As a Black woman with Locs (there is nothing dreadful about my hair, so i never say dreadlocks), I have been thinking a lot about hair this week. First, because of the rightful uproar after Giuliana Rancic of E! Fashion Police said that the faux locs hairstyle worn at the Oscars by teen star Zendaya Coleman looked like it smelled of patchouli oil and weed. Secondly, because of an article erased from Essence.com titled, Why We Need More Relaxed Hair on The Red Carpet? Really??
Women and their hair… How many times have we seen pictures, commercials, magazine articles and the like talking about beautiful tresses? Shampoos, conditioners, blow dryers, hair rollers, curling irons are sold by the millions, all in the pursuit of perfect hair. There’s even a phrase in our culture, I’m having a bad hair day. When some women need to undergo chemotherapy, they are devastated that they will lose their hair. Hair is a big thing for women. In this “mainstream’ society, long, flowing straight Caucasian type hair is supposedly what most women want.
What about those of us that don’t grow that type of hair? For Black women, it appears to me, that our hair is both a curiosity and at the same time frowned upon. We are considered radical when we wear our hair in it’s natural state. Some employers and schools even have policies against wearing locs and afros. Such was the case of young Tiana Parker. When her story broke in 2013, her charter school’s dress code specifically said “hairstyles such as dreadlocks, afros, mohawks, and other faddish styles are unacceptable.” How can hair that grows out her head be considered a fad? The school has since changed it’s policy. So, our hair is not acceptable. Yet, some folks feel that they can reach out and touch our hair, as if we were a pet wanting to be caressed. I’ve seen it happen and i know women and men to whom this has happened. If I don’t know you, Do Not Touch My Hair! I have no idea where your hands have been, if they are clean, what type of negative energy is inside of you that will transfer to me and it’s just plain rude.
I have soft, fine textured kinky hair. During my lifetime, I have mostly worn my hair straight. I used a hot comb. I wore it relaxed. I made my hair submit to chemicals and then fought with it to get some type of curls. I started wearing a weave when my hair started thinning out due to the abuse I was giving it. Then, I saw the movie Good Hair.
It was then, I realized exactly what type of damage I was doing to my hair and quite possibly my brain. Hell, I need my brain! So, I wore braids for about 18 months as I grew the relaxer out of my hair. My hair was now in it’s natural state. I had always liked Locs.(The looks of singer Caron Wheeler and actress Lisa Bonet made me want them). I felt discouraged to wear them in my twenties because I knew people, including the family I lived with, would not approve of them. This due to the stereotypes associated with them. In my forties I felt freer to do it. I decided to go ahead and loc my hair. I was older and more confident. Having fibromyalgia makes it hard to raise my arms up and do all the things necessary to comb out and work with natural hair. I felt it would be easier on my body to loc my hair. My hair has never been healthier or longer.
There are a few ridiculous thoughts about loc wearers. Number one is that we do not wash our hair. If that’s true, someone help me move all the shampoos and conditioners that I have under my sink. I have way… way… too many and buy from many black owned companies, including my friend, Buttafly Jonez who makes her products by hand. Number two, is that we all smoke weed. News Flash! I have never, ever, ever (singing like that Taylor Swift song) smoked weed. I wouldn’t even know where to buy some or how to inhale. I think everyone should do some research on locs instead of assuming things. I say this because, even my own people at times can’t even tell the difference between braids and locs and buy into the stereotypes. We have an internet, lets use it to educate ourselves.
Back to that removed Essence.com article. Essence is a magazine geared towards Black women. I remember throughout my youth that Essence uplifted us. It didn’t pit natural hair against straight hair. It embraced all of our beauty no matter how we chose to wear it. In 2005 Time Warner purchased Essence Magazine and it has changed. That article actually said that relaxed hair represents the majority and that it’s mainstream. Relaxed hair should be represented on the red carpet. Lupita Nyong’o and Viola Davis, show me different. Relaxed or Natural, Curly or Straight….. It’s all beautiful as long as it is healthy hair.
In the past few years, many black women have decided to embrace their own naturally grown hair and have gradually decreased their use of relaxers. This article shows the foolishness that I really can’t stand. The “mainstream” already tells us that we as Black women are not attractive enough or desirable. They believe that our looks and hair are wrong. Now we have “mainstream “people owning a magazine that should be the safe place for black women. A place where we should always feel beautiful. They are telling us that to look elegant we must conform to their standards. I had been a subscriber to Essence in my late teens. Through a purchase at a clothing store, recently I was given a free subscription . When this subscription ends, I am done. I may not even read the ones that arrive. I am really saddened.
I am tired of having to look like everyone else. I want to look like myself. I want to look like the person I was born to be, with my type of hair as it grows out my scalp. I want little black girls to look at my hair and see they can wear it like this, if they choose to. There are options. I am attractive and elegant with my locs. I am no less smart because of my hairstyle. Hair is not my definer and neither is the “mainstream”. I will define myself and my beauty.
Zendaya quoted singer India Arie in her letter response about the poor word choices about her faux locs and so will I..
I am not my hair
I am not this skin
I am not your expectations no no
I am not my hair
I am not this skin
I am a soul that lives within
Does the way I wear my hair make me a better person?
Does the way I wear my hair make me a better friend?
Does the way I wear my hair determine my integrity?
I am expressing my creativity.