Not Happy to be Nappy.

Below is a video made by a young woman who is not at all pleased with her natural hair experience.

Some quick thoughts:

-I think there’s a conversation to be had here about the way that natural hair product lines (particularly high priced ones) market their products.  How often do you see (this is an actual question I’m posing to you all) natural hair product lines featuring models with nappy/kinky/afro’d hair?  Go look around the kinky-curly website real quick.  Don’t worry, I’ll wait.  Actually, I’ll save you some time; they all look like this:

Picture from the Kinky-Curly site.

The same is true for Miss Jessie’s, Carol’s Daughter, and we don’t even have to mention Mixed Chicks.  It seems that the message sent is that natural hair is only beautiful when it’s curly and bouncy.  Are companies like these profiting from an idealistic standard of beauty that many can’t achieve, due to DNA?  Maybe this young lady just thought that using the products she used would make her look like the shiny curly heads in their ads?

-I’m certain that lots of people are going to label this woman self-hating.  Is that a fair assessment?  Everything just ain’t for everybody, right?  And it’s just hair, right?

(Sad afro guy via)

Brokey McPoverty

Brokey McPoverty, aka Tracy Clayton, is a writer and humorist from Louisville, KY. She currently writes for BuzzFeed and lives in Brooklyn. Follow her on Twitter.

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  • Lynn

    I have been relaxer free for 11 years and I think this woman’s video raises a few important points that people don’t talk about in the natural community.(Note that I was intentional in using the phrase “relaxer free” rather than “natural” when referring to my hair. I think that is an important distinction which I believe gets at part of this woman’s angst.)

    1. Dealing with chemical-free nappy/kinky/curly hair is labor and time intensive. In some ways I do have to devote more time and attention to my kinky/curly hair than I did when it was relaxed. For me the extra time and effort is worth it because I like the end result – but that may not be the case for other women. Maybe the natural hair community is not “real enough” about this point.

    2. Black women have very different hair textures and the variety of hair textures are NOT well represented in marketing for “natural” hair products. In watching the thousands of youtube videos out there, I am amazed at the variety. Two heads of hair that look about the same may respond very differently to products, styling tools and styling methods. The products that work great on my friend’s natural hair do nothing for me and vice versa. Perhaps we need a more systematic understanding of what products and techniques will work for what hair.

    3. Related to point #2 regarding kinky/curly hair verus kinky KINKY hair, we are still affected by dominant beauty standards. I receive the most compliments on my hair when I do a “twist out” which elongates and straightens my hair, giving me more of a “curly/wavy” look. I confess that I am more comfortable with that look than wearing my hair in it’s truly natural state which is a very tight, compact kink/curl which won’t hang or bounce for anyone. I actually want to embrace my “natural” God-given curl pattern more — but I do like the longer curly/wavy look better. Frankly, if I were more comfortable with wearing a “wash-n-go” featuring my truly natural curl pattern, caring for my hair would be a lot less time/effort intensive. That is the rub – and that is something we don’t really address in the natural community.

    Perhaps this video will start an important dialogue getting at the heart of what we “really” feel about our “natural” hair.

    • can you expound some on the phrase “natural” versus “relaxer-free?”

      • Lynn

        I usually style my hair with a twist set which actually alters my natural curl pattern quite a bit. So although my hair is indeed relaxer free, it is debatable as to whether my daily style is “natural”. Some might argue that the “wash-n-go” (which I don’t usually wear) is the truly “natural” style showing my curl pattern in an unaltered state.

  • keke

    thanks Lynn, it was interesting to read your response. I cut my hair pretty short a few years ago and I usually wear my hair relaxed. I am currently training for a half marathon so at the moment I have gone about 2 months without a relaxer and I am considering just letting it grow out completely and going natural. I realize that with my intense workout regimen, a relaxer will be a waste of money as I will surely sweat it out.

    My biggest issue about going natural is when I look at many websites for natural hair products. The most advertised hair texture is the wavy curly look, or the Tracee Ellis Ross texture. Very rarely do I see my natural hair texture which is compact kinky/curly.

