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Hair News: What’s on My Mind (Pantene’s Dad-Do / Strong is Beautiful)

Hello everyone,

I’ve been busily working on several academic manuscripts, launching a new research think tank Natural Hair @ Work Day with the fabulous Terresa Hardaway and Antonia Opiah (Natural Hair @ Work Day is coming in July 2016, check it out here: http://naturalhairatwork.com/)) all while doing my best to be a good wife, Mom, daughter, sister and volunteer (when did life get so busy)!  Nevertheless, I’ve had a lot on my mind!

For one, I LOVE the new Pantene commercial “Strong is Beautiful” featuring NFL players giving their daughters “Dad-Dos” (how cute is that?!).  ABC News provides a lovely extended version where Benjamin Watson (Tight End for the New Orleans Saints) is with his beautiful daughters and states, “She’s going to really judge all men by how I treat her and so it’s important for me to connect with them and do things that they want to do.  Whether it’s doing their hair, whether it’s riding bikes…it’s about connecting and showing them that they’re important.”  (around 1:17)

Here’s the 30-second version from Pantene’s website:

I think that Pantene has done a phenomenal job illustrating that hair is an important way to bond with our little girls.  Watch out! Daddy-Dos coming to the playground near you!

Check back soon to talk about hair in Beyonce’s latest video (Formation)!

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I Lack Hair Confidence by Meredith

I went to the hairdresser two days ago and decided to get highlights in my hair. This was a big step for me as I have always been afraid of change, especially when it comes to my hair. I can still remember when I was a child, every Sunday my mom would wash our hair and blow-dry it. Then she would take my sister and me into the kitchen where she would have a chair sitting next to the stove. She had her little “station” set up on the stove and the countertop. Sulfur 8 hair grease; the hot comb on the stovetop; a plastic comb and a towel; I hated Sundays. My mom would make my sister and I take turns. I usually went first, as my hair wasn’t as “bad” as my sisters. She would put the hot comb on the stovetop, take the Sulfur 8 and rub it around the edges of our hair, and then take that hot comb off the stove and press our edges. This was done between relaxer treatments to make it last longer. I can still feel the heat that the comb gave off, the sound of the sizzle at it came into contact with the grease. My sister’s edges and hair overall was worse than mine, so her session usually took longer. My mom said it was all necessary to get our hair to grow. My mom took great pride in making sure her girls had “good hair”.

Then one summer when my sister and I were off visiting our father in Bermuda (my parent’s split when I was very young and every summer my sister and I went to visit him for 2 months), the unthinkable happened. My mother would always tell us not to let our stepmother cut our hair while we were down there visiting. My stepmother is white, and according to mom, she knew nothing about black hair. It was the summer before my 6th grade year, and one day after coming home from swimming, my stepmother chimes, “we need to get you girls’ hair cut”. I boldly exclaimed, “My mom said for us not to get our hair cut”, to which my stepmother replied, “Well, your mother isn’t here”. The war was on. A couple days later my stepmother was taking us to the salon to make an appointment for both my sister and I to get our hair cut. The appointment was made, but neither my sister nor I could have been prepared for what was in store for us. I remember on the day of the appointment I spent the ride in the car combing my hair out in an effort to make it be seen that my hair didn’t need anything done to it. My plan didn’t work.

Bangs Phase
At the salon, my stepmother spent time looking through magazines to pick out styles for both myself and my sister. The styles that she picked out were for old people, not girls heading into the 6ht and 7th grade (my sister is a year older than me). The style she picked out for me was…an afro. Cut it all off and make is a short fro. No other way to say it. I remember sitting in the chair as this man cut off all of my hair. I was hysterical. I cried as he cut it. I cried sitting under the dryer. I cried as he styled it, I cried and cried and cried for days. I was so upset that even as we went to a barbeque at my aunt’s house days later, I locked myself in my cousin’s bedroom and hid because I felt so ugly. A couple of weeks later when we finally returned back to my mom in NY and she caught the first glimpse of my sister and myself with our “new do’s” you could see the look of furor on her face. All I could say was, “She made us get our hair cut”. To which my mother replied, “That is the last time you will go to Bermuda”.

I remember my mom getting on the phone and giving my stepmother a verbal ass-chewing about our hair and her “role” in our lives. Nonetheless the damage was done. My sister and I were to start school in a week with afros. My 6th grade year was horrible. I was ridiculed by my classmates. They used to sing “afros in the house” whenever they saw me. I was teased, they drew pictures of me and my hairdo, and they even threw rocks at me while I was walking home from school. By the end of the school year, my hair grew out enough so that my afro became a short bob. But this incident really defined how I viewed my hair and how I feel like my hair defined me.

