“I Can’t Be Black, Fat, And Bald-Headed:” Using Hair To Hide Weight

September 15, 2014  |  

Source: Shutterstock

By: Pamela E. Williams

“I can’t be black, fat, and bald-headed.”

This comment was part of a discussion that involved having natural hair and being plus-size.  As the words came out of my coworker’s mouth, I had no judgment, but wondered just how many Black plus-size women who are natural feel this way.  Even people I admire in the blogosphere who celebrate their own curves — and those of of others — struggle with having short natural hair on a full-figured body. CeCe Olisa of the Plus Size Princess blog once wrote While, I’m super happy with how they (SistaLocks) turned out, I was surprised that having “short hair” made me feel more vulnerable about my weight. In the past I’ve always added the hair I wanted for my ideal length with braids, weaves, etc. but I never thought about hair as part of my body image until I started rocking my natural hair at its current length.”

And yet CeCe and my friend aren’t the only ones. Being plus-size with short natural hair was something I thought I had resolved, but if I’m truthful with myself it is still a struggle. The quest for bigger, longer hair is a constant for many.  Short natural hair on a big girl is not often seen as the ideal of beauty.  Look at any fashion/lifestyle magazine and I bet you’ll find at least one that contains an article detailing the aesthetic desires a man has in a woman and  I’ll wager again that on said list there will be some reference to long flowing, straight (read: European) hair.  I probably don’t need to remind you of the husband who hated his wife’s natural hair who appeared on the Steve Harvey Show.  It is no secret that the African American culture has embraced the Westernized standard of beauty, including many of our men.

As a Breast Cancer survivor, I ditched the relaxer in favor of my health and embracing my natural hair as it grew back after chemotherapy.  My only problem is that it is taking its own sweet time to grow.  In the meantime, I watch as thinner black women rock the short natural styles with ease. Lupita Nyong’o can do no wrong with her hair. Things are not all hopeless, as I have examples of full-figured divas such as Chrisette Michele doing the big chop and Jill Scott as she rocked her TWA on the cover of Essence, but I am sometimes a little self-conscious when I wear my own kinky 4c TWA.

The thought that short natural hair can make a woman appear less than attractive and, dare I say it, less than feminine has presented itself on more than one occasion.  I had a little over an inch of hair when I was hit on by a lady at the gas station when I went out with my sister to run some errands and didn’t put on any make-up or my signature statement earrings.  After politely letting the lady know that I wasn’t available or interested, she finished pumping her gas said goodbye.  My sister laughed until she cried and then questioned flatly if I would now “perm” my short kinky curls.  It hurt my feelings at the time, but I realized that this is what many go through.

We are told, or have somehow gotten the impression, that TWAs and other short natural styles will not look good on our plus-size bodies; that they will make us look bigger, or, to some, like a lesbian.  If the self-esteem plummets, one may consider grabbing a box of Dark and Lovely, a wig, or some weave, often times to cover those insecurities about our weight. So where did the myth that big girls can’t rock short natural hair styles come from?  Felicia Leatherwood, Celebrity Natural Hair Stylist, Educator & Expert believes that this mindset is cultural.  In my conversation with Felicia, she said a person can only know what they have been introduced to.

 “In America, many in the African American culture are focused on outer beauty.  When I travel to Africa all the young girls have short hair like mine.  They cut it off there because in some parts of the continent, they don’t want the girls to be focused on beauty, but on education.  Here in America we are constantly fed certain images and told that is healthy.  I mean you can clearly see their bones and ribs coming through their skin. In Africa the focus is on the inside.  When you know what is beautiful about your insides, it creates a confidence that is unmatched.  If all the black women who were curvy and considered to be overweight by doctors standards were all confident and just doing themselves that would infiltrate everything else…including their hair and the world would see that. If it was taught at a young age and preached and confirmed, it would become a lifestyle for Black women and our girls of color would grow up differently.  Their body imaging would be so different.”

Felicia noted she starts any consultation with her clients by addressing the conversations in their head, where they originate, and why they feel the need to still hold on to those negative conversations. When considering going natural at any size Felicia gives the following advice:

  • Locate three photos online that you find attractive; that raise your vibration and take them to a stylist who sees your beauty, gets it, and can break it down. Meaning the hairstylist will say “yeah, this will work.  This can definitely happen. I can hook this up, add a little color…” You want somebody that’s going to support your vision of yourself and someone who is going to be honest. So get your photos and get consultations with some of the best hair stylists you can find that you feel can basically execute that look.
  • The next step is really up to you. You have to feel magnificent when you look in the mirror. Recite positive affirmations daily. Just like Mary Jane in “Being Mary Jane” — there were Post-it notes all over to keep her pumped –we have to do that.

