Natural Hair & Relaxers & Blonds Oh My!

Natural hair is to permed hair as dyed blond hair is to natural color.

Hair is a thing for women.  As a Black woman, I am led to believe that only we have to deal with that “hair stuff”.  However, candid conversations with my other sisters reveal that it’s not just a Black thing.  Working in gentleman’s clubs is my first peek into the blond is beautiful obsession.  If a woman wants to increase her money-making capabilities, blond hair is a smart move.  I’ve seen women in the clubs damage the life out of their hair because as they put it,  “I don’t make money with my natural color”.  Another friend says that as a youngster a crush tells her that he likes girls with a hair color different from hers (no blond hair was involved in this conversation, by the way).  For a long time she does not think her own hair is pretty.  ALL women get a little taste of the ‘your hair is not good enough’ pie.

Español: Chica con pelo rubio English: Girl wi...It should be no shock to me that Viola Davis‘ decision to rock her natural hair at the Oscars is such a big deal.  Yet, it is.  Something about the validation that we all seek is represented there.  An iconic show to the world that my hair is glamorous too.  Many actresses in Hollywood or super stars period (Of ALL Nationalities) wear wigs & weaves.  However, does it mean that they do not respect their culture?  Does it mean they lack the self-esteem to wear natural hair?  This notion is always pinned onto black women who do not have natural hair.  Perhaps, sometimes it does but not always.  Sometimes the role or stage persona may call for a look different from one’s own.  The heat from styling equipment can wreak havoc on real hair.  I think it is fair to say that these women have to be styled way more than the average woman.  A wig or weave is a safety net for their real hair.  Other times it’s just plain ‘ole fun to switch up looks.

Viola Davis

I wear my hair in locs for a very long time.  I’ve always wanted to have short hair but am always afraid to try it.  All the talk from people in my family growing up is about long hair being beautiful.  I’d hear women say that their husbands would be mad if they cut their hair short.  After years of natural hair & then even more years with locs, I decide to do it.  I cut my locs, perm my short hair & style it into a pixie cut.

It is a total culture shock for me.  See, Black women with natural hair speak to each other.  There are smiles, head nods & hi sis galore.  THE DAY I went short & to a perm it ends.  I am instantly invisible to these women.  Black women with natural hair do not randomly say hello to women with permed hair.  Women with perms do not randomly acknowledge each other at all.  I’m walking around thinking:  But I’m still me!  I still have the same beliefs.  It’s me inside here.  Same package  just a different box!  A friend of mine cut her locs a few years after me.  She says she wants to ask me a question.  Before she even asks, I say:  No you’re not crazy.  Yes they’ve stopped talking to you.  You no longer exist to them now.  We laughed about our first moments of realizing we are no longer a part of the club.   However, it truly makes us very sad.  How great would it be if all women shared that kind of camaraderie?

It never ceases to amaze me how much inner turmoil outward appearance can cause.  What does it take to command with a sure-fire knowing that we are all small parts of the same energy?  We are made how we are made & that is perfectly OK.  It’s just hair for goodness sake.  Are we still holding onto the ‘a woman’s hair is her crowning glory’ story?  Do with it whatever makes you feel good at the time.  If that changes in two days, who cares, change it.  Ignoring society, mainstream media, the voices of family past & whatever else leads us to believe that our hair is not good enough is key.  Just say a silent “Thanks for Sharing” & keep it moving.  Do you!  Someone will always have something to say so we might as well do what makes us happy.  We all have had the experience of seeing someone who is not considered the “beauty standard” (whatever that means) yet, they command all attention when they walk into a room.  We know just from looking at them that they feel good about themselves inside & out.  THAT more than anything else is beautiful.