After that year, I became very protective of my hair. I went through a period where I refused to get my hair cut. I needed my hair to be long enough to be able to pull back into a pony tail. Even getting my hair trimmed was a process for me. I would watch the hairdresser like a hawk to make sure he or she wasn’t taking too much off. To this day, I still have that problem. If I go to the hairdresser, I will only ask for a trim. I refuse to get layers because heaven forbid the layers are too short for a ponytail. I won’t do bangs for the same reason, plus I never know what to do with them during that awkward growing-out period. I have found that I lack “hair confidence”. It may sound crazy, but it’s true. I don’t feel confident in myself without having longer hair. I don’t feel like I can be sexy to a man, or be able to impress an employer with short hair. My hair defines my confidence and my life.

I am turning 35 years old in less than two weeks and I am afraid of my hair. My highlights came out great and I am surprised at myself for being bold enough to put my faith in my hairdresser to make that change, but I still couldn’t bring myself to get more than a trim. My hair is still long enough to pull back into a ponytail. It’s still one length, with no layers. To me, that incident of having the afro back in the 6th grade made me feel that short hair is ugly. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are many women who can rock a short do, and I applaud them and are envious of them as for me it makes me think that they have a confidence that I will never know. But for me, I could never do it and still feel pretty or confident, because of my prior experience. I don’t know if I will ever get over that experience or know that “hair confidence”. I think I will always need to have my shoulder length or longer hair.

New hairdo 2014

  • Laquita

    Thanks for being brave to share your experience. No doubt, other women went through a similar experience.

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naiga girls: (un)imaginable by verta ayanna

 


verta ayanna- bring_back_our_girls_2014_37my heart stopped when i first learned of the 234 young girls kidnapped on april 14, 2014 by boko haram, a militant Islamist group in Nigeria whose name literally means “western education is forbidden.” i felt helpless. i felt–
i could not even imagine. i find myself using that saying all too often when i hear of atrocities in the world, especially those that involve children. when a gunman kills innocent children on our city streets, i automatically think, i could not even imagine. when beautiful black boys are stolen from their homes in the darkness of night to become soldiers in wars they cannot even understand, i have thought,  i could not even imagine. after 234 girls were kidnapped from their school in Nigeria and now more than 20 days later the only ones reported found are those who escaped, i think to myself, i could not even imagine

could i really not imagine? this saying  has caused me pause since hearing of the young girls abducted by boko haram in Nigeria. i realized there are parts of these things i can imagine. i am a human being. i am a mother. i have witnessed fear. as my daughter sat crying amidst shatters glass on the roof of our overturned car after a near fatal car accident, i saw fear in her eyes. as i lay on the side of the road. my blood all around us. the scent undoubtedly picked up by the wild animals in the gaming park, i heard my son’s fear. “will someone come and get us?” he asked. when the Beninios doctor saw my file days later and asked, very nonchalantly i must add, “combien de morts? how many died?” i felt fear and imagined far worse. i cried as i imagined what could have been on the side of that dirt road in august of 2011.

not wanting to imagine and not being able to imagine are two very different things.  so, i can imagine. and i believe that others can too. even if only for a moment, we can imagine fear. we have all experienced it on some level. recall your own or that of a loved one at some moment in time. multiply that fear by all the stars in the universe and we may each get just a few heartbeats closer to what just one girl may have felt as armed men came to steal her away from what she only seconds before considered a safe place. take a moment to simply recall your humanity and you will be able to imagine, even if just for one thousandth of a second, the fear and anguish of just one parent of just one abducted girl.

what is unimaginable is that it’s been over 20 days and the only girls reported found were those who escaped. what is unimaginable is that in a world with the technology to witness my every keystroke remotely and locate me right now on this city block in harlem from outer space we have not rescued one girl. what is unimaginable is that until a few days ago we could not find space in the mass media next to the racist rants of a billionaire basketball team owner to report regularly and consistently about these girls literally stolen from their school. what is unimaginable is that in 2014 we have to use grassroots measures to allow the world to be informed and bear witness to this disregard for human life. what is unimaginable is to dwell in helplessness when the truth will always remain that our mere existence, each and everyone of ours, is an opportunity to act. to act with love and to act loudly if we must.

In verta’s next post, she shares some specific actions you can take to make a difference.


Verta Maloneyverta is writing her first book, loving out loud, because she believes that love should never be silent! her purpose in this life is to love out loud, to live on purpose, to laugh a whole bunch, to create, to share stories, to inspire others, to make a difference and to leave the world better than she found her. verta shares how she is inspired by stories, by memories and by life at www.vertaayanna.com.

