All Articles Tagged "black hair"
— Val Smith (@MamaGameWinner) May 26, 2016
If you thought a little relaxer being snuck into your shampoo was bad, the truth is that’s really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the trauma Black women are subjected to at the salon and Twitter just laid out each and every one with the hashtag #BlackSalonProblems. Be prepared to laugh out loud (and experience a twinge of PTSD) as you remember the struggle that is the Black salon.
— Aprill (@HeyAprill) May 26, 2016
Black women have always had a special relationship with their hair. We’ve all spent years having a love-hate relationship with it. Some days we fight with it, others day we turn heads because of it. But we all eventually learn to embrace it (or decide enough is enough and cut it all off).
And whether you wear it natural, you’re a weave chameleon or you keep it fried, dyed and laid to the side, Black hair teaches us a lot of lessons about beauty, about what our strands can withstand, and about the world around us. It’s true. Sometimes those lessons are for us, sometimes they are for the people around us. But Black hair always makes a statement, and part of the Black girl magic is being able to listen up.
What lessons has your hair taught you (or those around you)? Let us all know your black hair magic knowledge in the comment section.
Months ago, when Kim Kardashian was credited for making “boxer braids” a thing, Brande, our managing editor, was sure that we were being trolled. I wasn’t. I’m never too quick to dismiss the ignorance of White folks when it comes to Black culture, particularly Black hair. Even though Black girls and women have been wearing corn rows for centuries, I’m not sure that White people pay enough attention to us to even notice. Or perhaps, they were so busy learning how to recreate the style, they forgot to learn the actual name. I don’t know, can’t be sure.
But the most recent incident of cultural appropriation or example of revisionist history comes from Vogue.
This past Monday, Lupita Nyong’o stunned on the Met Gala’s red carpet. It wasn’t just her shimmery jade green dress; but it was the hair, sculpted to point up toward heaven, that had the people really talking. Of course it was African inspired. Black women have been crafting our hair into gravity-defying shapes for centuries. And most Black folk and cultured others could see that. Unfortunately, Vogue was not among that group.
While they reported that Nyong’o herself cited Nina Simone as an inspiration for her hair; in an attempt to bring a White woman into the mix, the publication dug through their archives to locate a picture of Audrey Hepburn rocking a beehive. And to add insult to injury, the headline asked:
Is Lupita Nyong’o the New Audrey Hepburn? Celebrating the Star’s Met Gala Hair
Instead of placing Lupita next to the woman she actually named as her inspiration, it was Audrey Hepburn. They mentioned that folks were saying her hair was reminiscent of a character in Dr. Seuss’ “Whosville.” They referenced a Marge Simpson meme before trotting out that picture of Audrey Hepburn’s updo from their 1963 photo shoot.
They didn’t stop there.
“And the similarities between the two ingenues extend beyond hair; both, like Hepburn’s famous incarnation of Eliza Doolittle in ‘My Fair Lady,’ have mastered the art of transformation, from head to toe.”
Now, we’re likening a fictional character’s transformation to a real woman? I’m confused. Not only is one fact and one fiction, Lupita is nothing like Eliza Doolittle. If you recall, at the beginning of My Fair Lady, Eliza Doolittle was busted and disgusted. She was dirty, couldn’t speak clearly and had never been anywhere or seen anything. That’s not Lupita’s story. Her father is a politician, her mother the leader of a cancer foundation. She attended Yale’s School of Drama. There is no struggle story here.
Even if Vogue wanted to compare Nyong’o’s character Patsey to Hepburn’s Eliza Doolittle, it still doesn’t compute. Patsey was literally whipped for her desire to be clean, while Eliza was content to be filthy.
But if we’re talking about Lupita, the actual woman? From the moment she burst onto the scene, after 12 Years a Slave, she was flawless, fly, red carpet royalty. There was no need for a transformation.
Fascinating that because Lupita seems to have gained the approval of the mainstream that she must be likened to someone White people know, someone White people loved, someone who looks like White people, in order to be fully appreciated.
Not only is Lupita her own woman, she just wasn’t looking to Hepburn on the night of the gala. Furthermore, Hepburn’s stylists in the sixties would have likely been unwilling and unable to create that style on afro-textured hair. It’s a completely different process and an entirely different look. And Vogue knew this BECAUSE LUPITA TOLD THEM.
