‘Can I Touch It?’ Photographer Gives White Women ‘Black’ Hairstyles For Corporate Portraits

October 15, 2013  |  

Source: Endia Beal

The fascination of our White counterparts with Black hair has always attracted mixed emotions. While some find their interest to be humorous and even natural, others find it annoying and offensive. In an interesting collection called, Can I Touch It?, photographer Endia Beal rounded up a group of middle-aged White women and took them to a hair salon to get hairstyles typically worn by Black women. The hairstyles were free, the ladies simply had to agree to have their photographs taken in corporate attire after, even if they were unhappy with the style afterwards. Interestingly, Endia did not allow the women to choose their hairstyles, instead, the styles were selected for them.

“I said, ‘I am going to give you a black hairstyle,’ and they were like, ‘You’re going to give me cornrows?’ ” Endia told Slate.

“And I said, ‘No, we’re going to do finger waves.’ ‘Finger waves? What’s that? You mean from the ’20s?’ And I said, ‘These are a little bit different type of finger waves!’ ” she continued.

Endia revealed that she went after women who were at least 40 years old, but that she was really hoping to get the baby boomers.

“I wanted people that had a certain idea of what you’re supposed to look like in the workspace, because it would be a challenge for them to understand what I experienced in that space. And to a degree, many young white women have shared that experience, but for older white women it’s an experience they haven’t necessarily had,” she said.

She went on to reveal that the idea for the shoot was inspired by her experiences while interning in the IT Department at Yale, where most of her co-workers were White males. A big red afro was her style of choice at the time and one coworker tipped her off to a rumor that had been going on around the office about her male coworkers wanting to feel her hair. She allowed them to and then recorded their reactions on camera a week later.

“I wanted to allow someone to feel something different, to experience something they never had before, and through that experience, they felt uncomfortable. And then to talk about it kind of amplifies that feeling,” she expressed.

Turn the page for photos from the shoot. Thoughts?

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  • Patrice Abbott

    No a fan, some people just can’t wear certain styles!

  • MrTToftheWest

    Nahhhhhh! Terrible. I understand the point but those pics were scarey (basically their expressions)!

  • YoNess

    What backwoods boon hick is still wearing finger waves????SMH that is not black it is ghetto, a 212 degree Fahrenheit mess…

  • Leah Ashton

    what in the world? these aren’t black hairstyles to me. Fingerwaves have been around forever, but they arent too popular anymore. I have seen others with flat twists. what was the point of this?

  • ER Bass

    Give me a break, we KNOW how the corporate, professional world works. Gawd.

  • Kenedy

    I’m sure the photographer may have said this, but I missed the point of why she did this….it proves what?

  • moorequeen

    This is foolery at its best. Always trying to be more like us but hate to be us…..

  • Yvonne Watkins

    Why the problem with calling these hairstyles what they are? They are styles worn primarily by Black women. I was waiting to see the pompadour front, french roll middle and bangs in the back. LOL.

  • deedee

    Complete Mockery……..

  • Clutch Reader

    Wow,yall really like to steal posts from Clutch after the fact, huh?

  • Kit23

    I will never understand why white people are so fascinated with our hair, regardless of how we wear it. As I recently said to my boss, when she noticed I was wearing my hair styled differently, “Why do you care?” She had no answer.

  • DTJ

    I work with a bunch of white people who’ve been told that they can’t wear box braids or anything because its considered a “black hairstyle” (we’re in the military). They’ve been told this by white people and, it isn’t written in the regulations, and is pretty racist to me. My point? There is no such thing as white or black hairstyles. This whole thing was stupid. I know white people with afros, cornrows, tracks, weaves, extensions, and to say that its indigenous to one ethnic group is ignorant to me. But, thats just my opinion. and these ladies look like fools making those faces.

  • Kayla Ancrum

    I love how you can instantly tell which of these women liked their hair and which of these women really didn’t.

    • Jane

      I guess so….they all looked ugly. Doesn’t matter that it was “black” hair…the styles did nothing to enhance their looks. Most black women I see have lovely hair that looks good on them. I think the whole thing was totally ridiculous, and I don’t consider hair styles either “black” or “white”. Another way to try to divide and encourage racism.

  • NOLA_Darling

    I have seen Black women wear each of these hairstyles, with some women trying to rock two at a time.

  • BlessedB

    That is just regular hair styles. you can tell a black person didnt style their hair. all the styles are aweful and thats coming from an african american young lady. This is an embarrasment not to the african american society but to whoever told them these were “black” hairstyles. White people need to get over themselves. Yall dating black men and still got that arrogant mentality, wake up this is 2013.

  • CC

    Not all of the hair styles were “Black Hairstyles,” but it is just another way to mock black women. How disrespectful “Black Hairstyles.”

  • SisterTruth

    What’s the big deal? I didn’t like the cornrow styles and the finger wave, but the box braids updo, flat twist, and Whitney Houston curl didn’t look half bad on them.

  • provokethought

    Most of them look angry……..

  • Not a good representation. Except for the first picture all the styles look wack and no self respecting sista would take a picture with her do jacked up like that.


    Why call it black and not biblical, mid-evil or indian? Cornrows have been around so long and people been rocking them.

  • La Negra Bonita™

    I don’t know any Black women wearing these styles!!! LMBO!!! And their faces??!!?? Priceless!!! Lord knows this is how I’d be looking if somebody jacked up my hair like that!

  • sammi_lu

    #6 teased roller set/sister curls

  • Chas

    Hahahahaha OMG I can’t stop laughing!!! They look like they cant wait to get that out of their head!!!

  • Tudbee

    Pls stop it. They look horrible. After the first photo, I wanted to give the benefit of the doubt but by 2nd photo…..nah pls stop.

  • NIC.ED

    the faces …. HORRID!!! the default pic fits the woman but all the others just dont seem to have either liked their hairstyle or arent comfortable with it and #6 (R.I.P and NO DISRESPECT) that is the Whitney Houston!!! yeeeeesss!!!

  • JUJU

    LMAOOO at thier faces! They all lookin like WTF?!?

  • B617

    Lol why do they have those creepy looks on their faces?

    • cd cd

      ..im sure since they knew their hair was “black” they couldn’t pose right with the million things going on in their heads.

      • so many uneducated people

        actually, they were supposed to be “corporate” “serious” photos. idiots.

        • cd cd

          ..who’s the idiot…the attire is corporate. The author even said they felt uncomfortable. I rarely deal with people who have to announce their intelligence in their name for various reasons, so have a good one…

        • La Negra Bonita™

          Corporate photos rarely have such serious faces. They are supposed to look warm and inviting, yet professional. Duhhhh

  • Jessica

    So where’s the black women hairstyles at?