 

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SBD Days: Some Days All You Got to Do Is Stay Black, and…. by Petra E. Lewis

Kevin Ryan Headshot - ColorIn Black America, at some point the following is almost a universal scenario: Someone will tell someone else they “have” to or “need” to ________ [INSERT BLANK DIRECTIVE]. And that person will sassily reply (tone of voice the equivalent of hands akimbo, and sometimes hands actually akimbo): “All I got to do is stay Black and die!”

This for me is the genesis of SBD Days: ones that are obligation free.  I’m one of those people who works (hard) constantly, my ambition almost a flaw. And when SBD Days come, they come vengefully and unapologetically: I sip hot chocolate and catch up on literature. Cruise the web and LOL (the stupider the post, article, or video, the better). I have no desire to see significant others—that, after all, would be an obligation—an obligation–when all I got to do is stay Black and…. Well, you know.

Kevin Ryan Headshot _ B+W

SBD Days are lovely, lazy things when I allow myself to luxuriate in sloth, and contribute to the unraveling fibers of American society by ignoring the Protestant Work Ethic. Curiously, I don’t have SBD Days when I’m on deadline. Why? Simple: Mama didn’t raise no fool–plus I carefully guard my professional reputation.  SBD Days that fall on client deadlines are greeted with tough self-love—and a big stick. Hot chocolate and lethargically scrolling through hipster posts on Guest of a Guest’s Facebook page do not pay the bills.

However, SBD Days do sass and trash hair rituals. Due for a wash, a detangle, a deep condition? What? (Suck teeth.) All I got to do is stay Black and…. Well, you know. And guess what? My hair is just fine. I even get compliments. Race is irrelevant. Everyone deserves at least one SBD Day in their lives. Just become courageous enough to be selfish and put your peace and sanity above all else.

P.S. I was supposed to scribe this post two months ago, but I decided: All I got to do is stay Black and…. Well, you know.


Petra E. Lewis is a writer, author, entrepreneur, Tastemaker, and Synergist who lives in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. The first novel in her trilogy, The Sons and Daughters of Ham, Book I: A Requiem debuts February 2014, www.hamnovels.com : : @tastemistressp : :  http://on.fb.me/1fUwRNo https://twitter.com/TastemistressP

  • verta

    yes. yes. yes. we all need SBD days!!!

  • Petra

    LOL, Verta–yes, we do! BTW: I greatly enjoyed your first-ever post for HAI.#greatstuff

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Straight hair for holidays?

According to Merriam-Webster, a “holiday” is a day of celebration when most people do not have to work.  Thus, holidays are a particular time when people may construct special hairstyles to fully embrace the festivities.  Further, hairstyles also convey that the wearer is special because she (or her mother) has taken extra time to create a highly polished, intricate style.  As a little girl, I remember getting my hair “done” for holidays.  Typically, that meant I’d get my hair straightened.

Original image by Bob Croslin from Tampa Bay Times (Combing through memories (4/14/06) by Nicole Johnson)

As I grew older, it meant that I would get my hair relaxed.  I’ve learned that this pattern of straightening on holidays is not atypical…many women I know practice the same hair ritual. What do you all think about this hair ritual?  How does it affect girls and women?

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Love Out Loud: A Series by verta ayanna

Verta Maloney

Mommy! My friend said my hair is not soft.

Mommy! My friend said my hair is puffy.

Mommy! My friend said my hair is not straight.

My heart unraveled into a thousand fragile strands that day as my daughter told me what her friend had said. She was hurt. Not solely because of what her friend said but more precisely how she said it. A nuance not missed by my intuitive young daughter. I took a deep breath. I chose my words with care. “Your hair is soft,” I told her as we touched it. “Your hair is not straight, but it could be,” I told her as we looked at pictures of all the amazing and stunning ways black girls and women could wear our hair. “Your hair is puffy sometimes and sometimes flat and other times wild and magnificently crazy,” I told her as I tried to make her smile. “We have options little love!” I proclaimed.

After all this conversation, after all this focus on the words I chose, I began to realize that my four-year-old daughter was becoming slightly obsessed with long, silky, straight hair. My four-year-old daughter, whose mother had a fierce and powerful ceasar in college. My four-year-old daughter, whose mother rocked the hell out of some box braids back in the day. Though I told her that I loved her hair so very much and so should she. She was not convinced. I could see it in her eyes. Oh the things I can see in her eyes. Eyes that were fixed on my ever-so-fly, short, straight, relaxed, silky, precision cut done to perfection every six weeks in Brooklyn. Another nuance that could not have gone unnoticed by my ever-watchful little girl. I became fully aware that what I said was less important than what I needed to do.

