Author’s Note: Just over a month ago, I wrote this blog post after pondering the things that bothered me about the natural hair movement that my sister-friends and I had brought up as mild to uber-annoyances.
In college around about 2000 after a series of bad perm and coloring jobs I did on myself trying to save my undergraduate pennies I just gave up and cut off the multicolored scraggly lifeless ends of hair. I didn’t really mention it to anyone besides my closer girlfriends and just went on with life as usual. No big chop announcement and no ticker tape parades. My natural hair journey consisted of afro puffs, cornrows, twists and a set of locs done by my then-Jamaican boyfriend in Negril during vacation (… yea I said it but that’s another post for another day!). The point is there was not all this fanfare pomp and circumstance that orbits the natural hair world now. I remember when Mickey D’s had a curly-haired sister on their commercial selling coffee or something and I said to myself “Wow the game done changed!”
So nearly 20K views later, I got a whole range of opinions most of them agreeing enthusiastically that when it comes to this natural hair thing. Less is More! Many folks chimed in to say that not even being a Natural Hair Vet they noticed how silly some of this stuff was beginning to get. Notably though everyone didn’t agree with me. Some called the post divisive pitting New Naturals against the Vets in a environment where yes the natural hair movement is larger and more extensive but newbies are still facing discrimination and negativity from the others and this kind of ridicule might force them back to perming their hair. Others just said the Vets were jealous because the newer naturals were innovating in ways we couldn’t imagine. I’m still giggling about that one! You keep paying $150 for crochet braids and be “INNOVATIVE” boo! SMDH!
While the positive affirmation and celebration is really awesome especially for the young naturalistas coming up the tipping point comes with some of the things I talk about below.
1. Big Chop Anniversaries – some of us MAY remember the date that we cut all our hair off after that bad perm, tough semester in high school/college, horrible break-up/divorce, exhausting pregnancy ecetera but we really aren’t about all this fanfare for remembering those occasions and forcing our natural sisters to celebrate it with us.
2. Excessive Products and Accessories – many of us are minimalists when it comes to our hair nowadays. A nice smelling Shampoo, an oil or two and a head wrap that’s it. Not some fancy twist butter custard avocado cinnamon flan rinse and shine cream. Nah nope nu-uhn…..especially because those prices are too hefty and we already know the buildup just isn’t worth it. Same goes for magical brushes, towels and styling tools. If I need to call my cousin who is an engineer to understand how it works I’m already over it.
3. Naturalista Nazis – Ok now I have got to roll up my sleeves and really read these chicks the riot act. Here you are all hyped up on India Arie albums and vegan wraps and rooibos tea or better yet no diet change still eating regular fast food garbage and smoking swisher sweets and only been reading natural hair bloggers (see 5 below) tips for 2-3 years and now you’re an expert on the purity of what natural hair is or isn’t. You got something to say about henna, you got something to say about sulfates… and weaves and braids and grease and EVERYDAMNTHING that doesn’t fall in line with your half-written HOLY BOOK OF NAPPOLOGY. GIRL BYE! Us veterans in the game don’t have time to criticize other folks hair choices because we know that in our life we have gone through just about everyone of those hair phases (twice!) before we got to the glorious happy place that we are and really everybody needs to do them and shut their traps about other sisters’ journey. If your style is well-executed in your box braids or TWA or Curly Weave we’ll give you props. It just AINT ever that serious.
4. Natural Hair Expos – so I’m not trying to come at anyone’s neck because I know and have personally worked with many event organizers but I can’t neglect to mention that whenever I invite my natural hair vets to these events they are rolling their eyes and checking their phones about 20 minutes in. They are usually chock full of the same jewelry and accessories, T-shirts, MLM products and a few hair product makers. I have long said that the real customers of expos are NOT attendees but vendors. They pay top dollars for spaces (with and without tables provided) with little support from event organizers and I rarely hear that many make what they hoped to make or break even for what they pay to be there. I’m developing a webinar as we speak to assist vendors to decide if an event is right for them.
That issue aside, I still think it is a beautiful thing to see naturals all in one room rocking what their Creator gave them but the magic ends when the programming begins. The reason is these events are heavily catering to NEW naturals. The folks that are still focused on big chops, finding products to make their hair do what it did while permed or classifying whether their hair is 3c or 4a.
What natural hair vets are looking for is events that represent their concerns like overall scalp health and how to prevent alopecia. A lot of us only hit up salons for real special occasions but the stylists that can give us hands-on instruction on how to do a few quick styles to look great during an interview or important presentation when funds are tight and time is short would make us SO Happy. Not only that, natural hair vets like talking about improving their understanding of politics, finances, technology, health, wellness, family responsibilities and relationships. #sidenote if I have to sit through one more natural hair panel focused on male partners of natural hair bloggers (see 5 below) I will scream. It’s the most pointless part of a hair expo unless you count it as a comedic relief filler content.
It’s not really the event organizers faults’ because New naturalistas are gung-ho with cash and credit cards ready to buy and will believe the hype of about anyone who comes across semi-confident whether they know what they’re talking about or not…which brings me to my next one.
