8 hours ago
Sunday, 13 September 2009
If you know me then you will know how much I love Top Model and Tyra Banks especially. Last week, season five of her Emmy award winning programme 'The Tyra Banks Show' premiered surrounded by much hype. After years of being seen in wigs, weaves and extensions, she revealed to the world her 'real hair'...and proved to everyone that contrary to belief, she is not bald! Click here to see what she had hiding under those Asia-imported lace fronts (select the clip titled "Oscar Works Magic On Tyra's Real Hair').
The issue about hair has been around for a long time but more recently it has been propelled into the spotlight by Chris Rock's 'Good Hair' documentary, which was screened at the Sundance Festival and will soon receive a nationwide release in the States. Not too long ago Tyra also did an episode titled 'What is Good Hair?', addressing the issues that African American women have with the natural texture of their hair. If you have some time to spare, I would recommend watching this as some of the points raised are both interesting and also slightly disturbing, especially when listening to the thoughts of the young girls featured. For example, one child considers 'nappy' hair to symbolise lower class and one mother actually chemically relaxes the hair of her three year old daughter!
While there are many theories about black women wanting to change their appearance to be more acceptable to society and issues about deep rooted self hatred, I'm not going to go there. The question I am asking here is how much is hair simply a style choice and how much is it something that defines who you are?
People are always talking about the pros and cons of wearing a weave and last year, my friend over at No Work All Play did a hilarious blog post about the Weave Epidemic. While he has a point about maintenance, to me, hair is just the stuff on the top of your head. While I have never seen anything wrong with wearing a weave, extensions or hair pieces I have never had a weave, only ever had tracks in once (which I didn't like) and extensions probably twice. I've cut my hair to four inches long, coloured it numerous times and retouch it every 6 weeks. I see hair as an accessory. The same way I may want a pair of funky coloured shoes is the same way I would want a different hair style every so often. Yes, hair can be a reflection of my current mood or an image but at the end of the day I'm still me; I still love watching corny rom-coms and fashion programmes on TV, I still get annoyed by slow-walking people on Oxford Street, I still want a husband and three kids - I don't change...but the way I am perceived does.
Some may argue that hair is a reflection of a person. Along with clothes, it communicates an image to others. But come on, we all know that image is just that - something projected to the outside world that doesn't necessarily mirror our personality and stance on life - that's the job of our character, identified by what we say and do. But does this make hair, clothes and image any less important? Is how you are perceived critical to well being, love, life and success?
Unfortunately, I would say a huge yes! In our society, this is how initial judgements are made. There's not always time for second impressions. A couple of years back Glamour magazine in the States was involved in a little bit of controversy when an article about office do and don'ts highlighted that wearing an afro to work would be seen as unprofessional. While that person with an afro could have the most professional conduct on the entire floor, this goes to show how far society goes to make judgements on a person based on their hair. Nowadays, you can look around a club and decide on a girl or guy's personality without even speaking to them. Look, the girl in the Beyonce weave is fake and high maintenance, better steer clear of that one. Oh look at the one with the Rihanna hair cut....uh uh, she looks like she will smash up my car if I dare miss a call from her. Wow, look at that guy's sharp, precise shape up...he might just be batting for the other team. And the girl with the natural beaded hair....I bet she doesn't shave her legs. Absolute nonsense, I know but we all do it.
Watching the Tyra clip especially, there is the belief that relaxing your hair, wearing a weave etc gives the perception that you are ashamed of your black culture. Are you more proud to be Black, White, Hispanic or Asian if you wear your hair in its natural state? This is not just a 'black thing'. People with straight hair may have a perm to make their hair unnaturally curly...does this mean that they are trying to run away from their heritage. Or is it different just because black people have a reason to be running away? Does relaxing my hair mean that I am less proud of my heritage than someone who keeps it natural? I could be someone who can speak an African language, have travelled to the 'motherland', talk to my work colleagues about my culture and can cook the food but standing next to someone who wears their 'real hair', to some people I am perceived as not embracing my culture.
Long, short, afro, relaxed, weave, extensions, coloured whatever. It's just hair. Outward appearances are always going to be judged but its about letting your integrity and character shine through...and its always nice to prove people wrong.