So. Hello Beautiful’s lifestyle editor Danielle Young write a fascinating piece on whether or not white women should be included in “The Natural Hair Movement.” I put it in quotes because…exhaustion. I don’t know if it’s because I live in Brooklyn, the natural-as-fuck capital of the world, or because I’m a jaded beauty editor, but I’m just tired of talking about it. But this isn’t about me. My fab friend Ty Alexander, Hello Beautiful’s beauty editor, asked me to give my opinion in the issue, so here it is. And this is not a critique of the woman mentioned in the article, not even a little bit — it’s a response to the question, in general.
In my all-white high school, there were two Jewish girls and a Greek one who had hair that was so tightly coiled they couldn’t do anything but chop into into short, puffy bushes. For a white chick in 1992, this was, well, tragic. There were no curl-defining products, or keratin treatments. Frizz-Ease had just launched (the formula hadn’t been perfected; it was too goopy), and Citrus Shine smelled like car freshener. I am not dismissing their struggle. Here’s the thing, though. They hated their hair because teen dreams Kelly Taylor and Kelly Kapowski had straight hair. They grew up on Disney princesses with straight hair. Our prom queen had straight hair. They didn’t look like the accepted standard of white beauty, and that sucked.
The difference? Those girls were white. The implications of being black with unstraightened hair are so different. Their aunties weren’t going to tell them they looked like slaves unless they hot combed or relaxed their shit. The world wan’t going to write them off as dirty, uneducated, worthless or ghetto. Flash back to Savannah in 1835. Whether a black person had straight or kinky hair was often a matter of life or death. Quite literally. Darker skin, kinkier hair…in America, it’s low-key associated with violence and brutality; while lighter skin and straighter hair connotes education, prosperity, class. We all know why, no need to belabor it. Going natural for many black women is an issue of healing, it’s political, its giving a restorative hug to their great-grandmother who couldn’t do it. The point is, the “The Natural Hair Movement” is part of a larger historical context for us. It’s not only a surface conversation about “curl acceptance.”
[And while we’re at it, “The Natural Hair Movement” isn’t just about curls. This thing where kinky textures get quietly ignored? It’s one of the reasons I tend to walk away from this entire narrative.]
White women, I get your curl frustration. And I love that you’re embracing your texture. Everyone should! But you choosing not to flatiron your spirals is not the same is Viola Davis storming the Oscars red carpet without her wig. Or Lupita’s oh-so-elegant fuck y’all on the cover of Vogue.
Lil Kim, Nicki Minaj and Iggy Azalea are all female rappers. All three could tell you a thing or two about struggling in a male-dominated industry. And yet Iggy Azalea — Iggy Azalea — holds the record for the longest-running number one single by a female rap artist. We are not the same, kids. Please get into it and proceed accordingly with your revolution.