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Circle of Sisters

What do a judge, a law clerk, a VP of Communications and several administrators have in common? I interviewed each of them about natural hair and the workplace at the 2011 Circle of Sisters (http://www.circleofsisters.com/). Marlene Duperley of Doris New York (http://www.dorisnewyork.com/) was kind enough to allow me to use her booth (#200, straight up the escalators AMAZING spot for traffic!) as my home base as I interviewed several women about hair and the workplace. But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, let me tell you about the expo!

Who do you think I saw at the expo? Nicole Ari Parker (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicole_Ari_Parker) and Boris Kodjoe (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boris_Kodjoe )! Yes, they are both beautiful in person…I didn’t get a chance to talk with either of them so I’m afraid I’m being highly superficial and talking about their physical beauty…gorgeous!

Anyway, it was a wonderful feeling to walk into an expo hall filled to the gills with entrepreneurs and vendors in pursuit of “New York’s women of color”. Plus, I LOVE to see women doing their thing and pursuing their passion with fervor. Marlene is a SMART business woman, she had the expo hall abuzz as she and two other models handed out marketing materials while sporting huge ball gown skirts and cute t-shirts (Marlene designed them, check out her website for further details). By the way, I am not employed by Marlene or Doris New York. But, I will holler your name from the hilltops if I think you are cool and have fabulous products. So, here I go on to holler about Zandria’s fabulous jewelry. I bought a CUTE black and white dress from Chico’s but couldn’t quite find the right jewelry. I found what I needed when I took one look at Zandria’s black and clear Czech crystal hoop earrings (I’m wearing them in today’s blog shot). It just feels good to support these businesswomen.

Also, if you are willing for me to interview you about hair and the workplace, please email me at tropie7189@gmail.com. Thanks!

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Chocolate Hair / Vanilla Care

Rory Hadley, creater of Chocolatehairvanillacare.com, and her daughter

One website that I think is fabulous is “Chocolate Hair, Vanilla Care” (http://www.chocolatehairvanillacare.com/) (see a write up here: http://www.theroot.com/buzz/chocolate-hair-vanilla-care). The website was created by Rory Hadley as an outlet to share her experiences as a White Mom raising her Black adopted daughter (can you say cute as a button!?). I LOVE this site and have used it myself when seeking tips about hair styling.

I hate to admit it but when I see unkempt Black / multi-racial children with uncombed hair and ashy skin, I often wonder, “Man, do they have White parents?” Why do I think this? Because I have encountered multiple instances where such children have been raised or adopted by White parents. The parents seem to have no clue how to take care of their children’s’ hair and skin more or less the children’s egos and self-esteem that may be battered as these youngsters grow up and realize: 1) that they are different than their family members / parents; and, 2) that society may devalue them.

That is why I love “Chocolate Hair, Vanilla Care”. Ms. Hadley talks about hair and also manages to make deeper connections to how hair affects self-esteem and self image. Thanks Ms. Hadley!

Image found at: http://www.theroot.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/large-image/Snapshot%202011-10-04%2000-40-31.jpg

  • MAKEUP BY SHERRY BLOSSOM

    Wow! Awesome site! Thanks for sharing!

  • topie

    Yeahhh! So glad that you like it. Rory is doing an amazing job. Please pass it along! 🙂

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Natural Hair a Dating No-No? Maybe if you want to date the Old Spice Man

Oh no, please don’t tell me Isaiah Mustafa (of Old Spice and now Charlie’s Angels fame) has messed up! Apparently, Mr. Mustafah stated that the woman he ends up with must have “good hair”…I guess to offset what he referred to as his own “slightly nappy” hair (http://www.styleite.com/beauty/isaiah-mustafa-good-hair-apology/. Seriously!? Mr. Mustafa did apologize on Twitter but I think that what may be hardest to swallow is that he revealed what many of us think Black men believe: that our hair in its natural state is not good enough; that a man may sleep with us if we have kinky, natural hair but that such a mane might take us out of the running for marriage. I am grateful to be happily married to a man who has fervently stated that he loves me no matter what and only wants me and my hair to be healthy (that took relaxers out of the mix because I kept getting “bald patches” in the back left. So not cute when he would run his fingers through my hair…umm, scalp in some spots!). For those out there seeking Mr. Right, do you feel that natural hair is a hindrance on the dating scene? Would you relax your hair if a serious boyfriend asked you to do so?

