), but with the exposure Grier was getting thanks to her roles in films like Foxy Brown and Coffy back in the ’70s, she became something of a spokesmodel for the natural style. I can dig it!

Pat Evans

Who needs a Caesar cut when you boldly just go bald like Pat Evans did? The model, tired of the industry’s obsession with hair for models, decided to get rid of it all near the height of her career. Bald and beautiful, her hairless look didn’t stop her from being a stunner in the modeling world and from obviously being a stunner in everyday life. She was even asked to walk runways bald because her look was so fresh and free. What a trailblazer.

Grace Jones

Bump what you heard. Nobody could and can wear a fade like Grace Jones–she did it to death. Sharp and chic, the androgynous figure stepped outside of the box (smashed it actually) and wore an attention-grabbing and powerful fade when chicks were running around with the big, poofy hair. Whether that thing was pressed, worn as is or was shaved down to a bald fade, Grace was FIIIIIIIERCE. Loved the look then, love the look now (not on me though…) and I’ll probably love it forever.

Patti LaBelle

Before Lady Gaga and similar entertainers  were doing the absolute most with their hair, Patti LaBelle was stepping in the place with a “new attitude” and a new, big a** hairstyle! Homegirl’s hair was like art to her back in the day. I’m talking hair that looked like a fan, a dustmop, a chess piece, wigs that looked like a bunch piled on to one–you name it, she tried it. Anything with a lot of spunk, spike and character was Patti’s thing. Sure, she has toned it down a lot, but I’m sure we’re all waiting for her to come on stage, kick her shoes off and roll around in a banana-shaped wig sometime soon…

Salt-N-Pepa

“You know life, it’s all about expression…” The ladies of the famous group once told us to feel free to express ourselves (and shake our thangs), and they led the way by changing up their hair all the time and ushering the dawn of the asymmetrical cut. Before Cassie was shaving the side of her hair off, Pep was doing it while dancing around in tights and an 8-ball jacket. The provocative group was also coloring their hair the lightest of blondes (hey Salt!), and doing Bantu knots, finger waves and braids at all the styles’ primes. Totally original, you had to love these chicks.

Erykah Badu

This Analog Girl in a Digital World has done just bout any and everything with her hair. I would go through the fried and dyed joke, but that’s not really true. Instead, she’s done locks, a bald fade, big, short and long wigs, afros, small twists, etc. She’s even stepped out with her hair looking like she didn’t even comb it and still been chic! Erykah has always been a step ahead of the game and the curve, trying styles and looks way before others, and giving them up just when the fads start. Truly a one-of-a-kind sista.

Lil Kim

Ha! Ignore the colored contacts, the altered nose and chin, and take a walk down memory to focus on Kim’s hair. I added homegirl to this list because, let’s face it, the whole multi-colored wig and weave thing was something a lot of people saw on her first. Not to throw shade or take sides in any beefs (because I could truly care less), but she mysteriously found a way to make ridiculous shades of green, pink, red, purple and more look great on her head. Not feeling what she’s done to herself lately, but back in the day, I can’t lie, she was pretty cool.

Halle Berry

Somehow, this chick stepped on the scene and revolutionized the way we look at hair and how it adds to our beauty. Berry usually walks around with the least amount of hair possible thanks to some expertly crafted pixie cuts, and she’s as gorgeous as they come. Who said you need to have uber-long locks down to your butt to look fab? Rihanna and Nia Long are close in competition, but sorry, nobody does short hair like Halle. She kills it. Everytime!

Brandy

Another shocker, right!? Well, don’t be surprised. Back in the early ’90s when Brandy became the new sweetheart and household name thanks to her musical talents and TV show, she ushered back in the braids of yesteryear. Micros, box braids, braids in all kinds of shades–she was pretty much doing it all. I can’t tell you how many people came to school back in junior high with her same exact braids thinking they were toooooo cute. Homegirl was the queen of protective styling (and bankhead bouncing) and she easily found a way to make her braids more fun by contorting them in different designs and shapes. Loved it!

 

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