Their choice to ignore the information, to redirect the attention back to a White woman is more than just a matter of being ignorant, failing to take the time to do the research, or not having a full grasp of cultural appropriation. It’s just irresponsible. And, as Brande said at the top of the year, it is indeed trolling. They know better at this point and are simply refusing to do better. And that decision not only represents a clinging to the past, a refusal to update with the times and be more inclusive, it is truly disturbing in the way it attempts to silence yet another Black woman’s voice and her decision to pay homage to the Black women who came before her.
Thankfully, Lupita, with all her grace, handled the situation very tactfully. She created a slideshow featuring her real hair inspirations, all Black women, and @ mentioned Vogue in the caption.
If it were me, in addition the “think piece” above, they would have gotten this gif.
After six years of living in New York and one expired Missouri driver’s license, this morning I decided to transfer my license over to New York City. Which meant I had to go to the DMV. Which meant a trip down Harlem’s legendary, famous and infamous 125th street. I was walking from West and East. And in that nearly 30 minute journey you can truly see the diversity of Black people. There are the African woman offering to braid your hair, the Afro-Latinos who still surprise me when they start speaking in Spanish. There are the teen, native New Yorkers who are always speaking about nothing of importance with the utmost seriousness. The Caribbean immigrants coming out of the few health food stores. And then there are the Black Israelites, also known as the Hotep dudes.
I walked past all of these people but it was the Hotep man who spoke to me…or at me this morning.
“Who has more fun, blondes or Black women?”
For those of you who don’t know what I look like, over two years ago, I dyed my locs blonde. So, he was clearly speaking to me. But I was walking so fast, I was out of earshot by the time I would have been ready with a response. But the question, and more importantly, the implication behind it, lingered in my mind. I didn’t stop to engage with him so I don’t know the true intention of his comment but obviously it was said to elicit some type of reaction. And I wondered if he was trying to suggest that having blonde locs was somehow contrary to being Black; after all, the two are not mutually exclusive. You can be Black and blonde.
In all honesty, this is not the first time I’ve heard this sentiment about blonde being “un-Black.” Those who didn’t celebrate the release of Beyoncé’s Lemonade, took the “Becky with the good hair line” and ran with it. I saw several social media comments and even a meme or two that questioned the line, coming from Beyoncé, when she wears blonde wigs and weaves. The suggestion was that Beyoncé coveted that good hair so much, she’s worn it for years. So, it was a bit hypocritical for her to be mad at another woman who was born with that hair. [Faux] Deep.
Truth be told, when I contemplated coloring my hair, it took me a while before I was comfortable with even saying I wanted blonde. To me, the color I selected was more like gold but seeing as my hair is not metallic, it really was blonde. For a good minute, I wondered what my decision said about me. Was I falling into some type of subconscious desire to be a White girl?
It wasn’t until my mother sent me this image that I was able to make peace with the decision.
It wasn’t just the picture but also the Black, American Black people in the comment section who shared pictures of their Blonde-haired babies, relatives or selves, that helped solidify my decision, assuring that it wasn’t rooted in some Eurocentric worship. Blonde hair looks great on Black skin. And no one will every mistake the texture of my locs with a White woman’s hair. It’s drastically different. In fact, the blonde color makes the undeniably African texture of my hair even more apparent.
People tend to forget that the human race began in Africa. So all types of genetic diversity can ultimately be traced back to the continent, even the mutations.
But more importantly, we have to stop finding ways to separate ourselves as Black people. Ultimately the color, texture or style of someone’s hair doesn’t necessarily speak to their thoughts and priorities as a person. And even if it did, trying to have a discussion about it, as a stranger on the street might not be the best venue.
(As relayed by Lauren R.D. Fox based on a culmination of experiences)
While on vacation in Denver, Colorado, I met Jay who lived in the surrounding area. We hooked up and the sex was so good I decided to hang out with him for the rest of my trip. Although my friends were peeved that I ditched them, I was in dire need of testosterone, especially after being on vacation for a week with six women.
During that time, Jay took me to his favorite restaurants and lounges. Everything was perfect — until one morning he suggested we go for a run. Now to be real, I had no business working out with my 20-inch Peruvian weave. By the time I met Jay, it had already been through so much—chlorine water, sweaty, smoked out clubs and me being too lazy to put a silk scarf on at night. But I began to really like Jay and didn’t want him to think I was “that” type of Black girl who didn’t participate in physical activities because of her hair. So I decided to take the “L” and run a few miles with Jay. Our run became a hike; Jay said he wanted me to see the impeccable view of the city. So again, I found myself taking one for the team in the name of lust and adventure.