    I think these images do give black women who have a desire or a curiosity to go natural a false sense of what their natural hair will look like. And it can be a let down when women realize that their hair won’t look bouncy, shiny, with loose curls and/or waves.

    Also from looking at different natural hair care blogs and websites, I realize that some women have a pretty hardcore hair regimen that involves tons of different products and styling tools. This is also true of women who get hair chemically treated. But I still get the sense that some women in the natural hair community are using these products and styling tools as a means to alter their hair texture in order to reach a more “accepted” standard of hair beauty.

    it is a very political topic and I viewed the video posted above yesterday. I found it funny and very honest. Many women who have gone natural have expressed similar frustrations and have often went back to relaxers before making a final commitment to stay natural and learn what works for their individual hair texture.

    It is indeed a process and I am not sure if I am committed to going there yet. I may just get a kinky curly sew in and call it a day!

  • This is probably a fairly worthless comment, but thanks for this video, the unpacking in the post, and the comments. I’ll keep reading if anyone says more.

  • April

    “NO! It’s not just hair. It’s a political statement. Clearly this woman has internalized hatred; if she only could learn to love herself more as a black woman, she could embrace her natural hair.”

    That’s pretty much the gist I get reading blog posts on natural hair: if you’re not sold on a TWA, then you’re a self-hater. And that’s followed by the idea that a natural hairstyle is oh-so easy to pull off, while it takes hours each and every day to maintain a relaxer. Obviously, the time and cost to keep a fresh ‘do vary from style to style. My friend’s twists (which are also colored–why is that considered “natural”?) require considerably more work to maintain than my bob.

    Frankly, I find it aggravating that something as personal as a hairstyle has somehow become a referendum on blackness. (It similarly irks me that who you choose to date is also viewed as such, but that’s a whole ‘nother topic.) I love that this post addresses issues that are often ignored in the age-old hair debate. I also love that the woman in the video had the guts to be so honest; I’m sure she has already drawn the ire of many women who sport afros and locs. My hair has been relaxed since age 7-8. I’m happy with my hair, and I’m quite used to the preparation and styling that goes with it. A significant style change–whether relaxed or natural–would also change my morning routine, and not being a morning person AT ALL, I’m hesitant to do it. If someone considers that “self-hatred,” then too bad.

    By the way, I really enjoyed all the other comments (especially Lynn’s)!

  • VC

    That video was hilarious. And the point you make about misleading representations of natural hair probably have a lot to do with why women throw their hands up when their hair doesn’t come out of their head looking like shirley temple’s. I found that when I went natural, it took me a while (and i’m still learning) to get reacquainted with my hair and really see what processes and products work for me time-wise, money-wise, and looks-wise.

    I think it really does come down to your hair and how you want it to look. Some women claim they don’t like the way their hair looks natural, and, when there are other options available to you, why not change it? To simplistically attach a moral and philosophical agenda to all women based on hairstyle is cheap. At the same time, an aversion to natural hair is sometimes (perhaps even oftentimes?) rooted in other race/color/modern standards of beauty issues. Furthermore, I get a little annoyed when people talk to me about natural hair being “in style,” and in some cases asking when I’m going to relax my hair again. Something rubs me the wrong way about calling un-relaxed black hair a “style” but I feel like that’s another can of worms…

    Each person’s hair is unique and how much time, money and energy you put into it will depend on you. I’ve never spent much time on my hair anyway but since I ditched the relaxer, there is definitely less time, money, and energy going towards it – including long visits to the beauty salon and 6-hour wash, blow dry, curl routines. On the other hand, due to my disinclination to invest a ton of time into my hair, I only have about 4 styles and they are not all suitable for the same function (working out, going to an interview, partying) so with natural hair, I’ve experienced new dimensions of hair care, i.e. planning ahead, actually styling my hair, etc.