Hair does not frighten me any more. It used to. I once feared what others would think, what others wouldn’t think. There was a time I feared the way I chose to wear my hair would mean I didn’t love myself enough or loved being black too much. I used to fear that how I chose to wear my hair made me more feminine, more attractive or at times too masculine, too strong and less attractive. It took years of trying on different hairstyles, before I could finally embrace the different versions of myself. Hair can be the outward expression of the fears, hopes, dreams, beauty and love that we, as women, have within us. We get to decide which, depending on the day. As mothers, we get to decide which we pass on to our daughters.

What I did next shocked my girl (and my boy) in a profound way. On a hot Saturday in July, I chose to share my love for her in the loudest way I knew how. I know and understand that there are no silent expressions of love. I cut my hair off. I did it for Simone. As she looked at me, eyes wide, with the hint of that smile I adore on her perfect little mouth, “I want hair just like yours,” I said. “So beautiful and so perfect.” Forgetting how much I love teeny-weeny afros, I also promised to grow it out just like hers. That was a mistake. I have no patience for things like that anymore. For weeks she would proudly and loudly tell people, “My mommy cut all her hair off because she wants it to be like mine. That’s going to take her a looong time!”  She has a good sense of humor that one.

I do know for sure I did something that day, in that moment, to help give her a stronger sense of self. Today she is a seven-year-old girl who gets inspiration from strawberry shortcake and has me twist pink and green strands into her two-strand twists one day. Today she is a seven-year-old girl who will rock her twist out until it is black uhuru locked and tell me when I try to tame it, “Mommy, I don’t care, I love my hair when it’s all wild and crazy!” Today she is a seven-year-old girl who has rocked a long straight do for about 18 hours or so because children can’t help but play and sweat out the best of intentions on yet another day. Today I do know for sure that for right now, in this moment, my girl fearlessly loves the skin and hair she is in and she is doing so in the loudest ways she can.


Verta is writing her first book, loving out loud, because she believes that love should never be silent! verta shares how she is inspired by stories, by memories and by life at www.vertaayanna.com.
  • Tina

    Hi Verta! I just looked at your piece again and I really love it!

  • verta ayanna

    thanks Petra! thanks Tina. that means so much to me. thanks so much for the opportunity to share my voice :-)

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First Family Encounter with Longer Afro

As our RV rumbled to a stop in front of my parent’s beautifully landscaped yard, I wondered how my Mom would react to my several inch long twist-out (Dad cares but he’s not likely to verbalize his thoughts). I double-checked my hair and makeup and then bounded out of the vehicle. Some of you may not know that my Mom and I are very close. I call her at least once a day and we have grown to be friends. You know, girlfriends who can tell each other the truth in love. So, I knew that if she thought my hair looked jacked up she was going to let me know it.

As our RV rumbled to a stop in front of my parent’s beautifully landscaped yard, I wondered how my Mom would react to my several inch long twist-out (Dad cares but he’s not likely to verbalize his thoughts). I double-checked my hair and makeup and then bounded out of the vehicle. Some of you may not know that my Mom and I are very close. I call her at least once a day and we have grown to be friends. You know, girlfriends who can tell each other the truth in love. So, I knew that if she thought my hair looked jacked up she was going to let me know it.

My beautiful Mother stepped outside and, with open arms, gave me a long overdue hug. “T, you look beauuuuutttiiiiifullllll!”. What?! Is that it? It’s that easy? My Mom looked at my neat twist out and fawned over me. It was blissful. (I just realized that I didn’t take a single pic of my hair at my Mom’s house…I am the family photographer. However, today’s pic was from the RV trip and shows the twist-out). Even better? My Mom told me that my hair motivated her to think about going natural again. She’s not there yet, but I’m so grateful that my natural journey is having a positive influence on the woman I love the most in the whole world. Yeahhhh Team Natural! :)


Mommy was a fan of the twist out

P.S.: In contrast, my Mom was NOT a fan of my chunky twist-out. I emailed her the below pic. Her response, “T, I prefer the other style. That style better framed your face.” Spoken like a true friend. The thing is, I loved the style so I’m sure that I’ll wear it again BUT I will always value the input of my loved ones. It’s funny, I didn’t realize that one benefit of my natural journey would be enhanced courage to firmly stand on my own two independent feet and not buckle when others don’t like something I’m trying.


Mommy was not a fan of the CHUNKY twist out BUT I love it! :)

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RV Trip: Unprepared for Humidity!

