Can we have anything to ourselves?? Seriously. Earlier today, a short video surfaced on the Shea Moisture Official Facebook. In the first frame, a fare- skinned woman with curly hair. The second and third frame??? White women. Who even knew that white women used Shea Moisture products? That's beside the point. Of course the Internet is divided between "SM is cancelled" and "omg Black women get mad about everything!". For the latter, let me explain:
1) The commercial is centered on "hair hate". This is almost comical. Since the beginning of forever, Black women have been criticized, labeled, and mocked for our natural hair. From corporate America to couture runways- Black women with natural hair have often been pressured to get relaxers or texturizers to make our hair more "civilized". The thought that a White woman wants to embrace her hair as an answer to societal criticism is laughable. Girl where? Long, straight hair has been the standard of beauty across the globe for decades.
2) Speaking of Black women.. where were they? One thing that we loved about Shea Moisture is that their advertisements were filled with people who looked like us. This ad missed the memo about what Shea Moisture users actually look like. Disheartening to say the least.
It has taken me years to fully embrace my hair in it's natural state- no heat, minimal styling, no relaxer. For me, hair is personal. For so long, my hair was actually how people described me- "Sydnei, with the long hair". Despite what India Arie said, my hair was my essence. In high school, I was queen of the messy bun! I got a relaxer faithfully once a month and I was attached to my flat iron. About halfway thru junior year, my tresses had have enough.
My ends were fried and died. My hair was still long but it looked like a broom. Gross. My mom finally convinced me to chop it off. We didn't even go to my regular stylist because we knew she wouldn't do it. I sat in the chair and cried. Literally. My mom reassured me that "it was just hair" but in that moment, it was way more than that. Without long hair I wasn't Sydnei, I wasn't special, I wasn't pretty. It sucked. For weeks. Just when I accepted my new style I would run into someone who'd just seen me for the first time. Their reactions to my haircut were like gut punches. People would tell me how cute it was, but all I heard is "yikes girl, hurry up and get a sew-in". And so that's what I did. Sew-ins were the new normal for me. Long, straight hair made me feel pretty, more feminine. I remember taking my sew-in down for graduation pictures. I wanted to wear my real hair, but only under one condition- it had to be straightened. For the next year and a half- I refused to get perms but I wasn't quite ready to dive feet first into the world of twist outs and bantu knots. I'm not sure wen it happened, but one day, I was finally like screw this. I knew tons of girls who rocked afros and wash and gos so I got their advice and decided to do it. Luckily for me, my new stylist specializes in natural hair and she's a total badass. I still wear my hair straight from time to time but it's because I want too, not because I feel ugly with my fro.
For Black women, it's never "just hair". Many of us are conditioned to manipulate our natural hair into laying down and being tamed. The more my fro grows, the more powerful I feel. I can't wait until it's so big that I can hide snacks in it. Going to the movies will never be the same!
Top and skirt by Everything Rouge
Photography by Sydney A. Foster