    I feel like for most black women, getting a relaxer was almost like a rite of passage that they experienced in their youth and probably contemplated very little. We’re usually too young to even conceive of doing our own hair, our mother/aunt/hairdresser is getting tired of braiding it, and we will grow up not knowing our natural hair textures and therefore, not feeling comfortable getting to know them. This is why sometimes “going” natural requires a commitment to learn your hair and learn to love it (which for some women means giving it time to grow out) – a choice that is the answer to the commitment we made, typically unconsciously, when we got our hair relaxed.

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  • tabitha

    i’ve been having this conversation for YEARS… and people on both sides tend to hate me a little more when the dust settles. since i stopped perming my hair in college, i’ve worn everything from extensions and afros to locs and twists. what i tell women is this- natural hair is easiest when it’s just NATURAL. i did the wash n go for years before locking it and it was the simplest style i’ve ever had. i washed and conditioned and added a little oil when i was finished. i didn’t comb it- ever. my afro made lots of black women on both sides uncomfortable. permed black women made comments about how i was unprofessional and the naturals wanted me to ‘do’ it. since having my daughter, i’ve had the same arguments with friends and family. her hair doesn’t need to be ‘done’ because it’s in it’s natural afro state and that’s fine. when my husband takes her out alone, women STOP him in stores and suggest products or salons assuming she doesn’t have a momma or her momma doesn’t ‘know better.’

    generally when a woman i know is about to make the transition or in the middle of it- ALL they want to talk about it products and youtube videos. i argue all the time that most women rocking ‘naturals’ HATE naps. i’m not really into trying to refer to it as kinky curly to make people feel better about themselves. if you can’t love your naps- TRULY love them, you’re sort of missing the point. natural hair salons cost MORE than a dominican perm shop. i know cats paying over $100/mo to keep their locs twisted and ‘neat’ or to have their natural hair stretched and extended to showcase length. that Miss Jessies shit is $38 and it’s not for NAPPY hair. it’s for that mixed texture hair that black women still desire.

    the natural hair community has basically become all these women who think they’re enlightened because they don’t have perms… but they still hate real naps. they are spending hours and lots of money on all sorts of things to change the texture into something resembling curls.

    i can understand homegirl’s frustration. going natural should take LESS work and resources. it should be simple… but the catch is, it requires you to love what you got. it requires you to look like Florida Evans sometimes and still think both you and Florida are beautiful. you see all the products and you think that’s what you’re getting. the truth is- if your shit is nappy- you have to learn to love nappy. all the curly pudding in the world will not change your hair.

    • keke

      Awesome comment, I loved it. Especially when you point out that learning to love your hair means that you have to be comfortable with your hair looking like Florida Evans and still believe that you are beautiful.

      I think that really gets to the heart of the issue. Even when going natural, black women are still given signs and signals about what is the “right” texture of natural hair. I have read about different treatments such as the silkener. Then there are all the creams and puddings that are supposed to define your natural curl pattern, it’s an information overload and it makes it very easy to become a product junky. And for someone like me who is considering going natural, I am just not sure I’m ready it yet. Part of it is that I have not gotten to the point where I am ready and willing to embrace my natural hair texture; I obviously still have a lot of negative stereotypes that I need unlearn.

      And don’t even get me started on some of the arguments I have read on black hair forums about naturals who straighten their hair on occasion. Those discussions get really heated!

    • April

      Love, love this comment. Thanks for keeping it real.

  • Tfour

    Okay it does take some getting used to when going all the natural.

    I had to spend some time in the mirror learning to like myself, as myself, all over again. For me, it wasn’t too dramatic. But for others its a process of having to unlearn everything that you’ve been taught to dislike about yourself. It’s actually sad. We’ve been given messages since childhood about hair, baldness, naps, kinks, and waves. And then there’s the ‘good hair’ comment or concept that seals the fate of ones beauty. I am happy to be nappy! And what’s more is that I learned what God said was good, can’t be bad! I am fearfully and wonderfully made!

    Permed, curly, straight, kinked or waved hair, love what you are because it’s all good!

    And teach your daughters to appreciate being unique and beautiful, they will learn everything about themselves from watching you.