There is too much chatter from the outside world about how a person looks and you have to go within. If you truly want to be natural, you have one life.  You choose what you want, you be that, and be confident in it. I’ve decided to do just that.

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  • Good story, straight from the heart.

  • idk

    I thought I had issues…lol… Some black women act like hair is what defines them. I’m over weight too. If weight is the problem, lose the weight. Your hair style won’t change your body. WTF

  • shii

    I felt something with this article, I’ve always had a “head full of hair ” as everyone would say to me, but i always chose to wear wigs or braids over it bcuz of my size, I’ve always felt i had to prove myself in the hair department to over compensate my weight. But as I got older, i learned to just whatever it, and move on, now at the age of 21 (and after recently being told that my place of employment refuse to train me bcuz of my weight) i feel more confident than I ever have In my life, thank you for this article, it was really good ☺

    • Me

      Please loose weight!!!!! Being obese is not good on any level

      • shii

        Ummmmm whomever you are, I didn’t ask for your input, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that i need to loose weight, thank you for pointing that out, but i will not loose weight bcuz someone feels the need that them telling me is going to make me loose weight, how do you know that i haven’t put in an effort to start making that change in my life?, thank you for your concern though. You have a nice day ☺

      • DANGST

        Please immolate yourself. Her weight is not YOUR BUSINESS.

        • shii

          Thank you!!!!!! Like she my life coach or something lol

      • GeDon Davis

        Sooo…I’m a size 12, 5’4 with a 31 BMI. I am considered “Obese”. Measurements 38, 30, 42. I gets no complaints and eat like Egyptian royalty and workout three times a week and have been for years. My point is get off here barking about weight loss. If they, me, she, us are big, so be it. Love it, hate it, or appreciate it! #ShortHairDoCare

        • CF Sista

          This “Me” fool has his or her own agenda and is a TROLL. I feel very sorry for that person.

  • sweetli30

    Listen, you have to have the confidence to be who you are and not waste your time worrying about what other people think or changing to conform. People are ALWAYS going to have some nonsense to say. ALWAYS. And life is too damn short to waste time addressing that nonsense.

    I am fat, black, natural and for me the shorter my hair, the more I love it.

    I have a friend who thought it looked “butchy” or whatever…..and I told her it’s my head and don’t you worry about it. End of convo. Did she really think I was going to change my hair because of what she thought. Uh, No.

    There is NO WAY I am ever giving any person (friend, stranger or foe) that type of power over my life. It is insanity.

    All I can say is thank you parents for raising me to be confident in my being and having the strength and wherewithal to be my own woman.

    • Tams

      WOW! THIS!

    • Crown Heights

      You’re amazing! Yes!

  • thecelebully

    it wouldn’t be a bad thing to improve your weight/health–but hair is something else..if u feel like that being a larger woman, you’ll feel the same insecurity being skinny

  • CapoteJones

    That’s real

  • mrneworleans999

    That’s why I love mixed and other races of women! They have that good hair indeed!!!!!

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  • g

    WOW. I have never heard a plus sized woman say that and mostly all the plus sized woman in my family were fades and short hair styles. I view them as beautiful and it is overwhelming sometimes when I am around them all this beauty they carry inside out. Yes they all are trying to be active and eat a healthy life style and some struggle with the weight but I have never heard them say anything about their hair in a negative way. They all got to the barber shop. This article hurt my feelings and I’m not even a plus sized woman.

    • MM82

      I’ve had many friends to say that about women. Even my husband told me a story about a lady and at the end he said “she had the audacity to be fat, black and bald head”, as if that really let me know how horrible the woman was.

  • Olayinka Kazeem

    It’s always one thing or another with these African American women. How about losing weight instead blaming your natural hair for all your insecurities? Pure laziness

    • Me

      Amen and amen and amen. STOP BEING SO FAT!!!!!

  • A818

    Lose weight…problem solved.

