So tell me this: Do you consider yourself a part of the natural hair community — one of those women who actively seeks information about how to groom your hair without the use of relaxers or excessive weaving and constant wig wearing? 😉 Do you incorporate what you’ve learned into a personal routine, experiment, pass on tips, and — in the case of other Black naturals — hope for general acceptance of hair in its virgin state wherever it falls on the texture spectrum? How about we focus on the word ‘movement’ itself, which suggests that a group of people are embracing a way of life completely different to what they’ve known before.
If so, then how do you feel about a guest blog, “There’s Something Very Freeing About Accepting Your Natural Hair,” that appeared on the CurlyNikki blog, written by a guest blogger, Sarah — also known as the YouTuber WaterLily716? It’s part of this week’s Share of the Week, which is actually a three-pack — so you’ll get a lot of content. As for the guest blog on CurlyNikki.com, I was left shaking my head. Tell me what is so “freeing” about taking down a bun and wearing one’s hair out more often? Girl had me thinking that she had a tough road her entire life –beautywise, that is — because of her curly hair. Did she and her mother endure hours of washing, conditioning and styling every week? Did she go for entire months on end without seeing a single curly-haired woman on TV or in magazines? Or lose chunks of hair due to excessive perming, weaving, etc.? Some Black women have grown up completely unfamiliar with their natural hair texture, much less a healthy grooming routine. Although I think curly haired women who are not women of color can point to a pattern or annoying experiences throughout their lives connected to their curly hair … the two experiences are not on the same plane at all, because a lot of them kept their textures their whole lives. What exactly are they reclaiming and how does that fit into a movement, exactly? I think it’s comical that her little flesh-wound gets her rolled into the same triage unit as me — in the name of diversity. But life is funny!
The article kicked off several rounds of blog and vlog commentary about whether white women belong in the natural hair movement, but I won’t subject you to the tangle of unorganized thoughts that followed up on the guest essay. Writer and blogger Jouelzy, who I follow when I’m not up to my own shenanigans, offers the best situation analysis to date, in my opinion. Her blog is a great place to start, and it has a companion vlog post on YouTube:
(She’s supremely confident about her influence among Black naturals, by the way, declaring that although she was late to the party with her response (WaterLily716/Sarah’s essay was posted in late June) the party doesn’t start ’til she shows up anyway! LOL.)
OK, so you’ve seen Sarah’s essay and Jouelzy’s video. What do you think?
Personally, I think certain white women had better claim a seat on that bus and in the march to wherever this movement is going, particularly if they have biracial daughters or if they have adopted little Black girls. Naturally, they want to share information about how to keep their kids neatly coifed and looking good. We know that sooooo much of a girl’s personal self-esteem (and self-worth in a way) is tied to her looks and the state of her hair weighs heavily in that. A girl’s mother is often her first influencer when it comes to beauty and self esteem, but peers are by far her biggest. If a white mother can raise a Black or biracial daughter to love her hair without excessive heat styling or perming and weaving, then yeah I think they have something to say. My situation is similar because I have a biracial daughter.
The difference between vloggers like 4C Hair Chick or the others and the trend hoppers is that the latter used their curly hair as their ticket to building potentially lucrative social media followings. I used to follow these “naturalistas,” particularly very light-skinned Black women with oodles of gorgeous, easy hair. They would yammer on about nothing in particular while spritzing water in their hair and slathering on products laden with mineral oil and parabens and whatnot. You probably think you know who I’m talking about, but no, it isn’t the really vain one with all the kids. There are other impostors!
Ironically enough, NaturallyCurly.com was not a good resource for me when I first started caring for Baby’s growing hair and eventually swore off relaxers for myself. I relied heavily on research and tips from Curls.biz, KimmayTube and Naptural85, read magazine and newspaper articles following experts like Diane DaCosta, about the growth of YouTube hair vloggers and the natural hair care businesses, did strand tests on myself and Baby, read countless product reviews and labels. I also did some digging into the past and rediscovered the book, “Good Hair: For Colored Girls Who’ve Considered Weaves When the Chemicals Became Too Ruff,” by Lonnice Brittenum Bonner. So that NaturallyCurly.com audience is just not in the thick of it. When their wash days are as laborious as some natural’s I’ve seen out there, or even stretch from late one night into the next morning to allow for effective pre-shampooing, I might listen. If they have to spend an hour installing 95 makeshift curlers out of milkshake straws to get the right ringlet set with bounce and shine I might listen. But not before.
I can’t say that I’m surprised that the guest blogger’s essay appeared, or that the response column is full of simplistic and fawning comments about ‘diversity.’ Americans can be very superficial and naive in their thinking. What surprises me is little of this discussion is happening over at CurlyNikki.com’s forums itself. That site should be the counterpart to NaturallyCurly, a hub of discourse for Black naturals. That’s where I should have been getting most of my information back in the day, and it should be more in the mix here. Maybe CurlyNikki was and still is in the mix (they do still snag some interesting celebrity interviews), but I didn’t get that feeling while I was on the search for information. Live and learn, I guess.
If you’re thinking that it’s only about hair, you’re right — sort of. The slightly deeper issue is one of self esteem for Black women and ownership of something they spearheaded to benefit themselves. It just defies common sense for women like Sarah, who are not coming from the same place, to suddenly claim that our experiences are the same, and in an obvious bid to feed clicks (and eventually ad revenue) to a site that overlooked us in the beginning! If this is simply about hair, then the solution is simple: I won’t give them the same level of attention (or clicks or money) as I would a Jouelzy, NaturalMe4C, GlamFun, 4C Hair Chick or Chizi Duru.