P.S.: I watched Charlie’s Angels (http://beta.abc.go.com/shows/charlies-angels) on Hulu because I plan to blog about the beauty images (i.e., did you know that one of the new Angels, Annie Ngosi Ilonzeh a Nigerian-American who plays Kate Prince on the new run of Charlie’s Angels, rocks a curly fro? Hmmm, in one scene the Angels dive into a body of water and I really, really wanted to see how they were going to show her hair after that. Okay, yes, I am WAY attentive to details!). Mr. Mustafa plays Kate Prince’s ex-fiancé and I must say that he was a decent actor and quite easy on the eyes.

Image found at: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/.a/6a00d8341c630a53ef012877b43d87970c-pi

  • J-Squared

    Funny story… On my first date with my fiancé, I made sure to wear my hair in its natural state. Up until that time, he had only seen me with my hair straighten. So on our first date, I wanted to just cut to the chase and know whether or not he was going to accept me the real me or the illusion of me. Needless, to say, he really loved my hair (at least that's what he told me) and appreciated my willingness to be who I am.On another note, I have spoken with several AA men and they seem to have a problem with women that wear a TWA. One conversation:HIM: I don't like women that go natural and have the nerve to wear an afro without an edge up.ME: So if they had an edge up would it be better?HIM: No, they just shouldn't wear an afro in generalGenerally, my conversations with AA men revolve around being natural as having an afro. And sometimes I wonder, if the problem is not so much the afro but the perception that afros are less feminine because it is a shorter form of hair than the longer form that is traditionally accepted. In addition, I believe afros make AAs uncomfortable with themselves and their sexuality (my honest opinion.. lol!), specifically, I think they think "how can my woman have the same hairstyle as me, what does that say about me?" or "how can my woman and I go to the same barber (a "salon" that has been traditionally been man only). So, I guess the real issue, is that men want their women to look like their perception of a "woman" and anything outside that makes them feel uncomfortable about their sexuality.

  • topie

    Sorry for the delay. I handed back mid-terms and I've had back-to-back meetings. You are so wise!!! I think it's essential that we embrace and OWN our authentic selves, especially with our loved ones. No, I change that, with EVERYONE! In part, this pressure to conform is pernicious because we buy into it ourselves. If we took a step out onto that branch of liberation we might find that others would join us. Rather than the added weight weakening the branch we'd find out that it wasn't a branch after all but a platform of free thinking on which many, many others could join us. I still don't quite know how to interpret the reactions of AA men. I've had several men say I LOVE your hair. However, I have doubt about their sincerity, especially once they say, "but naw, my girl couldn't wear that". WHAT!!!!? You hit the nail on the head about sexuality. I mean I looked in the mirror and thought that I resembled a dude. That might mess with a man's head. I am still thinking through this one. Anyway, thanks so much for your readership and your comments. I can always count on you to share insightful thoughts!

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Hair Politics in South Africa?


While perusing the Internet, I stumbled across “Going natural is a hairy issue” an article by Milisuthando Bongela about natural hair (http://mg.co.za/article/2011-09-30-going-natural-is-a-hairy-issue/). I don’t want to assume, but given the author’s name, some of the comments in the article, and the fact that “za” is a South African Internet code, I believe that Ms. Bongela is South African.

Ms. Bongela details her hair journey: she wore a bald head for years, then tried weaves, and now, seemingly begrudingly, wears her natural hair. In South Africa, some refer to natural hair as “kaffirhare”. In case you don’t know what “kaffir” means, I understand that it means “nigger” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaffir_(racial_term) and that there are laws in South Africa that prohibit its use. I once read Mark Mathabane’s book Kaffir Boy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaffir_Boy) and learned a lot more about the term and the historical context that explains it.
Perhaps it is the use of the term “kaffir” that strikes such a discordant note with me, particularly because Ms. Bongela states that it is WITHIN THE BLACK COMMUNITIES that “chemical-free kinky hair” is referred to as kaffirhare. Plus, Ms. Bongela claims that it is not common for women to wear their natural hair, especially in urban cities like Jo’Burg because hair is used to convey status (translation: kinky hair = lower status).
Now, I don’t know what your stance is on the use of the word nigger. I personally tend not to use it, though I have family members who use it like a badge of honor. However, I find it sad that people are referring to their own hair in such a derogatory way. It pains me. I find it ironic that a country on the continent that is the cradle of civilization would have such negative attitude toward Black hair in its natural state.
I am now beginning to wonder if this negative context has anything to do with the fact that many of my African sisters that I’ve seen, at least in D.C., NY and Boston, seem to wear wigs, extensions, or relaxed hair almost exclusively. When I’ve inquired about this, my African sisters have responded that they are resistant to wearing their natural hair; it is simply not acceptable or attractive in their communities. I know that some African women wear their natural hair; however, they seem to be a minority. Perhaps I am overgeneralizing? Please, help me understand. What, if anything, do you think is going on? Is this more true for younger or older women?
Image found at: http://hairextensionwholesale.com/img/p/204-397-large.jpg
  • Anonymous