    • Tams

      Problem solved for whom? Losing weight is a goal that men impose on women in this society. Get healthy. I got healthy by cooking myself, eating lots of greens and fish, nuts and fruits. I stopped thinking about losing weight and focused on eating healthy. Now, I love myself! I will never be a size 2 or 4. That is ridiculous. A grown woman at a size 2 is a bit odd. I am healthy, my cholesterol is under control, my doctor loves me, my man loves me, I love me and I love life. A huge part of this was that I stopped listening to people like you who kept telling women to “lose weight”. We are not 4 year old children. Stop talking to us like we are.

      • A818

        I agree with you. I eat the same way. Being healthy is the best way to get to a healthy weight. Actually it is the ONLY method I agree with.

        • Trendsetter

          So you don’t think exercise is a good method?

          • A818

            I’m no expert but you will have to do a WHOLE lot of exercise to burn through the fat. In my opinion, eating right is 80% of the battle.

            • Trendsetter

              I have seen many trainers say that it is 80% of what you eat and 20% working out. True. But working out reduces stress, causes you to sweat to reduce toxins, increases mental alertness, keeps you in shape, and boosts your confidence. You can’t beat that combination.

      • MrsMee

        Gosh you all over this blog huh Lol. Well I’m glad you placed this much energy in losing weight and seeking a more healthy lifestyle . Good for you !

        • Tams

          Why are you picking on me? I am happy to be me now and no one can rain on my parade!

      • Trendsetter

        Where you overweight before and are you overweight now? Did you lose weight though when you changed your diet ?Being overweight is a sign of bad health…you cannot deny that.

        • Angel89

          Smh…you can have bad health or be unhealthy at any weight….

          • Trendsetter

            You are correct…but being OVERWEIGHT is strongly linked to heart attacks, strokes, and diabetes. Diet AND exercise limit attenuate those diseases significantly. Stop making excuses to be overweight.

      • Me

        Being a sized 2-4 woman is quite healthy. It’s called Bikram yoga everyday and a vegetarian diet lifestyle

        • CF Sista

          Good for you, but you need to STOP IMPOSING YOUR LIFESTYLE AND HARSH OPINIONS (which you are trying to present as truth) ONTO OTHER PEOPLE!!

      • Me

        You sound defensive

    • Chanda

      Short, sweet and to the point lol..

  • word

    I think long hear particullarly weave (for women of all races) is often used to distract from PERCIEVED unattractiveness….being over weight, manly facial features etc. I have heard several times for several women – I cant ‘pull off’ short hair, natural hair etc….really a tragedy.

    • word


    • Me

      *ding ding ding ding ding*Exactly!

    • Chanda

      So correct. Now attractive women rock weaves, too but they don’t rely on them as often. They can go back to their real hair tomorrow without a problem. Less attractive women (big or small) basically have to live in their weaves/wigs 24/7 and I think other people know this, too.

  • Tams

    Getting healthy is a slow process. Most of us don’t come from homes where we were aware of the healthy way to eat. We ate cheap and we ate fast. It was all my dad could afford on a Janitor’s salary. I took control over my life and got healthy by thinking of how long greens would make me live rather than wanting to be thin to get into a size 4 dress. I had the help of a loving man who loved me no matter what size I was. Ultimately, only love of oneself and love around you can get you healthy. Pointing fingers and having people shame you into being thin is not going to get you anywhere. Trust me. Surround yourself with love and you will be healthy. I never use the word thin or fat, I focus on a healthy heart and healthy mind. Also, my short hair is all tied into my feeling good about myself. The weaves were just ways to hide pain. I feel good now!

    • Me

      *ding ding ding ding ding*Exactly! Good on you

  • Tams

    I have short hair! I have had it forever. I am full-figured. I look great. Hair hides a pretty face. Short hair highlights it. I feel so good with myself since cutting my hair. I feel like the heavens opened up for me. Weaves and extensions are a burden. Show yourselves ladies!

  • Me

    Most obese women try to camouflage their large size with either “big” or long hair, lots of jewelry, garish makeup or extremely colorful clothing.

    • Tams

      Leave them alone. Everyone has a way to deal with pain. Why is it to you that they do this? Why is there so much fat shaming? I got healthy by taking care of my heart, my endurance, my cholesterol. Now, I am healthy and happy! It takes time and it takes patience. Stop shaming people and let them come to their revelation on their own time.

      • Trendsetter

        Its the truth though.

      • Me

        I’m posting my opinion on this article. Fatties should not be coddled. …..for the love of self and family. …..loose weight and get healthy. Deal with your emotional demons that’s causing this overeating.

        • Guest

          they’re probably healthier than you are.

