All Articles Tagged "afros"
“Danielle, when did AJ start dressin’ like a hippie?”
My aunt asked my sister this question about me with a half-puzzled, half-disgusted look on her face a few months ago. I laughed when my sister told me. Thinking about it now, being able to laugh about it is remarkable.
Here’s the story: ‘Nappy,’ ‘pickaninny,’ ‘Buckwheat’ and ‘wild’ were the descriptors many of my family members met me with when I first decided to give hair straightening a rest in high school. So I went back to straight bangs and low buns to avoid any confrontation.
At 25, I cut my hair. I wanted the relaxed ends gone. I wanted my ‘fro back. Only this time I was scared out of my mind to reveal my ‘fro to my family. And I was met with the same downright mean, almost self-hating feedback from a family who – though God-fearing and most helpful – has always had SOMETHING negative to say about my unique ventures and style choices since I was small. So I tucked my hair away under wigs for the better part of three months, discontent with the short length of my hair and afraid of what they might say. But then, one family member got so incredibly disgusted with that and reamed me out for not wearing my own hair. I reached a boiling point. Internally, I was screaming, frustrated and confused. I craved acceptance from my own blood, the acceptance that an unknown passersby gave me in spades from time to time. I wanted my family to “get” me and I was tired of feeling like I had to adjust myself just to make them comfortable and keep them quiet. So, I took off the wigs and decided once and for all to walk in the glory of my ever-growing kinky curly hair. Eff what they thought. I needed to do what felt right for me. My kinks felt right and I wore them. A confidence I had never known started to sprout in me.
That confidence spilled over from my hair to my fashion choices. I had always dressed conservatively because it was safe. My family complimented the pencil skirts, kitten heels and starched shirts. That was acceptable. That was ‘right.’ Imagine their surprise when along with the ‘wild’ red frohawk, I began sporting gladiator sandals, cut off shirts and long flowy bohemian maxis? I was owning my style, my choices, my ideas. One decision to wear my hair how I wanted to, for MY own reasons, snowballed into my entire life changing. I was figuring out what felt right FOR ME. I wasn’t just agreeing with everyone else’s opinions for fear of being hounded for thinking outside my family’s box. I was proudly spinning their rough sneers into the fine silk of self-acceptance. And it felt darn good.
At first, I didn’t realize that I had stopped allowing myself to be a victim of my family’s criticism and had actually started embracing it. All I knew was that my life was passing me by as I conformed to someone else’s ideas instead of finding my own. I was in my mid-twenties and had no idea what my personal style was. Imagine that. Living life as a reflection of everyone else, always being too afraid or feeling guilty for wanting to look into the mirror and see just exactly who is staring back.
Once I got a good glimpse though, I made it my business to honor that girl staring back at me. Whatever choices I made from that moment on were guided by my God-given intuition and individuality. Sure I would take sage advice from those around me, but to be completely ruled by their opinions to the point that I lost myself? Never again. I had to really get it into my system that not everyone (least of all family, sometimes) is going to agree with the decisions I make. My preferences won’t rub everyone the right way all the time, but that’s all right. God created us to be individuals, not mindless clones of one of another.
So, a nappy headed hippie, you say? ‘Nappy headed’? Okay! It looks good on me so I’ll be that! Hippie? Well, all right! A lost concertgoer from Woodstock anyone? I’ll take that too, because life is too short to be boxed into a life stitched together by everyone else’s thoughts, insecurities, fears and standards. At some point, by breaking free and embracing the suck regardless of how anyone tries to spin it, I know who I am now and I’m comfortable in my own skin, my own ‘fro and my own style.
La Truly is a late-blooming Aries whose writing is powered by a lifetime of anecdotal proof that awkward can transform to awesome and fear can cast its crown before courage. Armed with the ability to purposefully poke fun at herself and a passion for young women’s empowerment, La seeks to encourage thought, discussion and change. Check out her blog: www.hersoulinc.com and her Twitter: @AshleyLaTruly.
When it comes to standards of beauty in the black hair community, one of the hot button issues arises from how much of the aesthetic we chose for ourselves comes from norms of attractiveness that have been imposed upon us by mainstream pop culture. In fact, one of the reasons that many women of color decide to go “natural” is in an effort to embrace their own definition of beauty and not to succumb to definitions that seem to be almost strictly decided externally.
As much as there is empowerment in, and a need for, embracing our own unique charm and comeliness, the fact is that we live in an increasingly diverse global village where cultures rub off on each other all the time (I love a Japanese man with locks) and sharing and emulating each other’s differences does not always have to be regarded as a pejorative phenomenon.
Take, for instance, Lady Gaga on the cover of Vogue’s huge September Fall Fashion issue. Wearing an intricately designed purple Marc Jacobs’ gown, Gaga sports a highly stylized blonde fro – a rather scene-stealing hairstyle, given the theatrics of the photoshopped hourglass figure she cuts in her couture dress.
