Hair As Identity Menu


Viola Davis Shines in Her Beauty

I am in tears.  Literally, I am tearing up as I read the reviews on the lovely Ms. Viola Davis’ SAG Awards appearance and win today.  See her acceptance speech here.

Ms. Davis is an incredible talent.  If you’ve ever seen her on the big or little screen, you will immediately notice how she breathes life into her characters, gives them grace and dignity even when they are not doing the most graceful or dignified things.

I am emotional because she not only won an award for her brilliant acting on “How to Get Away with Murder” but she has also been called a beauty on the red carpet.  I know, I know.  One shouldn’t care about external validation.  Well, if we’re honest with ourselves, most of us care…at least a little bit.  If you think you don’t, try walking outside naked to the grocery store.  Yeah, none of us are TOTALLY free of external validation.

So, it feels good to know that Viola Davis is called beautiful, that her natural hair is given its just do: it is stunning, regal, queenly, gorgeous.  And so is Ms. Davis.  Congratulations Ms. Davis!  I hope to meet you one day and tell you so in person.

21st Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards - Arrivals

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Tina featured on!

What an honor to be featured on  Antoniah Opiah is a force and I’m delighted that her organization wanted to chat with me.  You might remember that they beautifully executed the “You can touch my hair” campaign in New York!  Brilliant minds.  If you missed that, here is a link short film on the “You can touch my hair” campaign.


Here is a link to the feature article they just ran: interview with Tina Opie.  Please check out other features on the website.  Enjoy!



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Veiling: My Own Xenophobic Reactions

As you may know, I study hair as identity and while I typically write about hair itself, there are may other elements that relate to hair, the head and identity. For example, veiling.  I am quite ignorant about this topic but I picked up the book “What is veiling” by Sahar Amer to learn more.  Veiling refers to wearing a length of cloth to cover the head and shoulders and, sometimes, the face (Amer, 2014).  Here are different types of veils:


I’m going to reveal my own ignorance and say that many times when I see a veiled person (it’s usually a woman that I’ve seen), I immediately think she is either very religious or a very militant Muslim.  Yes, I admit it.  It is xenophobic, I’m not proud of it, but it is the truth.  I hope to always be authentic on this website and I encourage you to do the same.  Two caveats:  1) I’m working on it.  I’m not satisfied with thinking this way so I’m working to get better and have a broader, more inclusive mindset; 2) political correctness may enable us to “tolerate” each other but it will never lead to heart change and true understanding.  See “Rethinking political correctness” by Ely, Meyerson & Davidson (2006, Harvard Business Review).

Post 9/11, the pictures of women donning veils made me feel highly ambivalent.  On one hand, I recognize that many different peoples don veils.  In fact, the veil did not originate with Muslims, it originated in Ancient Mesopotamia in the 13th century BC (Amer, 2014).  Muslims, Jews and Christians alike don(ned) veils.  Apparently, the veil was used to distinguish married, chaste or concubined women from women who were prostitutes or considered morally loose.  It was considered dangerous for a women who should be wearing a veil to go without it or for a woman who shouldn’t be wearing a veil to dare wear it.  But, on the other hand, the media images of Muslim, women extremists, terrorists, donning veils and blowing themselves and others up had been seared into my mind.  It has become an implicit association, meaning a subconscious connection that I now draw between terrorism and the veil.

Can you relate?  Do you make this same implicit association?  Or, are you a Muslim woman who has been subjected to these ignorant associations?  Are you a Muslim woman who prefers not to veil because of the identity implications?  I would love to broach a measured conversation on this topic and explore how veiling impacts identity, especially in the workplace.

I look forward to hearing from you.

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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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New Hair Trend: Dyed Armpit Hair

This post may be a bit much for some, but here we go!  :)  Remember, the goal of is to explore hair and identity…hair in its many manifestations!

I recently learned of a process where people are dying their armpit hair.  In some instances, the armpit hair is being dyed so that it matches bright hues of head hair.  In other instances, the armpit hair alone is brightly dyed.  Here is a link about armpit hair dying:

Here are a few images from Tumblr (I chose pics with no face).  This might turn into a few days of posting because I first want to ask, what do you all think?  What was your immediate emotional response to the images?  Please provide your thoughts in the comments section.  Thanks!

armpit hair3-tumblr_my44nfJS0T1qjsfy7o1_500 armpit hair4-tumblr_n0wm3xKJDw1qbrnido1_500

  • Laquita

    Hmmm…interesting. I can imagine some women choose to dye their armpit hair (particularly those who use bold colors) to make a bold statement about what is generally accepted as beauty for women in this country. Why are women expected to shave their armpits? Who determined that shaved armpits should be the norm?

