Thursday, 7 June 2012

Are we going too far when it comes to other people's natural hair?

A couple of nights ago I was scrolling through Curly Nikki to look at some articles that I may have missed from the last time I looked. 

I came across an article about Solange Knowles and her natural hair.

Here are some natural hair styles Solange has been sporting;

Solange is also known to switch up her hairstyles and wear curly protective styles;

Her reason;

''Well, I'm in all these different places and working with different hairstylists, so it's important for me to wear it in a protective style''.

Thumbs up to her for protecting her own hair. I love her curly protective styles; they are unapologetically big and very curly!

While I like her protective styles, I love her afro's too! They're nicely shaped and really suit her. Ever since Solange went back to her natural roots, she's also become more open when it comes to her fashion style.

Back to the Curly Nikki blogpost... the comments there are sort of yay or nay responses. I have to admit though that some of them were unsettling to me. There were also comments that were quite positive. Anyhow, the comments made me think a lot about how some people may view other people's natural hair and also what it means to be natural.

Some of the negative comments regarding Solange's hair;
  • It's not unique
  • Biggest thing that has happened since her career
  • Looks unkempt and requires combing
  • Looks dry and un-styled (she needs to use twistouts/braidouts to style her hair)
  • Her 4c hair type does not look the same as other 4c naturals hair type.
There were also some positive comments about Solange;
  • She dealt with the criticisms and stuck with being natural
  • I love her hair and style
  • It's her preference
  • She looks stunning no matter what she wears
The beauty (and the ugly) of the internet is that we can express ourselves and our opinion to a wider audience. 

Honesty is a good thing (depending on the context I suppose...). It's not necessarily 'hating'. People can be honest and make constructive criticisms. But if criticism is made with the intent to be malicious it can be classed as 'hating'.

A lot of the comments which had some negativity came with with the commenter stating that they were 'being honest' and 'didn't want to sugar-coat' their views on natural hair.

I think that's a wonderful thing but erm... do some of us go too far when we start dictating;

  • How naturals should wear and style their hair?
  • How naturals should protect their hair?
  • What products naturals should use on their hair (i.e. no silicone, petroleum based products)?*
  • What makes you natural and what makes you not natural (i.e. using dye makes you not natural, relaxing your edges makes you not natural etc.)?*
*By the way, those are not my views, I'm just stating some examples that I've encountered. 

About Solange's hair type;
If you're not so sure about hair typing, click on this link. Some of the comments claimed that Solange's hair is type 4c and that it doesn't look like other naturals' 4c hair.

Based on photos, it can be difficult to see what hair type someone may have. Manipulating hair and product on the hair can also distort hair types. In order for anyone to be able to judge someone's hair type, their hair has to be product free, not manipulated and dry.

I personally believe that our hair cannot be typed into four different categories because it's just that diverse. Most people also have multiple hair types on their head.

The image accompanied with the Curly Nikki post

Not sure if the commenter looked at this picture and decided that her 4c hair is not the same as other naturals with 4c hair, but her hair looks manipulated in this picture so it can be hard to judge.

But seriously, do we need to know other people's hair type? I suppose it can be useful for someone who may want to attempt the same products as her or the same styles. But other factors such as hair porosity and hair density can be just as important as hair type.

About her styles 
If you actually read the interview, Solange states very clearly what she likes her hair to be like;

''I actually love my natural hair when it's in a twist out and it's been slept on for five days and revived by the steam of the shower''. 

There it is, she's stated what she likes. She likes, what is in effect, a stretched out fro. She's not concerned with pin and curls, defined twist outs etc. She just wants natural hair in a twist out that's been slept on for days and has been revived by the steam of the shower.

She is allowed to wear her hair the way she wants to (surely she is?!).

About her hair looking dry... Afro-textured hair can appear dry. Even when you've conditioned and sealed it, it can still appear dry. Our hair doesn't give that shine. Specific products and techniques can help with that.

It could be that Solange used products on her hair or just water or nothing at all. Again, is that really our concern?

About Solange in general? 

Solange has a successful career. She sings, films, models, takes part in entrepreneurship. These criticisms regarding her hair are likely not to be some of the worst she has encountered during her career.

Solange is not a natural hair spokesperson and she's kind of hinted that here;

ESSENCE: Are you surprised so many people are inspired by you?SOLANGE KNOWLES: I am! I wasn't expecting that. 

I don't even think she was aiming to inspire people by going natural or sporting the cool hair styles that she does. I think she just wanted to do what she felt was best for her.

Solange may be involved with Carol's Daughter etc, but I assume that's to solely endorse their products.

I personally like Solange for going against the norm, especially because she's in the entertainment industry. She's in the spotlight. Everyone can see her. She has to deal with the criticisms, but she'll also hear praises. What she's doing is a tough thing (but it comes with fame, doesn't it?)!

Solange does not have the same hair as other 'natural hair idols' such as Corinne Bailey Rae, Esperanza Spalding or Tracee Ellis Ross. She is really holding her own. Those ladies are doing well too actually, sporting their own hair and being confident with it.

As for Solange trying to draw attention because she's in her sister's shadow... really? She's always expressed that she and her sister are artistically different and she seems to enjoy her own endeavours.

What else?

I'm just going to say it straight. I believe there is a bias in the natural hair community when it comes to certain hair types and hair lengths. I believe there is a hierarchy. Those with bigger and/or longer hair seem to get a lot of praise for it. I guess because it's not seen as often? I guess it's because people aspire to obtain that for themselves?

If Solange's hair would have been longer, would she have had more oohing and awing? Tracee Elis Ross, Esperanza Spalding and Corinne Bailey Rae tend to be regarded as natural hair icons, is it because they have long hair and/or curly hair? Why are not more tightly coiled naturals regarded as hair idols? Are there any tightly coiled naturals regarded as natural hair idols in the spotlight (I know a few which aren't but I do consider them as my own personal natural hair idol)?

One comment (I didn't exactly copy or quote this) goes a bit like this;

People have left the bone straight mindset but now they are in the defined curls mind set.

That's what it really feels like if I'm honest. A lot of naturals are looking for 'the thing' to define their hair. Whether it be hair butters, hair gels or other defining products (even techniques), a lot of naturals want to 'pop' their curls or have defined styles.

I like Solange. It's no secret, I like some of her songs, some of her styles etc. I don't feel obligated to comment negatively if I don't like some of the things she does. It's really up to her.

People should be able to express their opinions, it is their right. Being truthful is good. We don't have to lie, just to appear polite. But do we need to state everything that is wrong in our eyes regarding someone else's hair? If you haven't been asked for an opinion, sometimes you don't need to give it!

This post has made me think so much about the natural hair community. I'd dread to get the same sort of reaction from other naturals. I think some can be too harsh (even though they're just being honest). Some things are better left unsaid. If someone is visibly struggling with their hair it is nice to just be honest and advice them of the steps they need to take to improve it.

Being a natural in a straight haired world can be difficult for some people. We need to learn to embrace people's differences and abilities to make their own choices.

So do you think some naturals go too far when it comes to other people's natural hair? Yes or no? And why?