    Being African when I was growing up the more white u were the more beautiful u were perceived be it a light complexion, speaking English without a local heavy accent or straight hair. Thus the weaves and hair extensions are not only a source of beauty but a symbol of success and wealth as not everyone can afford good quality hair extensions. It takes a long time for people to not think like this, unfortunately when they realise this many have severely damaged hairlines after years of sew-ins etc.

  • topie

    Hi Anonymous, thanks so much for your insightful comments. I can so relate to this. It's funny, I have a naive expectation that African people are MORE confident in their Africanness than African-American people. Your comments show that that may not be accurate. I have a favor to ask: will you please pass along the blog to other African women and men you know? I really want to expand the network of people who are discussing this topic. Plus, I want to get as much input and perspectives as possible. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog and to comment. I appreciate it! 🙂 Tina

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Real Black Women have Kinky Hair?!

Do you remember Will Smith’s Aunt on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990 – 1993)? She was played by Janet Hubert-Whitten (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janet_Hubert-Whitten). Ms. Hubert-Whitten recently wrote an article (http://www.eurweb.com/2011/09/janet-hubert-the-angry-black-woman-myth-or-truth/) entitled, “The Angry Black Woman – Myth or Truth?”. I wanted to blog about the article because it starts with these words:

*There is no doubt that I am a black woman, I am probably what is considered to be a real black woman, kinky haired, so called now described type 4 with no real curl pattern with which to classify it as good hair.

I am hearing this term again and again, not just from whites but from predominantly black men and I wonder what in the hell is happening. I myself have been in the past deemed a bitter, dark, angry, jealous, ugly, sister who has tried to bring a black man down. (My war with the Great Will Smith has been well documented).”

Please, read the article and post your comments. I’m curious to hear your thoughts about it.

Image found at: http://cdn.buzznet.com/media-cdn/jj1/headlines/2009/06/janet-hubert-slams-will-smith.jpg

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I’m kinky, you’re wavy, we’re all sisters, AND?


The hair typing schema has become quite popular amongst naturalistas. For those who don’t know, Andre Walker (Oprah Winfrey’s famed stylist) developed a hair typing schema to categorize hair texture. The types are:
Type 1: Straight hair, Type 2: Wavy hair, Type 3: Curly / Spirally hair, Type 4: Kinky/ Coily hair. Mr. Walker states that he developed the hair typing schema so that women could determine their hair type and thus decide the best way to care for their specific hair type (http://andresays.andrewalkerhair.com/). Note that Mr. Walker developed four broad hair types. Subsequently, there has been a proliferation of sub-hair types, specifically in the curlier categories. For example, according to this visual depiction, there are EIGHT sub-categories of type 4 hair. Woowwww. How did we go from one broad category to eight sub-types?

First, let me say that I think it’s important that women learn how to care for their particular hair type. As you know, I am on that journey myself. Second, I think that communities of understanding can develop around hair type (I know that I’ve scoured the internet for teeny, weeny afro and type 4 hair to get ideas about products, styles, etc.). Having said that, I wonder if this hair typing is beginning to resemble color typing?

We’ve talked about how straight or wavy hair is widely viewed as a beauty ideal and that kinky hair has been deemed less beautiful (or downright ugly according to some). Whenever a particular identity trait is considered less than ideal, it seems that we develop gradations of that trait, or that we make miniscule distinctions as a way to distance ourselves from the offensive trait. For example, I once blogged about colorism and how in Brazil there are 134 skin color gradations. Think I’m joking? See this: http://www.zonalatina.com/Zldata55.htm. Is it just me or is there something to this?

Skin color and hair are two key identity markers. In fact, during slavery some have argued that hair was a more significant marker of status than skin. In other words, you might have had white skin but if your hair was kinky, the gig was up.

I found this visual depiction of hair types and wonder what you all think about hair typing in general? What are the pros and cons?
Tomorrow: stay tuned for more about my visit to NY and immersion in the natural hair care industry!

