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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.


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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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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 ( 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: 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!

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Jiggaboos and Wannabes: An International Phenomenon?

Today I’m posting a comment that indicates that women around the world confront the tension between grooming and identity alteration. One of my mentors and friends, Stacy, recently traveled to India and sent in this comment:

Tina, thanks so much for starting this conversation. Like the other sisters on this email, I have been enjoying and appreciative of the reflections and discussions that you have been mothering on your blog.

The thing that I am struck by is that this issue of altering ourselves to fit societal norms of beauty is not just an issue that African American women face–other women of color are also dealing with this. During my last visit to India, I was struck by how many skin lightening products that I saw advertised–the prominence of these products. I asked Indian women if there were more of these products in recent years–for me, it seemed as if they had proliferated. The messaging had gone from a whisper to a roar–get as white as you can!!!!! Being there and seeing this progression made me think about our own journey in the US? It made me think of Spike Lee’s movie–School Daze and all of the issues in the black community. It made me think of Whoopi’s one woman show when she is walking across the stage with the shirt on her head talking about her long luxurious hair (I used to do that as a kid). It makes me think about the transformation of Jennifer Hudson. I am amazed at her weight loss and I celebrate her move to being more healthy and more present for her family and herself. I am also struck by the clothes and the hair and the imagery of what is beautiful. While our issues around skin color and hair and other manifestations of changing and denying aspects ourselves to be considered more “beautiful” are not so blatant as they were–we are not running around with paper bags overtly subjecting one another to the brown paper bag test, the issues are still there…in the background….every now and then moving from a whisper to a roar.

I hear you Stacy! I saw Whoopi’s stand up routine as well. That was also the one where she did the bit about the girl who sat in bleach trying to whiten her skin. You mentioned Spike Lee’s classic movie School Daze and I was able to find a clip of the amazing dance battle between Wannabes (a derogatory term for lighter skinned or longer haired women) and Jiggaboos (derogatory for darker-skinned and/or shorter haired women) (here’s the YouTube link: The interesting thing is that you will notice that there are some women who are categorized as Jiggaboos when they might be considered lighter skinned and some who are classified as Wannabes when they might be considered darker skinned. Man, this whole categorization process seems quite ARBITRARY!!! When, oh when, are we going to rise above this!? I’m hoping that the soon-to-be-released movie Dark Girls ( will shed some light on this issue (no pun intended!).

I agree with Stacy wholeheartedly that this scene could have very well been about women from Mexico, Brazil, Egypt, South Africa, China, England, the Caribbean, India, Australia, anywhere from all over the world. We are constantly labeling ourselves and others. And again I say (said in my preacher’s voice!), when are we going to get over this!? For those of you with international experience, do you have clips to movies, songs, books, etc. that illustrate these issues? I’d love to see them and share with the readers.

Thanks for being such thoughtful readers!

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Brazilian Blowout

Last night my husband and I watched a fascinating episode of Dr. Gates’ “Black in Latin America” on PBS ( episode focused on Brazil, specifically Salvador, Bahia.This city is the third largest in Brazil (behind São PauloandRio de Janeiro).Dr. Gates was drawn to investigate Salvador because upwards of 80% of the population has Black African heritage.This is not surprising because Brazil had the largest Atlantic Trade slave population in the world at a whopping FIVE MILLION SLAVES.This was ten times the number of slaves deposited onto the soil of the United States of America.

Given the high number of slaves, it was almost inevitable that there would be a lot of “race mixing” and the resulting rainbow hue of people.And with mixed race, you KNOW there are varying hair textures.I was thrilled when Dr. Gates visited a hair salon renowned for teaching women how to embrace their natural hair texture.This is in stark contrast to the famed hair treatment known as the “Brazilian Blowout” which is reputed to have originated in Brazil.The hair treatment is renowned for giving people shiny, bouncy, frizz-free hair and works best when applied to chemically treated hair according to this website:

But, STOP!Recent media coverage ( and suggests that the hair treatment contains formaldehyde which is hazardous to your health.Why would such an unsafe hair treatment have originated in Brazil? The above MSNBC article “Hazardous for Health?Roots of Brazilian Blowout” quotes Ms Eliza Larkin Nascimento[1] as saying, “There is a racist culture in Brazil, and one of its expressions is a beauty standard that values what is European.Discrimination in Brazil rides a lot on appearance — on facial features, on hair texture. Hair is a great focus, a great symbol”.

Wow, we are all sisters confronting many of the same issues.

[1] Ms. Nascimento is director of IPEAFRO (LOVE that “AFRO” is part of the acronym!) an organization that concentrates on Afro-Brazilian studies.

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