Embracing African American Hair

Chat queen Oprah Winfrey’s recent appearance on the cover of O magazine with natural hair and the controversy surrounding Olympian gold medalist Gabby Douglas has reignited the debate about African American hair.

Most African American women go through agonies trying to get their thick, curly, frizzy hair to conform to the Caucasian ideal of “good hair”. Because of this, black women constantly feel pressure to straighten, relax and tame their hair into what is considered beautiful and acceptable.


The Gabby Douglas hair debate

16 year old Gabby Douglas won a gymnastics gold for her country a few days ago, an unprecedented feat. Rather than lauding and celebrating her record setting win, many chose to criticize her for her hair – it was not straightened, not relaxed and simply bundled up and out of the way in a practical little ponytail.

Though many chose to complain about her hair, what is heartening is the number of people who came out in condemnation of those who concentrated on the athlete’s hair rather than her stellar achievements.

Social networks like Twitter bristled with comments from those who spoke about the irrelevancy of criticizing a star athlete’s hair because it looked the way it was supposed to. Perhaps this controversy marks a welcome shift in attitude to African American hair so that women don’t feel as compelled to subject their hair to harmful chemical treatments to get rid of the kinks and the curls.

Oprah’s natural hair do

Over the years we have seen chat show queen Oprah Winfrey in various different hair avatars and now finally she has appeared on the cover of O Magazine in a natural ‘do’; sans relaxers, sans straighteners.  She is seen with natural hair of a texture that it was meant to be. She says it makes her feel “unencumbered” and it makes her look younger too!

This is being seen by many as a return to natural looking hair which embraces one’s natural racial characteristics and celebrates them. Perhaps this helps to lessen the pressure that so many black women feel to try and emulate the ‘ideal’ of long, straight hair.

Women who are tired of putting harmful and damaging chemicals in their hair are taking the time to salute these women who have made a statement with their natural hair.


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