Occasionally I write. Sometimes for other publications. In an effort to do better with letting folks know, here is the first article I wrote for Ebony.com.
Walk down the aisles of any beauty supply store, scroll through the Twitter and Instagram feed, the Facebook pages and blogs dedicated to natural hair and it won’t take long to notice a particular schism among this “community” that claims to celebrate Black hair. It seems that a certain natural texture gets a lot more love than others.
In the 1970’s, the Afro reigned supreme. You could see ads, TV shows and movies showcasing the lustrous kink of highly textured hair. Somewhere in the late ‘80s, naturals became taboo, giving way to relaxers and drippy texturizers. Alas, the new millennium brought back our passion for natural hair with a roar—and a lot more curl.So, what happened to all that kink?
This current advent of Black women embracing their natural hair—-and companies quick to pounce on the marketing value of this trend—-has been accompanied by messaging that suggests that healthy natural hair equates to thick, shiny curls. Many women are empowered to go natural seeing the myriad of products that promise the perfectly defined twist out; the leave-in that gives your hair so much shine it has it’s own aura; and that through the powers of olive, coconut and grapeseed oil, their curls will be whipping in the wind with the perfect bounce. It’s a false reality that leads many into quick frustrations wondering why their hair won’t curl like all those girls on Instagram.
The notion of “all curl everything” is so widely propagated throughout this natural hair movement—often leaves out our kinkier, and dare-I-say more common hair textures.
There’s a meme floating around that perfectly illustrates this phenomenon: “Tell people hair is natural still gets asked…but how do you make it curly?” How many natural sisters are attempting to get a look that is as foreign to their scalp as bone straight hair? And what does our fixation with curls say about us as a people?
When I was a sophomore in college, I went through some of this myself. I had shaved my head (for the second time) because my golden blonde highlights had ripped my hair of any texture. And for all my time spent on the natural hair forums of the early 2000s, I couldn’t seem to get my edges to slick back, my ‘baby hair’ to slick down or my hair to naturally form into curls after co-washing. So I went up to my classmate Abby, who always had the perfect crop of small curls, her puff glided into slight waves when she gelled it up- and asked her “How do you get your hair to curl like that?” My exact words. She laughed, as did the other girls who were standing around, and dismissed me with a quick, “It’s my hair, from my scalp.” She wasn’t being mean and though I felt a bit stupid for being so clueless, I didn’t take offense, but I did go get a weave to forget about the frustrations I was experiencing because I really thought that healthy hair equaled curly hair. I know my experience is not uncommon. Many of us simply lack of awareness in the diversity of natural hair textures.