By the time we made it to the top of the mountain, I felt proud of my physical capabilities but when Jay suggested we take a victory selfie, my happiness suddenly turned into fury. My leave out was in need of a flat iron and my weave a tangled mess. Although I tried to smile for our picture, Jay could tell I was upset.
He suggested we go back to his place so I could unwind and figure out my hair situation. By the time we got back to his place, I tried combing through my weave with my fingers, only for them to be met with knots. I washed my hair but that only made the situation worse. On the brink of tears, I told Jay he’s responsible and needed to pay me $200 for the damages caused by his run-turn-hike. “You’re wildin’’” Jay said as he chuckled, although I didn’t find the situation funny.
Should Jay pay me or am I overreacting?
Another day, another incident of a Black women being discriminated against for her ethnically-styled hair.
According to CBC News, 20-year-old Cree Ballah was sent home from her job at a Zara, in Toronto ,when her managers told her the look was unprofessional.
Ballah, who had box braids at the time, had them gathered in the back.
One manager asked her to take the braids out of the bunch and then came back with a second manager.
Ballah told CBC, “They took me outside of the store and they said, ‘We’re not trying to offend you, but we’re going for a clean, professional look with Zara and the hairstyle you have now is not the look for Zara.”
The managers then asked her to try and fix her hair.
Ballah said the whole ordeal was humiliating and their reprimanding her, outside of the store, in the mall where other employees could see them, was unprofessional.
Ballah left the mall that day and later filed an official complaint with the human resources department, citing discrimination.
“My hair type is also linked to my race, so to me, I felt like it was direct discrimination against my ethnicity in the sense of what comes along with it,” said Ballah, who describes herself as bi-racial. “My hair type is out of my control and I try to control it to the best of my ability, which wasn’t up to standard for Zara.”
Ballah met with company officials but was still unsatisfied with the way the incident was handled.
Zara said that the company is diverse and multicultural and does not tolerate any form of discrimination. They also said that they “engaged directly the employee on this matter and respect the privacy of those discussions.”
The statement noted that there is no formal policy regarding employee hairstyles, just that they look professional.
Though Ballah hadn’t quit when the CBC story was first published, late last week, she said that she likely will.
It’s so discouraging, and almost frightening to think that these companies, who claim to be on the cutting edge of affordable fashion, trying to appeal to a vast number of female consumers, would be so ignorant and close-minded when it comes to Black hair.
Have you ever seen “Awkward Black Girl,” with the obnoxious and highly inappropriate boss? Boss Lady? She’s a White woman, a fictional character but I would bet good money that she’s based on a real person. She has to be. How do I know? Because my boss behaves…or behaved the exact same way.
Let me explain.
I work at a small production company in Los Angeles, where many women are still beholden to wigs and weaves. I’m not here to shame anyone. That’s their choice. But I choose to wear my hair naturally or in natural styles. Read: Black, Afrocentric. Like most Black women, I like variety. One day, I’ll wear a sizable afro. The next it will be styled in an updo. Sometimes I’ll get braids and other times I’ll straighten it.
What, to me, is just a very common desire to switch the style up, is usually a huge topic of discussion for many of my White coworkers, particularly my boss.
When I came in for the initial interview, I had my hair slicked back into my go-to bun. But anytime I’ve ventured away from that style, my boss seems to believe that I’m trying to make some political statement. When I wore it in an afro, she made sure to pull me to the side. And after I dodged her annoying attempt to touch it, she smiled awkwardly before saying, “Oh, you’re more in touch with your roots today.”
When I had long extensions, she made sure to tell me I was giving her “homegirl vibes” before asking me how much of it was actually mine.
And then, most annoyingly, when I decided to wear my hair straight, she came up to me, touched my shoulder, looked straight in my eyes and said, “I really like your hair. It makes you look much softer.”
That was it.
I had to tell her about herself right then and there.
“You know, I would really appreciate it if you would stop commenting on my hair from here on out. In all honesty, many of your comments, while they might seem harmless to you, are offensive and stereotypical. Telling me I look softer with my hair straightened insinuates that, in it’s natural texture, my face looks more rough or masculine. It’s a sentiment rooted in a very Eurocentric beauty standard. And as a woman of African descent, it’s not something I’m trying to live up to.”