  • Me

    How about NOT being obese. That’s more of an issue than a TWA.

    • Tams

      Obesity is sometimes genetic, medical or whatever. Being healthy is a better goal. Once I decided that I wanted to be healthy, I was eating more greens and less carbs naturally. Telling someone to lose weight is a pointless thing. Most data shows the more you tell that to someone, the less weight they lose. However most people want to be healthy, that is a more obtainable goal. If you eat healthy, the weight will come off but at least it is not the main goal. It works, trust me. Think healthy not size!

      • A818

        It is medical unless than 1% of cases. Genetic causes can be overcome. For example some families genetically have a problem digesting simple and some complex carbs. Well….they can limit them.

        It takes trial and error but most of all time to determine what works for an individual. Most people do not want to put in the time so off to the weave store they go.

        • Tams

          Also, patience is key. Patience from your loved ones and from yourself. No amount of shaming or telling people “they better or else” will work. Patience guarantees that when you do get healthy, you will stay healthy.

      • Me

        Obesity is NOT genetic; it may be generational. Stop making excuses for people to send themselves to an early grave. Get healthy=loosing weight. Obese women are punishing themselves with this self destructive way of being.

      • writingmomma46

        You know the sad part about your comment, I have seen so many “thin” women dying at such young ages, that “thought” they were living healthy lifes. I have many “healthy” plus sized friends and relatives that have outlived many of our “so-called” healthy counter parts. Some have died from cancer, hereditary diseases, heart attacks, physical abuse, murder, flu, pneumonia, etc…; many of them missed out on so much of life by focusing on their outer appearances and trying to please others. I say, spend more time loving those in your lives. Growing sound minds, bodies and spirits that are filled with love, joy and peace.

    • CF Sista

      How about you SHUTTING UP and taking your nonsense somewhere else?

  • Christan-Joy Demeritt

    This is the reason why I just spent the last two months combing out my locs instead of cutting them off… #IRefuse

    • A818

      I’ve done that ,too.

    • Sepia830

      I just cut mine off and then ran to the barber to have it trimmed–yuk! It’s not that I am opposed to short hair, have been natural for about 10 years (about 6 of that was a short ‘fro) but this time seems different. I am actually considering a curly natural wig of some kind with a little length to it. Hmmm.

  • Gigi

    I know the feeling of having short natural hair and fearing that you look “butch” but I was unaware of the fear of being plus-sized with short hair. I’m a big girl, but I always got lots of compliments after my two big chops. So much so that I’m dreaming of doing it again and keeping it short next time.

  • Indigo

    I’m so glad that this was written! Now I know it’s not just me. I tried to explain this to my long-haired mother…she doesn’t really get it and thinks I’m crazy. But this is a very real insecurity of mine. That’s why I prefer to have long braids or sew-ins. I feel like it balances out my bottom heavy frame. I’m still learning to love my natural hair AND my shape. I’m getting there!

    • Coco black

      Bless you!! I never thought about this but can see how it could make some feel. I’m sure you are getting there!! 🙂

    • Me

      Love yourself enough to loose weight; that’s a way bigger (no pun intended) issue than having short natural hair. Priorities people. …Priorities!!!!!!!

      • Tams

        It is not about losing weight, it is about being healthy. Don’t tell her to lose weight because that makes women lose the weight even slower. Tell her to be healthy. Health takes time but what a wonderful thing to work toward. It is not about size, it is about having a healthy heart and mind! I did it! Short hair here and very happy. The hair is all part of it too.

        • Me

          Good on you. BUT. …for obese women, loosing weight is a part and parcel of being healthy

          • CF Sista

            CONCERN TROLL GO AWAY. There’s always 1 or 10 in the bunch! WHY, WHY, WHY can’t we discuss fat women without some idiot coming around to say LOSE THE WEIGHT, AND YOU’LL FEEL GREAT!”

    • Tams

      You may look thinner with short hair. Trust!

  • T. T.

    Ladies please love yourself because you don’t no one else will. We are all beautiful in our own way & for those of you who cannot see your own beauty (YOUR OWN, NOT ANYONE ELSE’S STANDARDS) then who will. To hell with what everyone else is doing, be yourself love yourself. I pray for those who can’t see their own beauty. GOD bless those who don’t!

    • Guestest

      Love your comment!! Thanks.

  • Loveyourself4

    Wow. This article tells my story and a few other women alike. Thank you.

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