Image found at: http://www.vissastudios.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/hairtypechart-1.jpg

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Diane Bailey of Tendrils Hair Spa

Image found at: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_qonK1wMwzu8/SZ712pRw2eI/AAAAAAAAAAY/UEpPuvJ04O4/S220/Diane+Bailey.jpg

Diane Bailey of Tendrils Hair Spa (http://www.tendrilshairspa.com/index2.html ) is a FORCE OF NATURE! Plain and simple. When Diane enters a room she brings both sparkle and depth. She is in the “45 to 65 range” though she looks much younger and recognizes that her good genes and healthy living have blessed her with a beautiful visage. Plus, she is indefatigable; during my two plus hour stay I don’t think I saw Diane sit down once (Diane, thanks for opening your shop to me!).

Needless to say, I had a fabulous visit. But the thing that I enjoyed most about visiting Tendrils was speaking with Diane, Carla and other stylists (and some clients!) about their passion for a natural hair lifestyle. That’s right, at Tendrils you quickly learn that these women believe that natural hair reflects a deeper commitment to a healthy lifestyle. I used the word “naturalista” and Diane replied that such lingo is in fact what leads some to believe that natural hair is a trend rather than a healthy choice. Hmm, something to think about? Do you think that words like naturalista or phrases like “the Big Chop” contribute to the perception that natural hair is a fad? Why or why not?

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Natural Hair Weekend: Interviews, Meet-up and Awards Show!


Image found at: http://t1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQX6jQyYvLporjZHJfOpdddxOh59j1z6zERqB1jjsRCWwg55wLlX0Jc07vi

Hello everyone!

My last post was a week ago today and SO MUCH has happened since then. Last Friday, I went to New York to immerse myself in the natural hair care industry. I interviewed such notable Brooklyn salon owners as Diane Bailey of Tendrils (http://www.tendrilshairspa.com/Mission.html) , Marlene Duperley of Doris New York, Inc. (http://www.dorisnewyork.com/) and Victoria J. of Victoria J. Natural Hair Salon (http://www.victoriajnaturalhairsalon.com/). Each of these women opened their salons or homes to me and graciously gave of their time to share their thoughts on the natural hair care industry.
I also attended a natural hair meet-up hosted by Darker than Brown (http://www.meetup.com/Darker-Than-Brown/) at a restaurant I’d never frequented (Vapiano’s! http://www.vapianointernational.com/vapiano/ the meet-up was at the University Blvd location, try the Cobb Salad YUMMY!).
Plus, I attended the Natural Hair Awards at the Brooklyn Museum. I am not one to be starstruck but I was in awe of seeing Amazon Smiley (Amazon Natural Essentials Salon & Spa), Anu Prestonia (Khamit Kinks), Diane Bailey (Tendrils Salon), Marsulette Walker (Madame Walker’s Braidery), Marion Council-George (Designer Braids & Trade), Nekhena Evans (New Bein’ Enterprises), Orin Saunders (Locks N’ Chops), Sheila Everette-Hale (Everette’s Cornrows), and Tulani Kinard (Tulani’s Regal Movement; yes, THAT Tulani Kinard of Sweet Honey in the Rock fame!). I’ll discuss each of them in turn in the coming days.
Talk about a wonderful time! When I got back home on Monday, my mind was whirling with possibilities and blog topics. I welcome your comments as I post about each of these phenomenal experiences!
  • The Master Pioneer Award

    Greetings Ms. OpieIt is truly a wonderful thing you are doing with regards to blogging about our industry. I am thrilled you had an opportunity to attend The Master Pioneer Award. I look forward to reading your upcoming blog on our honorees. Peace and Blessings in all of you do and your visionAnita Hill MosesThe Master Pioneer AwardExecutive Director

  • topie

    Hi Samara and Anita!Samara, I am having the videos edited but I will be sure to post once they are worthy of viewing. 🙂 Anita, you know that I think you are doing a FABULOUS job! Keep it up!Tina

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Keep it moving: wash and go for cute TWA

I am so excited to be in NY. The thing is I caught myself in the “hair worry” tent this morning. Why? I beautifully twisted and then twisted out my hair for my trip. Well, it got wet and I feel myself getting that familiar feeling of agita in my stomach because my hair is looking frizzy and unmaintenanced. Ugh.

To further complicate matters, I am booked to interview several natural hair stylists; scheduled to attend my first natural hair meet-up this evening; and, I plan to attend a Natural Hair Awards ceremony tomorrow (not to mention go to a friend’s wedding!). How in the world am I going to mingle with naturalistas with a jacked up head? The good thing is that I now quickly recognize when I’m being ridiculous.
My solution: wash and go this morning. When I start to stress over my hair I remind myself that I am empowered to take care of it and that is beautiful in its kinky, thick glory. Keep it moving Tina, keep it moving.
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