She stood there, her mouth agape, her eyes widened in horror.
Then, I pulled one of her moves, touched her shoulder gently and said, “I don’t really expect you to understand all of this. This is why it would just be better if we eliminate all conversation about my hair going forward. I’m sure you understand.”
She nodded slowly. I thanked her with a quick smile and walked off.
Aside from our very necessary professional conversations, very few of which don’t happen over e-mail, she doesn’t speak to me much anymore.
And that’s alright with me.
I tell this story all the time because it’s simultaneously hilarious and incredibly relevant. When I went off to college, I decided to go natural. Thankfully, my mother, who had already made the transition, was very supportive. But two years later, as my graduation date neared and my mother started thinking about the prospect of me getting a job, she suggested that I invest in a good wig to strengthen my chances of being offered a position. She was sure that my afro would be a hinderance to my employment opportunities.
I told my mother that I wasn’t going to buy a wig because I would never want to work for a company that couldn’t appreciate the real me.
That moment said quite a bit about identity politics for Black women, the generational gap between my mother and I and the perception of Black hair as somehow untidy and thereby unprofessional.
But it’s a new day. And Black women, across the world, are seeking to combat that very erroneous and hurtful notion that our hair is not good enough.
Happy Hair Boutique, located in the Bahamas, is joining that conversation with their campaign and hashtag #NaturalIsProfessional.
According to the campaign website, owner of the boutique Carol-Lynn Taylor explained the purpose of the campaign saying, “The goal is to illustrate to our public that natural hair is accepted in the workplace and more notably in the professional environment.” Taylor and her company have been running the campaign for the past three years, every February during the boutique’s “Love Your Natural Hair Month.”
The website says:
“In February 2016, a number of high school students received backlash about their natural hair being “untidy, un-groomed, unkempt and looking like it hadn’t been combed for days.” Also February marks Happy Hair’s 3rd Annual ‘Love Your Natural Hair’ Month. It only felt natural to join the two. 15 Natural Hair Professionals and four up and coming Natural Hair Young Professionals, including a medical engineer, a dentist, a CPA, a future doctor, a business owner and more, came out to show their support for these students and to prepare them “for today’s job market.” The result is countless stereotype-breaking, positive black hair images flooding social media timelines to make people rethink what professional hair can be.”
Such a beautiful and much-needed idea.
Check out some of the images from the campaign below.
Not feeling well?
Well, according to a recently released report, it might be some of the chemicals in your hair care products that are making you sick.
The 60-page report entitled Natural Evolutions: One Hair Story was released on Tuesday by Black Women for Wellness, which is an L.A.-based advocacy and research group dedicated to the health and well-being of Black women. You can read the report in its entirety here.
But to summarize, it is the result of five years of research, which included “literature reviews, focus groups, data collection and interviews with African American beauty professionals to determine chemical exposure and correlating health status, of hair care products directed at Black women.”
And as noted in the report’s introduction, “Each year, Black women spend about 9 billion dollars on beauty products alone, twice as much as any other ethnic group. By 2017, the Black hair care industry is estimated to reach $500 billion, taking into the account the changing nature of the market and the increase in online sales. However, many of the products marketed to and used by Black women are rarely researched for toxic health consequences; in the rare cases that they are, Black hair products are found to be some of the most toxic beauty products on the market.”
While the report did not focus on any specific products, researchers did provide a list of ingredients including fragrance, DMDM hydantoin, linalool methylparaben and propylparaben, which were found in over 50 products used or recommended by hair care stylists. Moreover, “Several of these compounds have been found to disrupt the endocrine system, among other health effects. DMDM hydantoin has been found to be a skin toxicant and allergen, as well as a formaldehyde-releasing agent.”
Chief among the health concerns associated with the chemicals used in many of our hair care products is uterine fibroids. And, according to the report, a recent study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology has found a link between the use of hair relaxers and the condition that is estimated to affect 80 percent of Black women over their lifetime.
The report also highlights other reproductive developmental issues associated with chemicals in our hair care products, including infertility and spontaneous miscarriages.
