I know what you’re thinking. Is there even such a thing as a “White” or “Black” hairstyle? As oversimplified as that may sound, the reality is that there are some complex truths to this sentiment. While watching a product of my best friend’s boredom, a YouTube slideshow titled “Hairstyles for Pretty Girls,” I was, to my surprise, hit with a feeling of melancholic disillusionment. The video consisted of long, straight looks on mostly White girls, some with variated bangs and a slight bump in texture. I probably wouldn’t have been so disappointed, had it not been for the fact that my BFF is Black and has been entangled in a love/hate (mostly hate) relationship with her own thick, tightly curled hair throughout the span of our 15-year friendship.
Pretty girls have short and curly hair too, I commented.
She didn’t like that too much. But it got me thinking. As much as I love her, and try to accept her choices of self-expression, I can’t help but think that the insidious messages conveyed through popular culture has something to do with those choices. The look de rigueur is hard to miss nowadays—look at any magazine and you’re likely to find a model or actress, Black or White, with medium-to-long hair in an uninspiring silky straight, or slightly wound, fall. It’s trite, to say the least, but what’s even more disconcerting is that it’s rare to see an afro, braids, or corkscrew curls in a high-profile, mainstream setting. Looking at a recent shot of Gabourey Sidibe at a premiere—a flat, even-banged weave upon her head accented with a juvenile, primary-colored headband—I was left thinking of how much more unique she’d look with something more akin to her natural texture.
The fact is that most Black women don’t have naturally straight hair. So why do we continually mirror this characteristic prominent among White, Hispanic, or Asian women? What causes us to go against our inherent beauty, believing that attraction lies outside ourselves? I’m not saying we shouldn’t be allowed to experiment from time to time, but what happened to the days when Black actresses slid down the red carpet in Bantu knots and cornrows? When did straight hair become the rule, and not the exception?
– Princess Glover