I don’t have any time to stay up all night worrying about  what someone  who don’t love me has to say about me. – Viola Davis

ESSENCE REVEALED – Essence Revealed is first generation Bajan born & raised in Boston.  She got her BFA at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and MA at NYU’s Steinhardt School of Education.  Her writing has appeared places such as $pread Magazine, Corset Magazine, and 21st Century Burlesque.  She now performs & teaches nationally and internationally both solo and as a member of Brown Girls Burlesque.  Her favorite thing to do besides reading is to lay on the beach in Barbados to rest up for a night of calypso dancing.

7 thoughts on “Natural Hair & Relaxers & Blonds Oh My!

  1. LM says:

    Awesome! I went from chemical to natural and was completely amazed at how many “buddies” I acquired in the street. Now, I’m bald and that’s yet another level. smh…I guess it goes back to, whatever you’re thinking about me, is none of my business:)

    • Ashe. Tis all so subjective, I work on taking the positive & negative from the external with the same grain of salt. I am a ever continuing work in progress on strengthening my own internal cheer leading squad lol…

  2. Joi says:

    You are so on the money with this article. Since making the decision to go natural, I have found that I have seemed to unknowingly join some type of secret society that I was previously unaware and (apparently) unwelcome in. its a weird double standard that I notice amongst women of color. I also found myself making more aquaintences within the black community, where before I was looked at as something of an odd ball because of my ever changing hairstyles and correct use of grammer. Often.i was told that I was “acting or talking white”.
    On the other end of the weirdness spectrum is non-colored (or maybe just non kinky haired) people’s facination with my natural hair, a trend I noticed has not changed since I was a child. To this day anyime I comb out my braids into a fro it always has people staring with a look of curiosity and/or envy as I pass. I’ve been asked every question imaginable from “how do you get your hair to do that?” To “doea that hurt?” I remeber being pregnant and a white woman asked to touch my hair, before I could answer she already had her hand in my coif with an astonished look on her face as she remarked with surprise hoe “soft and not greasy” (actual words used) my hair was.
    While i’d like to believe that we as a society are breaking down barriers in various industries when it comes to ethnic beauty, the reaction of the masses is proof that we still have stides to make when it comes to accepting different looks. But I for one am hopeful for the future as visibility continues from Hollywoof to the hood. More powet to Viola David, Jill Scott, Annika Noni Rose, Erykah Badu and every other woman that keep pushing to knock down the walls of the limited standard of beauty.

    • You speak truth! When I had locks the does it hurt & how do you wash it questions were always the most strangely amusing & confusing to me at the same time. I had to tell plenty of people not to “pet” me (why would you think it’s ok to just put your hands in someone’s hair?????) But, I always tried to remain open to any conversation because sometimes people don’t know and are afraid to even ask. They feared being offensive. But if you don’t ask how will you learn? I know I ask all kinds of questions so… I’m hopeful for us all 🙂 Thanks for reading & taking the time to comment!

  3. CL says:

    Dear Essence,

    I must admit that reading this article made me think about Spike Lee’s movie school days, If people would unite around unconditional love and appreciation the world would be such a better place… I did not realize how obsess sisters were about the hair thing until I saw Chris Rocks documentary “Good Hair” I have 2 sisters and a mother that are all over the age of 40, I did the math of how many hours and dollars they have spent getting their Doo’s done and when you factor that number by compounding interest, its astonishing to say the least… I want to say so much more regarding this topic but I will stop here and wait on your response…


    • Welp! So much emphasis is put on appearance for women. I don’t follow politics but I do notice that, for example, when a woman is running for office there seems to be more mention of what she’s wearing & her hair than how she stands on issues or how she intends to implement campaign promises. We never hear Mr. Candidate is wearing So&So Designer… How bout his choice in hair style. Add to that women of color having a “marketing campaign” that says you are not beautiful & voila – Hours & Fortunes spent on hair & beauty. It’s not just sisters though… Heck, I learned my first hair weave lessons from an Italian woman lol…

  4. […] I experiencing that black hair discrimination on a different spectrum?  The one that Essence Revealed mentioned in her blog about Black women with natural hair vs processed or weaved,  I […]

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