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Give people with red hair some love

red hair 330px-HH_the_Prince_Harry

Prince Harry

I had no idea that the term “ginger” was an offensive term for those with red hair.  Apparently, the term is used to ridicule entire populations of people who happen to have red hair.  They are sometimes considered targets, sexulized and bullied. Really, I had no idea.  I think it’s because as a Black woman, hair color has been much less of a discussion point for me than hair texture (sample from any of the past year’s blog posts and you’ll likely gain insight into hair texture).

red hair Elizabeth_I_when_a_Princess

Elizabeth I

Yet, hair color seems to be much more of a concern for non-Black people, especially White people.  I recall Chris Rock’s famous insight that White women seemed to be obsessed with blonde hair, with many White women dying their hair blonde.  So, I’d heard about the pursuit of blonde hair, but I’d never heard about the teasing that some may endure just because they have red hair.

I came across an article “Seeing red: why we need to be sensitive about using the word ‘ginger'” on (  I must admit that I cringed at the sexist references littered throughout the article but I tried my best to chew up the meat and spit out the bone (I hope that doesn’t offend my vegetarian readers!).  I’m curious to know what you all think about the article.

Did you know:

1) red hair is the rarest hair color?  Only 1% to 2% of the world population has red hair.

2) Scotland has the highest concentration of those with red hair? 13% have red hair and 40% have the recessive red hair gene.

3) Polynesians have a significant incidence of red hair?  In Polynesian culture, red hair is a mark of high ancestral descent.

4) The stereotype that people with red hair are “hot tempered” in part comes from 19th century work (i.e., Cesare Lombroso & Guglielmo Ferrero, see below for link) which associated red hair with lust crimes and asserted that almost half of women criminals had red hair.  Geez.

If you’re interested in this topic, here are a few links that educated me on this topic:

– Wiki on the history of red hair

– Wiki with famous list of red heads

– Duke University Press link to “Criminal Woman, the Prostitute, and the Normal Woman” by Lombroso & Ferrero

  • Amy Donovan

    Thanks! This rang true for me. I’m mainly Scottish, some English, Welsh and German. Both of my parents had dark red hair.
    In my experience people of all complexions make comments about white hair color. People pursue blond hair sometimes when they’re older but I heard a lot of “dumb and dirtzy blue eyed blond” comments and jokes until about age 30.

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LOVE: Black Women of Brazil Website

I recently came across a new website that made my heart sing:  This website shows me that women around the world are on a quest to embrace their natural hair, to stand up and speak out on what authenticity means to them.


Image found at

According to the website:

What is Black Women of Brazil?

“Black Women of Brazil is a photographic and informational blog featuring a diverse array of Brazilian Women of African descent. As much of the English speaking world is not familiar with the history of African descendants in Brazil, it also features news, essays, reports and interviews spanning an array of topics including race, racism, hair, affirmative action, police brutality, etc. intended to give a more complete view of  the experiences of black women in particular and black people in general in Brazil with a goal of provoking discussion through the lens of race.

Photos feature women who are models, singers, rappers, dancers, actresses as well as politicians, activists, journalists, athletes, etc.  and common everyday people from the República Federativa do Brasil (Federative Republic of Brazil). The women range the gamut of phenotypes in terms of skin color, hair texture and facial features.”

I plan to learn more about this website and feature it going forward.  What do you think?  Do you know of other websites around the world that promote authenticity, natural hair, etc.?  If so, please let me know.


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Black Women POWERFUL Consumers: How Will We Use This Power?

Black women of Brazil

Check out to find more stunning images like this one.


Black women are POWERFUL.  If you’re like me, you didn’t need to be told this, all I have to do is look at my own Mom to know that.  Working full time; keeping a house TOGETHER (old school style like you can SERIOUSLY eat off of her floors; don’t try that in my house); with my Dad raising strong daughters; cooking amazing meals (people put in special requests weeks in advance), all while looking fly.  Plus, my Mom worked in an environment where she may have been initially viewed as “just an assistant” but quickly rose to be viewed as one of the most valuable employees at IBM.  Her strong work ethic, sheer smarts and ability to read people (both understand them and put them in check if need be) made her someone folks wanted on their team.  She’s retired now but still the woman I call when I need sage advice.