One can imagine that the gravity defying, bodacious coif donned by Gaga must have taken quite some time to assemble by her team of stylists — a look inspired, no doubt, by the amazing properties of afro-textured hair. Our hair has the uncanny ability to assume shapes and heights and fullness that other ladies that lack the same texture dream about. This particular look, I like to call “The Halo Effect.” These are not traditional afros. Soft, full, unstructured and cloud-like, they give an ethereal vision of loveliness that is almost other worldly.
Here are some of our favorite stars over the years sporting their own natural (or not) ”halos”.
Earth angels, indeed.
Kelly can pull off straight or textured hair with aplomb, but there is something about big “halo” hair that makes her look fresh-faced and dewy.
If you haven’t seen it yet, which I’m pretty sure you have because it has been featured on every black blog and online publication, The New York Times recently ran an editorial, along with a short video, about the black women who are transitioning to natural beauty.
Zina Saro-Wiwa, a Nigerian, by way of the UK, documentary filmmaker and video artist, began documenting the American black women natural hair movement after her own transition from chemical straightening to a short bush left her both enamored and questioning her own insecurities about how she really felt about her own hair. In the video, she speaks to a number of black women about their natural hair and inquires about what inspired them to take the journey.
While I loved both the post and the video, (seriously, it is very well done), I kind of raised an eyebrow at the assertion made both in the video and the post that folks shy away from the “black power” reference associated with black hair. Nor do they view their hair as a political statement. More specifically;
“As Anu Prestonia, the owner of Khamit Kinks, a natural hair salon in Brooklyn, told me, “There’s been an evolutionary process that has turned into a revolution.” It is not an angry movement. Women aren’t saying their motivation is to combat Eurocentric ideals of beauty. Rather, this is a movement characterized by self-discovery and health. “
No doubt that some women do resist the implication that their natural hair has dual meaning. I have heard many times from women with natural hair reject flat out and inclination that they are revolutionary because of their chosen hairstyle. In the past, I might have agreed with them. In the past, I had agreed with them and wrote about the often problematic social undertones that exist with being “natural.” However I have come to learn that even if we do or do not accept our place in the movement, natural hair is indeed political.
How so? Well consider the story of 13-year old Brea Persley of Inglewood California. One day in class, her teacher at the Century Academy for Excellence got so frustrated with her that she allegedly told her to “sit her nappy-headed self down.” This statement may sound funny, and possibly benign to some, however the term “nappy-headed” historically has always had a negative connation used to belittle or disregard a person of African descent. And when those remarks were made in front of the entire class, this little girl felt humiliated. “When the kids started laughing, it brought back the memories of when I was in 4th grade and kids used to laugh at me and tease me,” said Persley said.
As a whole, the black experience in America is politicized, which was recently demonstrated by researchers from Brown University, who discovered that race, for both black and white voters, has more to do with their shifting support for President Obama than actual policy. Meaning that if President Obama, the first black (or biracial as some insist on calling him) president, supports gay marriage then black folks, who previously might have denounced gay marriage, shift their positions to align with the President while race conscious whites shift their position to be in opposition of the President. Of course, the suggestion here is that it is not the issue of gay marriage itself, but the issue of being for or against the black president.
When the first generation of African slaves landed in America, the ability to maintain their elaborate and often spiritual hairstyles was robbed from them along with their freedom. Their kinks were deemed unruly and ugly and eventually became a source of shame. Not much has changed since then; as today, the kinks and the 4B types are still considered a less desirable hair texture than bone straight hair. This is confirmed for us daily as we flip through the pages of magazines, both mainstream and black, and see women of African descent with long weaves and silky perms. And it’s there again when we hear stories about black women being barred from planes or employment opportunities because of their natural coils.
As the always poignant comedian Paul Mooney once said, “If your hair is relaxed, white people are relaxed. If your hair is nappy, then they’re not happy.” The age-old efforts to subjugate us by devaluing our beauty, including our hair, have always been a political tactic to establish more European features, including long silky straight hair, as both mainstream and the status quo. Therefore the more you try to a heed to the mainstream image, the more you align and condone politically and socially the status quo. Each time one of us takes the plunge and cast off the shackles of shame, which suggest that our hair and beauty is inferior, the more we strike a blow to those political forces. And as more and more resist the notion that straight hair is the only type of hair to be considered both beautiful and professional, the more we shift the collective conscious of all folks to make mainstream more reflective and inclusive of you. That’s the essence of any great political movement – whether it is for civil rights or uncivilized hair.
This is not to discount women, who want to straighten their hair or wear weaves. I still hold on to the contention that there is nothing wrong, or less black, with that. But this is largely about the message of those, who don’t, those women who never felt comfortable frying, dying and extending. Those women, who wanted to be free enough to go out into public with some knotty dreads or a teeny weenie afro without being labeled as uncouth, unkempt or some other derogatory term. Those, who were and still are routinely excluded from some certain workplaces and social circles. These folks, who in the past, may not have been able to choose the option of natural styles like Bantu Knots, twists and yes even dreadlocks.
The more that black women embrace the natural hair movement, if only temporary, the more women who felt boxed in to abiding by societal standards just in order to get along, can feel free. Within this movement, they are free to choose natural and have comfort in knowing that there are legions of others like them. It’s about the freedom of choice to come out of the proverbial hair closet and say to the world that I am here. I am nappy. Get used to it.
