The words we use to describe our hair are so loaded with significance and so often lead to complex, thorny issues.
I try to choose my words carefully, but even still, sometimes I get tripped up in what’s acceptable and what can be offensive. I personally don’t care for, and consequently don’t use “nappy.” But I do use “kinky,” and “coily.” And I’ve been called out in the past for describing natural hair as “curly.”
But the fact is, not all natural hair is curly. And if you do decide to go natural, you shouldn’t necessarily expect your hair to be curly, or to look a certain way.
When I first started this blog, I did it to reinforce my belief that all textures of natural hair and all shades of black skin are just as beautiful as the mainstream ideals I felt bombarded with in magazines.
But now, curly haired women are becoming an advertising norm. Think of how many commercials you’ve seen featuring a beautiful, smiling afrobella with a lush head of curls lately. Curls have become common sightings. But, as a fascinating Racialicious article, Are Curls The New Straight Hair? by Carolina Asuquo-Brown, points out — it’s a certain kind of curl. The kind you see in the photo above.
Asuquo-Brown’s article takes a fresh, international angle on the issue. The author resides in Germany, where curly hair has become ubiquitous. It all began when she was flipping through a magazine with her friend, and they came upon an image of “an obviously biracial black/white model sporting a huge curly ‘fro.”
“the model’s medium-length curls were something I really considered desirable. The hairstyle did strike a chord with me, but my friend Jen, who has two African parents, is many a shade darker than I am and has shiny and fantastically healthy-looking relaxed tresses (which I have never managed to obtain) was a lot less enthusiastic about the model’s look.
“That’s something mixed girls get away with” she said, “They can get their hair to look like that – I couldn’t. I feel that curls are something like the latest fetish – it’s like there are black girls with great curls all around, advertisement, movies, magazines. And lately it has become a bit like what straight hair used to be-you’ve got to have it.”
It had never occurred to me, but speaking to Jen, I realised that she might be right. Over the next weeks everywhere I looked, be it the streets of my city or most of he few female black German TV-presenters – it really seemed that nowadays the fly mixed or black girl hast to have curls. Generous, semi-loose curls that is, tight enough to give you the volume but loose enough to be considered beautiful in a more mainstream way.
Suddenly I noticed that there were other mixed women like myself sporting curls and curly fros, short or big hair and that black girls with curls really seemed a growing trend in German cities. I also realised that hardly any women with tightly coiled hair, like Jen’s, wore their hair out or natural.
“That’s because of the pressure to have hair that at least gets near the look of ‘typical’ mixed race curls,” Jen complained and I feel that she definitely has a point.
The new trend that I and many other women of color have happily embraced seems to have it’s downside.
Obtaining a certain look hair seems to be almost as pressurising as it was to have bone straight hair back in the day. Only now curly hair is the new straight hair.”
You really should click here and read it yourself, I thought it gave a very interesting insight to German culture, and to an experience that’s happened to me many times. The “you can go natural but I can’t” experience.
If I had a dollar for everytime someone told me that… I wouldn’t need to work so frickin’ hard.
I love to see natural hair in all its diverse and beautiful forms, from loose spirals to tight z shaped kinks, dense and thick to silky and sproingy. Every time I’ve been told by a bella on the street “I love your hair! But I can’t go natural because my hair isn’t like that,” I take the time to let them know:
a. I once thought the same of my hair and honestly didn’t know what my texture would be until I gave it time myself, and
b. the point of going natural isn’t to achieve a certain look — or at least that SHOULDN’T be the point. The point is to embrace your hair as it grows from your head, to keep it healthy and strong, and to learn to work with it in a way that’s relatively stress free and enjoyable.
I think hair should be an extension of your personality. An expression of self. So I always want my hair to be happy, healthy, a little wild, and free. Just like I always want to be.
Having said that, I completely see where the author of the Racialicious post is coming from. Sometimes I look around the natural world and it seems some of these styling methods and products require way too much work — which is one of the things that drove me away from chemicals in the first place.
Sometimes it seems like the natural standard bearers serve to reinforce the same standard of beauty we’ve so often criticized, and tried to move away from. In the comments on that Racialicious post, Tami of What Tami Said referred to it as a “nappy hierarchy” — an expression that’s funny, sad, and true. Then there’s the system of hair typing, which so many natural haired women have taken issue with. With valid reason.
But then this begs the question, what next? I see the ubiquity of curly natural hair in the media as a step in a more inclusive direction. A baby step, but a step nonetheless. In the three brief years that I’ve been blogging, I’ve already noticed a change. Will this continue and grow to include bellas of all shades and textures of beautiful? Only time will tell, but I have a good feeling. And the more we blog, share photos, and celebrate each other as beautiful, unique, and worthy of respect and admiration, the better it will be.
I would sincerely love to hear what you Afrobella readers think about the curly conundrum, and what we as a community of beautiful, intelligent, natural haired women can do about it.