Ok, I digress.  That Black women are powerful was underscored in a recent Black Enterprise article citing a Nielsen report that found that Black women wield tremendous consumer power.  Black women, what will we do with this power?  How can we wisely use our money to help make the world safer for our families, children, communities?  Do you have any tips that you can share?

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“Among the key takeaways is the fact that many African American women are greatly influenced by their culture and community. Roughly 62% of black women believe embracing and supporting their culture is important. Furthermore, about 59% feel a strong obligation to support minority businesses.

“Black women are one of the most powerful consumers because they are three times as likely to be the head of household than any other minority culture,” saysTarra Jackson (also known as Madam Money), a money expert who specializes in economic empowerment. “Marketers should pay attention to African American women because they control over 50% of the annual adult black purchasing and spending power,” Jackson continues.

Here is a link to the full article:

We can send a clear message to the world.  For example, when it comes to natural hair, many women ask me how I find products and lament the dearth of available products once you leave major metropolitan areas.  Ladies, you have a voice, it’s green and folds. Make yourself heard.  Nielsen underscores that companies will listen.

  • Petra Lewis

    That thought on that old adage had a typo. I meant to write: “What do Black people buy?–whatever we put on the shelves…”

  • Tina Opie

    Hey Petra! I LOVE your comments! Thanks so much for your comments! I’m trying to build the brand and nothing speaks like readers, comments, etc. I love the idea of saying, “Whatever WE put on the shelves” in response to the question, “What do Black people buy”. People try to make it seem like we’re being racist when we say that but don’t even bat an eye when other communities do exactly that. It’s not about hating others it’s about supporting yourself. Amen and amen

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Andre Walker Shares 8 Natural Hair Commandments

Andre Walker is the  Love him or not, he’s an Emmy-award winning genius who has his own hair care line.  He’s credited with the hair typing system (if you refer to hair as 4b or 3a, you have his original typing system to thank).  He also famously styled Oprah Winfrey’s fabulously fluffy and healthy hair for her show.

Andre Walker

So, when Mr. Walker shares natural hair commandments, I take notice.  Here are the tips as shared at

Shampoo and Condition More Often
There are many schools of thought when it comes to how often you should wash your hair. Walker believes for those with dry hair, the more the better. “Many people think that dry hair should not be washed too often, but that is incorrect,” he explains. “Dry hair needs moisture, water is moisture. Use water and highly moisturizing products to deliver moisture to your hair.”

Rinse Shampoo Thoroughly
Rinse for an extra minute or two in the shower to make sure you get all the shampoo out of your hair. This will leave you with less frizz and extra shine.

Condition From Roots to Tips
Make sure to get conditioner on your whole entire head. Leave on for a few minutes before you rinse to lock in the moisture.

Related: Why Can’t a Black Woman Have a Perfect Bedhead?

Deep Condition
During the dry winter months, deep conditioning treatments are essential to combat breakage and frizz. If you can’t make it to the salon, you can easily do a DIY version at home. Simply shampoo your hair and rinse it out with hot water, then add a conditioner throughout. Dampen a towel with hot water, ring out the excess, and wrap it around your head. Place a shower cap over the towel to lock in the heat and keep things in place. Once the towel gets cool, soak it again and rewrap. Do this for 15 to 30 minutes.

Do Not Brush
When styling natural hair, Walker says it’s best not to disturb the curl pattern as it dries. Brushing, combing, even touching your hair will cause frizz.

Go to Bed With a Ponytail
If you want to keep frizz at bay, don’t wear your hair down when you sleep. Lying on your curls will cause them to frizz and straighten out. Instead, Walker suggests loosely pulling all of your hair into a pony at the center of your crown.

Related: Why I Stopped Relaxing My Hair

Sleep on Silk
Cotton pillowcases absorb moisture and will dry your hair out and cause breakage. Switch to silk or satin and you’ll keep the moisture in your hair (and feel that much more luxurious).

Get Misty
To freshen up kinks, curls, or waves that may have drooped or frizzed when you don’t have time to shampoo and condition, mist your hair lightly with water (be careful not to saturate it too much) and add a small amount of styling product and Argan oil.



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