And as the report notes, “Girls who reported using chemical hair oils and hair perms were 1.4 times more likely to experience early puberty after adjusting for race, ethnicity, and year of birth. In addition, other studies have linked early puberty to hair detangler use by Black girls. In one of the studies African American girls as young as two years old started showing signs of puberty after using products containing animal placenta found in many detanglers and conditioners.”
In addition to reproductive concerns, the report also links formaldehyde, ammonia, and bleaching agents – all chemicals that are commonly found in our hair care products – to respiratory disorders.
More specifically, “A study conducted in 2007 with 344 women in Nigeria found that respiratory symptoms were more common among hairdressers as compared to the community at large. Frequent sneezing, coughing, and chest tightness were found in the hair stylists. In addition, the mean pulmonary function test (FEV1, FVC, and FEV1/FVC) was lower in hairdressers, with no relation to duration of employment in the industry. In short, a beauty professional’s ability to breathe deeply is compromised once entering the profession.”
According to the report, Black hair care professionals who are exposed to higher levels of chemicals than the general public are most at risk of developing health problems. As part of its research, BWW interviewed L.A.-based hair professionals between 2011 and 2014 and found that 65 percent of them use permanent straighteners or lye/no-lye relaxers; sixty-three percent used permanent waves and texturizers; and 60 percent used hair dyes, all of which contain chemicals that have been linked to carcinogenic materials, respiratory problems and allergies and reproductive issues.
In fact, as the study notes, “Of the stylists we talked to, over 100 health issues were reported. The most common health issues were headaches, dizziness, and chemical burns. About 9% of the women stylists surveyed had health issues directly related to reproductive health.”
As far as solutions, the report said that more education and awareness, as well as easy-to-read labels, would help to “mitigate risk factors.”
The report also called for more federal oversight.
“Creating and enforcing policies and regulations that use the precautionary principle when evaluating chemical safety is an important step in mitigating the risk of toxic exposure to the public as well as with workers. In addition, a system is needed that can regulate and remove chemicals from personal care, hair and cleaning products that have a proven health risk in a timely and effective manner.
Having policies looking at labeling products of concern as well as maintaining an awareness of the need for stronger regulations on labeling and testing of products would allow consumers to make more informed choices about the products they wish to buy.”
And yet, the only environmentally just issues anyone wants to talk about are polar bears floating on ice caps…
“There Was Nothing In The Marketplace”: Miko Branch On Miss Jessie’s Impact On The Natural Hair Movement
In the ’90s, while many women were still making appointments to touch up relaxers, Miko and Titi Branch were just trying to find products that could provide some TLC to their curls. And they were coming up very short in that search. The sisters, who have a Japanese mother and African-American father, would try to go to salons, but all stylists wanted to do was “tame” their thick hair. So they started doing their own strands, and eventually, started making their own products to moisturize them. They went from cooking up concoctions in a Brooklyn brownstone to trying to share those products and their curly hair expertise in their Soho salon. It was a success.
Miko Branch, 45, is sharing that success story in the March issue of Black Enterprise, which she graces the cover of. She pointed out that the success she and late sister Titi had with the Miss Jessie’s salon and eventually with the products came from the fact that they identified a major need for their goods and created their signature formulas from there.
“When we set out to come up with solutions for curls, kinks, waves, and natural hair, there was nothing in the marketplace,” Branch told the magazine. “Natural hair was categorized, for the most part, as braids, locks, or a free-form fro. Nothing really to embrace your natural curls.”
The products would eventually expand to big retailers like Target and CVS, going from 225 stores to supplying more than 1,000 stores with their beloved Curly Pudding, Curly Buttercreme, Curly Meringue, their Rapid Recovery Treatment and more, all under a brand named after their paternal grandmother. Miko and Titi would go on to be innovators when it came to natural hair, specifically the curly hair faction, and develop a multimillion-dollar company.
Miko says that if she and Titi could do it, other Black women entrepreneurs surely can start small and expand greatly.
“You don’t even need privileges or degrees,” Branch told Black Enterprise. “We didn’t have MBAs and we didn’t get bank loans or find angel investors. What we had was a seed of an idea and a solid foundation of family and influences to learn from and observe. If we could do it, you can do it too.”
Not only is Branch on the cover of this month’s Black Enterprise, but she will also be part of the Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Summit, leading a discussion on “Making Big Bucks in Specialized Markets.” Find out more about the summit, taking place in Miami Beach from May 4-7, here.