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.
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.
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
- What We Can Learn From Viola’s Natural Hair Oscar Moment (hellobeautiful.com)
- Beautiful Gallery of Natural Black Hair Styles (lecoil.tumblr.com)
- Wendy Williams: Viola Davis natural hair Oscar look not formal (thegrio.com)
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, BurlesqueBible.com 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.