Hair As Identity Menu


I’m baaaccck and so is my hair

Hello everyone,

In my last post, I mentioned that my hair was quite damaged from a flat iron.  I usually don’t use much heat in my hair, but I decided to get a blow-out, trim and a flat-ironed style. I loved the style!

Tina- flat iron fiasco

BUT, when I washed my hair, it wouldn’t return to its natural, kinky glory.  My hair would simply NOT curl on the ends.  Since then, I have been on the hunt for a Boston stylist who is also a trained barber.  Well, thanks to a recommendation (thanks Tiffany!), I found him!  My hair is now in a feminine, modified mohawk.


Tina Mohawk


Well, I’m choosing to look at this as the glass half full: I have a healthy head of hair and a fresh summer cut!  🙂  Have you ever suffered from heat damage?  What did you do to rectify the situation?

  • Tina Opie

    Thanks for sharing Laquita! I learned my lesson!

  • Petra Lewis

    Hi Tina: I have a very strict no-heat policy on my hair. As you know, my hair curls naturally. In the past I’ve had people tell me I can safely use a diffuser on a blow dryer to dry my hair, etc., etc. FALSE! I have the kind of hair where any heat means GAME OVER. I will never have perfect spirals on that batch of hair again–I would literally have to start over in growing it out, and be totally miserable in the interim. Soooooo not worth it. That’s why I don’t mess with heat anymore–and I’m happier for it! : ) #hairpeace Postscript: I was looking at a video recently on naturals wearing crochet weaves (totally foreign territory for me), and see that the women were flat ironing their natural hair to get it to match the weave hair. Totally counterintuitive, and inviting trouble as a protective style!

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Hair Damage! Watch those flat irons ladies!

Welp, I did it.  Made the BIG mistake that I’ve managed to avoid for almost 20 years: damaged my hair with heat.  I recently got a blow out, flat iron and trim.  My hair stayed that way for about three weeks.  This morning I washed it and lo and behold…there were MANY sections with bone straight ends.


This is not me but it shows what happened to my ends. They will NOT return to their natural, kinky state.


Stay tuned as I’ll share some hair care insights and tips from Ms. Giovan Lane, a wicked smart scientist who is the founder and product designer of cinagrOrganic LLC (

  • v

    Hey my hair is exactly like this and i really hate it. I have to chemically straighten it for like 2 times in a year and thus damaging my hair very badly! now i’m just sick of it and i don’t know what to do 🙁

    • Tina Opie

      Hi Elizabeth, Just seeing your comment! First, I encourage you to embrace your hair. It took me a minute, but I haven’t looked back since. Second, do you have any friends who you can swap styles, websites, etc. with? The community has been invaluable to me! Please keep us posted as you try different things! Thanks!

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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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