New Year's Eve 2007: We sat on the couch watching Beyonce perform. My beautiful 4 year old daughter turned to me and said,”Abba, I want hair like hers.”
Where I saw a powerful, self-possessed young black woman who could be a role model of sorts, Nola saw a girl with long straight hair that moved and swayed alluringly as she performed.
How to explain to my 4 year old that she should love her curly kinky hair as is, that she was perfect in every way, and that Bey’s hair was likely store bought? It was kinda early for that conversation and despite my powerful love, she was and would continue to be exposed to thousands of media images of black (and white) celebrities with ‘straight’ hair.
I flashed back to my own experience growing up in suburban New York. Despite our proximity to ‘the city’, the world outside my door was pretty Waspy. Being recent immigrants, we spoke a different language, ate different foods and as I was painfully aware — looked pretty different too. As a teen my curly, coarse hair would not conform to any version of the preppy look my peers were sporting. This was before styling products (and ATMs and cell phones —gasp). Think beepers lol. I found my best, and only options in the products that were obviously made for Black hair.
So what could I do? Short of a visit to Tina Knowles, imploring her to style Beyonce’s hair in its natural glory (no doubt landing me in jail or on TMZ at least) I vowed that the products I created would be amazing for hair like Nola’s (and mine), making it it’s shiny, softest best no matter how she decided to wear it.
I also swore to represent real men and women with the models that we use for Free Your Mane, people that looked their personal best rather than airbrushed and contoured dolls with ‘waterfall’ hair (you know that perfect moment you see on conditioner commercials).
These days I’m heartened to see thousands of Tori Kelly’s fans aspiring to her amazing crown of curls, other celebs like Viola Davis and Lupita Nyongo rock their natural hair and Instagram feeds like “Love Your Lines” where women celebrate the stretch marks and natural lines that come from growing and living and being a woman.
Fast forward — Nola is a tween and rocking braids, still a bit addicted I think to hair that moves and sways but maybe starting to see that there are other options and that they look pretty awesome and that she is beautiful inside and out, no matter how she decides to wear her hair.
Still, the Internets she and her peers spend so much time on, seem to thrive on shaming celebs that don’t live up to some impossible standard of perfection. This week Carrie Fisher tweeted in response to Internet trolls that criticized her appearance in the latest Star Wars installment, “Youth&BeautyR/NOT ACCOMPLISHMENTS,theyre theTEMPORARY happy/BiProducts/of Time&/or DNA.”
Carrie Fisher, you’re more beautiful at 59 than you ever were and I think I’d have a lot more fun having dinner with you than Kendall Jenner (who has over 45 million followers btw). But that’s just me. Aging is a privilege people! #agingisbeautiful My hope is we’ll come to prize the wisdom that comes with age more than we scoff at the lines it leaves on our faces.
Someday, maybe by the time Nola has her own daughter, ‘natural hair’, this obsession with youthful contoured perfection and a homogenized idea of beauty won’t even be conversations and we’ll have moved on to less superficial matters at hand.
Happy New Year everyone.