Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Whose Hair is It Anyway?

This is one of those times when the BBW needs to get a little political, so I want to speak up on the issue of choice: Ladies, it is YOUR hair, so please wear it as you see fit.

See?  Now what is with all the drama lately?

I blame the Oprah's longtime hair stylist Andre Walker, for the comments he made in an interview with Elle Magazine last month.  A couple of weeks later, he was getting called out on Twitter and in this article in Clutch Magazine for coming off as a hater because he suggested that natural hair can be limiting when it comes to styling.  In his expert opinion, kinky hair should be chemically altered.

OK, well that is his opinion as a professional hair stylist who just happens to have launched a hair care product line earlier this year.  Now that his most visible advertisement, urr client, is off the air, he probably needs the publicity of a faux contrversty to help sell a few more bottles of expensive shampoo, right?  Judging from the twitter rants of a few well-known natural hair care bloggers and merchants, he certainly pushed the right buttons.

If you thought the most serious debate in the black community was unemployment or the debt ceiling...nope, on Monday morning it was this article on CNN.com about people touching other folks' hair, which inspired this response article on VibeVixen and this piece on Madame Noire.  When one of my Facebook friends posted this article from Shadow and Act about old Afro Sheen commercials, it inspired me to spend all day yesterday writing and editing this piece. (Yeah, I know the world has moved on, but please keep reading anyway :)

My take (not that it matters), I will be soooo happy when the topic of black hair gets down-graded from life-altering political statement to stylistic choice.  My decision to stop relaxing my hair a few years ago was a part of several changes I made in my life overall.  Six years later, I am still natural because I like it.  Period.  No religious conversion and certainly no great sense of liberation since from my experience, kinky hair can be just as time-consuming and expensive to maintain as relaxed hair. I can offer up plenty of salon war stories of hair breakage, bad reactions to products, waiting all day for service, and less-than-stellar professionalism by a stylist.  But I have never regretted my decision and I root for team natural hair with the same level of enthusiasm as I would cheer on a friend at mile 10 of a marathon. 

Sure, I have been approached by the curious who marvel at how 'neat' it is that my hair changes lengths from week to week or how 'cool' or 'incredible' a particular style is, and once someone did ask to touch my hair...but I just shrugged and bent down and then went about my business.  Maybe instead of all the feigned outrage, we should turn these encounters into a bit of cross-cultural exchange.  It could go a long way towards educating the mainstream cosmetic companies about black hair so that we can finally rid the shelves of those so-called "perfect for all types of hair" products that just sit on our hair and wreak all kinds of havoc.  Then perhaps folks will get a better understanding of why the I Love My Hair muppet on Sesame Street last fall was so uplifting to so many of us.

Let's respect a black woman's right to change her hair just as she might choose to change her mind...or her shoes.

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