Allure Faces Backlash After Teaching White Women How To Get An Afro

August 4, 2015  |  

Allure’s August 2015 issue has the magazine in the hot seat for another episode of cultural appropriation regarding an infamous subject: Black women’s hair.

From Hollywood darling Amandla Sternberg to the universe that is Black Twitter, you would think mainstream magazines would now understand what not to do when it comes to appropriating Black culture. Allure clearly missed the memo as it recently published an article titled “You (Yes, You) Can Have An Afro.*” After the asterisk the magazine purports, “even if you have straight hair.”

For the tutorial, hairstylist Chris McMillan gives five Hollywood actresses hairdos made popular in the ’70s; one being the Afro sported by white actress Marissa Neitling of “The Last Ship.”

While many are upset about the clear appropriation, most are focused on the fact the magazine used a white actress when this could have easily been a great opportunity to feature diversity in the magazine while readers learn a bit about the history of African American hair.

If this was an isolated occurrence and not happening at alarming rates one could possibly be forgiving. In June, Teen Vogue featured a story on Senagalese twists and used a racially ambiguous (French, American, Tongan, Fijan and English) model who could very easily pass for white.

https://twitter.com/JOJOTHAJAWN/status/612830560050937857

Allure’s latest stunt may be far greater than Teen Vogue’s actions as the Afro has a strong political history in the African American community – not just a beauty and style choice. Afros were an important part of the Black Power Movement as Black women across America tucked their hot combs away and went with their beautifully natural hair. Only recently has this pride in one’s natural coif taken reign once again and it’s not here to be chosen as a style white women must now hop on.

You may be thinking (the thought passed my mind too), well African American women have straightened their hair for decades – so, why  is this an issue? Black women began wearing perms when Black hair was deemed unattractive while white women have not had to grow up with the same issues regarding their hair.

Yet Allure says their piece mirrors the growth of self-expression happening in America.

“The Afro has a rich cultural and aesthetic history. In this story we show women using different hairstyle as an individual expressions of style. Using beauty and hair as a form of self-expression is a mirror of what’s happening in our country today. The creativity is limitless — and pretty wonderful.”

While the original article did not refer to the Black history connected to the Afro, it did refer to turning straight hair into an Afro as creating  “rag curls.” Rag curls???

When I first heard of the Allure article, I honestly was not that upset – not because it did not bother me, but because I am so used to living in a state of being ‘bothered.’ James Baldwin once said “to be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost of all the time” and this is where we find many African American women today.

Did Allure go too far?

 

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