Straight, Curly, Kinky Controversy by Chimere Norris
July 22, 2014
Over the past year, many celebrities (such as Brandy, Nikki Minaj, Taraji P. Henson, and Kelly Rowland) have taken to social media to post pictures of their natural tresses, leaving some women questioning another woman’s styling preference. Everyone can’t be Solange, Jill Scott, Janelle Monae, Kimberly Elise or Teyonah Parris; even those women wear protective styles, and straighten their hair when they see fit. I’m all for the natural hair, and embracing your natural beauty, but I also support women making the hair styling choice that works best for them and their lifestyle. Women shouldn’t bash other women because they don’t meet their “natural hair” standards.
Most of us are lucky enough to style and manage our own hair on a daily basis, and we don’t have paparazzi or photographers waiting to get a bad shot of us. Just imagine going from city to city, styling chair to styling chair, getting on 6 a.m. red-eye flights, etc., and having to look fabulous all the time. Some celebs are lucky enough to travel with their own glam squad, so they don’t have to worry about how they look. But some aren’t so lucky; the minute we see them looking bad in public, the Internet would start buzzing about how “such and such” fell off. These celebrities aren’t covering up their natural hair because they’re ashamed; it’s just part of their busy lifestyle.
It’s shameful to read some of the hurtful commentary when I browse comments on blog posts, Facebook updates, and various social media sites. I don’t know if it’s a lack of education, self hate, low self esteem, ignorance, or a combination of all of it, but I wonder at times where the sisterhood is. Our hair is so deeply tied to who we are as a people, and though many tout the famous song lyric “I am not my hair”… we absolutely are. In September 2013, Tiana Parker, a 7-year-old girl in Oklahoma, was sent home from school for wearing her locs to school. The style was referred to as unkempt and a distraction in the classroom. In that moment, Tiana was her hair. I’ve had my naturalness questioned because I color my hair. I’ve seen women ridiculed for big chopping. I’ve had friends being discriminated in the dating scene because of the way they choose to wear their hair. I’ve heard of husbands who verbally abuse their spouses for choosing to wear their natural hair. Women who wear their natural hair pressed feel ousted and outcast by the “natural hair community.” I would hope for some type of togetherness from those of us who have chosen to embrace our own natural hair journey.
I’ve become more comfortable wearing my naturally curly hair in formal events, interviews, business meetings, social gathering, and family affairs. I also made a decision in December 2012 to cut the back and sides of my hair down extremely low because it worked better for my lifestyle. I used to have my hair flat-ironed every two weeks when I first stopped getting relaxers to combat the frizz that came with living in the South; sometimes, I would let my curls go free. It was my personal choice and I didn’t do it for anyone’s approval. The thing I love the most about being natural is that it offers me so much flexibility — more than any way I have previously worn my hair.
What’s different about then and now is the growth of this movement. But the larger the movement gets, the more natural hair bullies there are. There are people who just don’t get why I am so confident sporting my curly one-sided fro. I can surely hold my own, but it saddens me when I constantly see women questioning another woman’s decision, to loc, straighten, cut, color, or fro out her hair. It’s a matter of personal preference.
Relaxing your hair … that’s an entirely different thing.
For me, the main reason to stop relaxing was for safety. Once I learned about the hazards of the toxic ingredients that relaxers contained (like sodium hydroxide, calcium hydroxide, guanidine carbonate, guanidine hydroxide, thioglycolic acid, and lithium hydroxide) and the possible health effects (scalp irritation, skin burns, permanent scarring, deep ulcerations, skin drying and cracking, dermatitis, irreversible baldness, eye damage — including blindness), that was enough for me to stop getting them. And because relaxing depletes essential fatty acids in your scalp, you may be left with weak, dry, broken and damaged hair. The purpose of relaxers is to destroy the peptide bonds (that strengthens the hair) so it will lay flat. Deep conditioning later does nothing to fix destroyed peptide bonds.
I’m proud of my naturalness, but also fear for our safety. Some of us have been using relaxers all of our lives … and we may say “I’m fine,” but how can you be sure? Those health concerns were enough for me to throw in the towel on relaxers.
Whether you choose to wear your hair kinky, curly, loc’d, straight, or in protective styles such as weaves or braids, it’s really up to you. It’s the absence of chemical straighteners that makes you natural. The classism within the community — and judging people on which curls and hair type are the best — does nothing more than teach the younger generation that divisiveness is acceptable. So let’s just celebrate our own natural beauty — however we choose to rock it.