5. Natural Hair Bloggers/Vloggers – so here’s the thing MANY of these fabulous women I salute for empowering the natural hair industry with a personal touch. They are rockstar brand ambassadors or have their own product lines, books and brands and have paved the way for many businesses so NO SHADE FORREAL. I can tell you that if my past employers knew how often I was checking in on MahoganyCurls or AfricanExport via their YouTube channels back in the day to see and then go home and try (and usually fail) the styling suggestions, I may not have health insurance or a place to live. I was all the way in! Yet still as a natural hair veteran today I think I can confidently say we have reached the tipping point and really there isn’t anything new under the sun. A quick google search is going to bring up articles with almost the exact same titles (like 5 Amazing Oils to try on your Natural Hair!) from 2008, 2010 and 2014. The info is all over the place so what I’m not going to do is listen to your 10 minute video or read your 1200 word blog post or worse sit through a painful panel full of you all talking about biotin supplements representing some unknown company because I’ve now had the advantage to speak to many natural veteran sisters about their experiences over the years some with actual medical, science and cosmetology degrees and they’ve given me the quick and reliable version while we waited for our drinks and appetizers. That and there are too many Instagram stars who have been natural all of two seconds dispensing 20% helpful information and 80% sales pitch they learned from some blogger conference or webinar. I didn’t have to subscribe to their channel so #sorrynotsorry I’m good on most of this nowadays. I won’t even get into how many times I’ve heard a blogger or vlogger say something DEAD Wrong to an audience. I guess everybody has to figure that out for themselves. My youtubing time is reserved for how-to organize my ridiculously small closet space or figuring out how change my memes to different file formats.
6. Old Styles Presented As New Trend$$$ – My homegirls and I were getting crochet styles back when Teen Summit was on BET. Box braids were so apart of my middle school identity that I should have had my face on a pack of Kanekalon. It just hurts my heart that these cute protective styles are back on the scene with MAJOR Prices tags over $100 now. I guess that’s capitalism and inflation for you. Some labor-intensive styles like straw sets or fingercoils might deserve it if your hair is as long as the sisters from the Daughters of Dust movie but seriously most of these hairstylists and braiders are getting all the way over and it’s sad because they aren’t doing much more than my homegirl was from around the way and she only charged like $40 and split her shrimp fried rice with you.
7. Relatives that want to know why you are STILL wearing your hair like that. It is definitely an epidemic. Natural Hair vets still have that 1 auntie or cousin who can’t get why you’re insist on ruining your pretty face with that “wild bush” all over your head or them “long snake looking things.” It’s been way over 10 years and it USED to really hurt your feelings but now it’s just like “Here We Go Again” while your eyes roll all the way into the back of your head. They’ll cite Michelle Obama or Oprah (who are natural but press her hair to make it decent!) or whomever else they see on TV because perhaps you’ll one day see the light and rush off to look less threatening to their close-minded friends and the nonexistent scared white folks (knowing most of them are fascinated and biting our styles HARD). No matter that you have Masters Degrees or your own profitable businesses. It’s actually just funny at this point because what they should be worried about is that gout in their toes or replacing that crusty mascara they’ve been using for the last 3 years but I digress. They aren’t going to change so don’t pay them any mind OR cuss them out whatever seems appropriate.
*Honorable Mentions* – Length Obsession & Edge Control
Length Obsession – This one was raised by a ton of folks who read my post and with good reason. This madness has got to stop. Sisters are going around doing olympic acrobatics with their camera phones and mirrors and marking up their good t-shirts to show everyone their length checks. I mean these are seriously some people’s life goals to get their Pocahantas on with hair that can stretch down to their waistline. I’m trying to figure out what’s the real prize for the natural sister with the longest curls. Is it a really big bag of cookies? a lifetime supply of conditioner? A New CAR? Unless you’re aiming to beat out the current Guinness Book of World Record holders like Aevin Dugas (for largest Afro) or Asha Mandela (for longest Locs) what’s really the point? I honestly think this shallow business should stay with the Permers and Weave Wearers. I’ve seen plenty of folks holding on to their “long” hair at the expense of healthy hair because they think they’re doing something by swinging their dry split ends around all proud. Are we so subconscious about shrinkage and all that biz that we have to update and prove to people that we are still worthy of naturalista love by literally pulling our hair out of its wonderful curl pattern?
Edge Control – Before I can even type this out I’m giving a deep and heavy sigh and sucking my teeth because back in the day I was guilty of this so I get it but facts are facts. Can we agree that hair that is naturally curly is physically different than hair that is naturally straight? OK! Now somebody explain why in the hell me, you, Scooby Doo and the crew are off scouring the interwebs, hair stores, expos and whatnot trying to seek out the Holy Grail of Edge Control product so they can fleek their baby hairs like Chili from TLC? I almost fell out my desk chair after reading from some commenters that folks are out her perming their edges. Honey… STOP! No I’m serious!!! Natural hair is only going to stay straight temporarily because that ain’t what natural hair does. I can’t tell you how many bottles of Motrin I’ve gone through trying to make a headband smooth my edges down into a “perfect Afro Puff” only to sweat from the pressure of the task and render whatever meticulously brushed and gel or pomade laid work null and void. This is an exercise in futility. Anything that keeps your edges THAT straight is breaking your edges off so eventually you won’t even need to control them because they’ll be packing their bags and chucking up the deuces. Make peace with your hair texture sisters. Resist the urge to tamp down what the Creator has bestowed upon your kitchen regardless of the jokes and jeers that I’m sure you’re getting. Anyone selling you an edge control product might as well call it Wooden Puddin’ cuz it aint real.
Want to Chat with me LIVE about It and everything else that’s a trip about Natural Hair Movement? This will be my first Live Periscope broadcast so you’ll have a chance to win some HOT Metallic Body Art from my company Glimmer Body Art by GoldenLadyP? Download Periscope App and Follow Me @GoldenLadyP on Tuesday July 14th 9PM!