Charing Ball is the author of the blog People, Places & Things.
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Yesterday, Gabourey Sidibe stopped by “Live with Kelly!” to talk about her role on Showtime’s “The Big C” and there was an interesting exchange between Gaby and the host, Kelly Ripa.
Overall, the interview went really well. Gaby showed off her fun personality which completely conflicted with reports about her having a mean, diva-like attitude—especially considering she entered the set doing the running man.
Later into the interview, Kelly asked about the upcoming season of “The Big C” and mentioned that Gabourey’s character Andrea will be returning to her roots after a trip to Africa. Kelly says she loves African-inspired clothing and wonders if Gabourey feels the same, to which she responded, not so much. She told her:
“I’m actually African, I’m Senegalese, and so I’m over it.” She also added that she she hasn’t worn “stuff like that” since she was like 11.
“I’m very Americanized and I hated the afro.”
Kelly tried to follow up that statement with a question on how long it took Gabourey to kill the afro her character had to wear and change her hairstyle, but it just turned into a jumbled how long-afro-normal-hair-regular-get back to-mess once she realized her use of the words normal and regular probably didn’t come out right. (good catch Kelly)
Gabourey said it only took about 10 hours from the time she landed back home from Puerto Rico where they were shooting to have the fake afro removed and the silky weave she was wearing sewed in, and she seemed quite proud of it. Overall, the convo wasn’t a big deal, but I thought her disassociation with dashikis and the “African style” of dress and hair Kelly is fond of was sort of interesting in a way.
Check out her segment from the show here. What do you think about the interview?
Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.
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Not to go unnoticed with all the gorgeous designs coming down the runway, hair—particularly celebrity hair—also took center stage at New York Fashion Week. From color to curls to sleek strands, let’s take a look at five of the most notable celebrity hair moments from NY Fashion Week F/W 2012.
Take a look at the pictures at StyleBlazer.com and let us know who had the best hair.
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In addition to her powerful voice and acute rhymes, Lauryn Hill is a natural beauty. And she didn’t have to bare her boobs and butt for us to see it. That’s why it was so hard for us to accept her departure from the music industry. She was truly one of a kind. Since The Miseducation Lauryn has traveled down an interesting path:. multiple children, some diva behavior and most recently, her own Maury Povich moment. But such is life and it wouldn’t be complete without its ups and downs. The same is true for a hair history. If we dig through our old photos, we’ll find some wonders and some womps. Check out Lauryn’s.
I absolutely love this look. Her hair is short, but the style, texture and sheen of her hair in this shot, gives her style so much more dimension and character. The fact that Lauryn’s eyes are so engaging in this photo definitely seal the deal. It’s no wonder this is one of the more popular pictures of her.
We’ve professed our love for the Huxtable family and The Cosby Show before; so it should come as no surprise that we just can’t leave them alone. Before it was all about the clothes, but now we’re talking about the hair. It’s no secret that The Cosby show pushed the envelope when it came to innovative hair styles for black women. If you were old enough to style your own tresses at the time this show aired, then chances are you were inspired to recreate one or more of these fly looks.
Don’t you just love when mainstream magazines that try and portray black and African culture ACTUALLY use black and African people? Refreshing, right? And this time, it’s even more refreshing because you don’t have to track down a European magazine to see spreads like this, instead, you just need to check out the fall issue of T: The New York Times Style Magazine.
Scratch the idea of searching through the magazine, if you just gaze at the cover of the issue you’ll be delighted to see Esperanza Spalding on the cover in all her afro-ed up glory (there’s also an awesome feature about her after the spread). Go inside the pages and you’ll find Solange Knowles, the ladies of Les Nubians and Corrine Bailey Rae also donning their afros in uber-expensive evening gowns by the likes of Bottega Veneta and Donna Karan. We loves it, especially since so many everyday women are letting their big hair fly, so it’s nice to see faces in, and on the cover of big-name magazines that are doing and promoting similar styles. #winning
By the way, all photos shown are by Alice O’Malley and are courtesy of T: The New York Times Style Magazine. Enjoy!
My mother has long, thick beautiful hair. My early life was filled with church ladies and family friends frowning over the fact that I did not inherit my mother’s “good” hair. Mine was short, thin and stubbornly refused to grow around the edges. Some women would even give my mom strange concoctions to help my hair out. However, nothing ever worked. As a result, I grew up seeing my hair as a problem.
Surprise, surprise another rapper talkin’ reckless. Method Man recently told a sister, who happened to be rocking an afro, that he doesn’t like natural hair. No locs, no “peasy fros” as he called them. Nothing natural. In the video, that’s since been taken down, the rapper said he likes when a woman’s hair is “done.” Apparently natural hair doesn’t look done to him.
Ok… to each his own. Not that we were expecting much from Method Man anyway. He isn’t somebody whose approval we would seek when making our beauty and fashion choices; yet, maybe his words struck a chord with the scores of women, black, white and purple, who limit their hair choices based on what they think men, whether he’s theirs or not, will say about it.
Method Man aside, do you think it’s important for a man, yours or a complete stranger, to approve of the way you wear your hair?