A woman is entitled to change her hair as she sees fit, even if she’s a revered celebrity who built a brand on a singular style. Janelle Monae is no different so it’s hard to understand why her new look in the “Dance Apocalyptic” video should cause any fanfare. But a day after the premiere of her latest clip, Janelle’s new hairstyle — long, wavy extensions framing her heart-shaped face — has roused up a choir of critics.

The loudest gripe is that Monae changed her hairstyle due to the pressures of fame. According to critics, her success and newfound mainstream access is the impetus behind her decision to trade in that famous pompadour in favor of the look most prevalent in the entertainment industry: a long weave.

Why does it have to be all that though? Maybe she just was bored and wanted a new look. Or needed to give her edges a break.

Hair is such a weighted topic in our community. It’s imbued with political significance because historically, our hair has been criticized, targeted and viewed as a marker of our “otherness.” In that vein, Janelle Monae’s signature look — a pompadour updo which sits atop her head like a crown — could be seen as a cultural statement embracing our maligned hair texture and declaring its beauty. We can’t ignore that significance, especially when Janelle is the only celebrity with a Covergirl contract and a head full of curls and kinks.

But Janelle never signed up to be the spokesperson for natural hair; she is merely a woman that loves to switch up her look and style like many of us. Why can’t she have that freedom without criticism?

The point that she built her brand on the desire to be respected for her music, not her looks, and never wanted to look like everyone else in the industry is a valid one. But the counterargument that women with natural hair should feel empowered to choose their hair as they see fit rings true as well.

What are your thoughts, Clutchettes?

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