I was nervous about seeing my Southern family with my growing afro. My anxiety escalated when the Southern humidity hit my hair. One morning I looked in the RV bathroom mirror and gave myself an over the glasses grit (yes, I’ve gotten to the age where I now peer over my glasses to see things close up….ahhh, the pleasures of aging). Anyway, my once beautiful two strand twist out had become a bed of cotton (thanks to my hair care regimen it was SOFT cotton but cotton nonetheless).


Our Winter 2011/12 Family RV Trip was amazing. Our route: Boston; New York; Northern VA; Williamsburg, VA; South Carolina (Sullivan’s Island– known as the African-American Ellis Island); Florida and back to Boston. On the trip, our family had a wonderful time reconnecting, exploring and catching up with loved ones.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I was nervous about seeing my Southern family with my growing afro. My anxiety escalated when the Southern humidity hit my hair. One morning I looked in the RV bathroom mirror and gave myself an over the glasses grit (yes, I’ve gotten to the age where I now peer over my glasses to see things close up….ahhh, the pleasures of aging). Anyway, my once beautiful two strand twist out had become a bed of cotton (thanks to my hair care regimen it was SOFT cotton but cotton nonetheless).

Egad!!! This was only a few days before I would see my Mom, Dad, aunties and cousins and a mere few hours before our tour of Colonial Williamsburg. Well, I went to it and quickly retwisted my hair with the only hair care products I brought with me (note to self, what works in cold weather may not work in hotter weather, pack accordingly). The good thing is that I’m learning how to keep things moving even when my hair doesn’t look like I’d like it. After all, I’m much more than my hair. Yet, I still went through quite a bit to ensure that my hair would look great for my family encounter…

IMAGE: http://katdish.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Cruise-America-RV-Rental.jpg

  • Samara

    How was your hair received by your family?

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Insecure, Teenaged 40 year old?

I don’t know what it is, but seeing my family makes me revert to my insecure teenage self when I was just as likely to think that I was going to be the next President of the United States as I was to feel like a nerdy, unattractive social outcast. I, like most us want to please my parents. But, they haven’t seen me for awhile and my waist is three inches bigger than what they’re used to. Plus, I am four+ months after the Big Chop and while I LOVE my twist-out, this style is definitely an acquired taste.


My heart is racing, I have a bit of agita and I’m getting a nervous headache. About to make an important presentation? Being chased by an assailant? No, nothing like that. I’m about to see my Southern family for the first time in a few months. I don’t know what it is, but seeing my family makes me revert to my insecure teenage self when I was just as likely to think that I was going to be the next President of the United States as I was to feel like a nerdy, unattractive social outcast. What is this all about? Why do these feelings emerge? I guess it’s natural…I, like most us want to please my parents. But, they haven’t seen me for awhile and my waist is three inches bigger than what they’re used to. Plus, I am four+ months after the Big Chop and while I LOVE my twist-out, this style is definitely an acquired taste. I’m wondering if its positive reception is affected by the fact that we live in the North. As I’ve blogged before, I’ve heard that the South may not be as hospitable to natural hair (http://tropie7189.blogspot.com/2011/11/north-more-hospitable-to-natural-hair.html).

Despite this angst, I’m going to rock my same self and see what happens. I’ll be sure to share the details. :)

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Sex Kitten and Psyche

Black women have had to overcome the idea that they were sexually promiscuous so, in Madame C.J. Walker’s times, they behaved and dressed in ways to negate that stereotype.This was viewed as a form of racial progress and meant that Blacks experienced a tension between respectability and sexuality in advertisement. In other words, while the Black beauty industry promoted the notion that Black women were beautiful, it did not convey overly sexualized images of Black women; rather, Black women were often presented as respectable, upright citizens.


Black women have had to overcome the idea that they were sexually promiscuous so, in Madame C.J. Walker’s times, they behaved and dressed in ways to negate that stereotype.This was viewed as a form of racial progress and meant that Blacks experienced a tension between respectability and sexuality in advertisement. In other words, while the Black beauty industry promoted the notion that Black women were beautiful, it did not convey overly sexualized images of Black women; rather, Black women were often presented as respectable, upright citizens.For example, Madame CJ Walkers Wonderful Hair Grower ad showed a “Prominent Minister’s Wife” as a model in the advertisement.There has been a dramatic change:nowadays, sex sells.This presents a convergence of issues where Black women (heck, all types of women!) are often portrayed in hypersexual ways.When this is combined with the societal view that beauty equals long, straight hair, you end up with a flood of Black sex kitten imagery complete with long mane. This magazine cover drives home the point. What does such imagery do to a woman’s psyche?

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