Oprah And Good Hair

** originally posted on BV Hair Talk.

Oprah with an afro

Oprah with an afro

My favorite part of this week’s much-talked-about episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show where Chris Rock and Solange Knowles talked about Good Hair? That one photo of Oprah back in the Eighties. The one Chris Rock referred to as “the mean news.” Oprah had the fro that dreams are made of! Round, solid, like the Jackson 5 back in the day. That was a fro with power.

I saw Oprah’s Good Hair episode a day late — by the time I watched it, my friends on Twitter and Facebook had basically recapped the whole thing sentence by sentence online. But still, I watched and was pleasantly surprised. In my opinion, Oprah’s hair episode was ten times better than Tyra’s — because she made sure to have balance. Oprah talked about relaxers, she revealed her hair history (and Chris Rock’s!), she was inclusive and featured white women and their own hair struggles (Ali Wentworth’s segment on being blonde was HILARIOUS!). Oprah’s episode was more well rounded in the sense that she attempted to effectively explain the similarities, while still recognizing the enormous differences between black and white hair.

But there was still some points raised that left me scratching my head.

At one point, Chris Rock declares that “women relax their hair for other women, because men don’t care about hair.” Then he goes on and on about when he’s dated Asian and white women in the past, how his hands have been thirsty, and he’s enjoyed running his fingers through their hair. So… which is it? Pick one and stick with it, Chris. In my experience, men DO care about hair. They just try to convince you that they don’t. They may not notice if you subtly change your style. But in general — and in my experience — men will express anguish if you start talking about cutting your hair off, or changing the style dramatically.

Forget kids, Chris Rock will say the darndest things. And he got Oprah to laugh at the craziest stuff. “That’s when you were a slave, huh?” he said about her childhood photograph. “That’s when you were hanging out with Anita Hill!” he said of another. And Oprah laughed and laughed. A little too hard, almost… but I bought it. Hats off to Oprah for befriending a comedian who we all have seen make jokes about her love life. “That lucky Stedman!”

Oprah and Chris Rock talk Good Hair

Oprah and Chris Rock talk Good Hair

I bet this Oprah episode was a wake up call for women who haven’t yet educated themselves about their hair, or who haven’t really thought about the reasons they may choose the styles that they do, or question the pain they put themselves through in the name of hair. Certain key points seemed to really resonate with the audience — the declaration that black hair is a 9 billion dollar industry, that Solange Knowles used to spend more than I ever made in a year on weaves and extensions alone, and that little kids are suffering from self esteem problems because of this madness. I absolutely loved the story of the family from Pasadena who Skyped in — Rolondo, Vanessa, and Raven. The mother cut off her hair to better identify with her three year old daughter, who was already struggling with not feeling as pretty as her classmates because of the texture of her natural hair. I thought that was a lovely story. And maybe it’s all in my head, but it seemed a little pointed when Oprah said to the mother “so you cut your hair off. And Chris…made a movie.” It made me wish Malaak Compton-Rock was on the set, just to add in her two cents to the whole Good Hair discussion.

Chris Rock’s Good Hair has already been getting huge buzz, but Oprah just set this film up for even bigger success when it opens October 9. I look forward to going to the theater on opening night, so I can experience it with the rest of America. How will this movie perform at the box office? Will Good Hair start a revolution? Will it lead women to change the way they look at, and consequently treat their hair? Only time will tell, I suppose.

What did you think?

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Comments

  1. So far, most of what I’ve seen about the movie is about relaxers and weaves. I’m curious to see if he will have even one segment of women with natural hair. I hope so…

    All in all, Chris’ bigger gripe seems to be with the esteem issues associated with hair, rather than the processed v. natural hair debate. In some ways, I’m glad he approaches it that way. The issue is so multi-faceted, no one movie or show can ever do it justice. But at least now we as women (of all colors) can ask ourselves aloud, “Will I allow my outer appearance to enhance me or define me?”

    And yeah… O’s ‘fro was fierce! Love it!

  2. i didnt appreciate Chris Rock’s bad jokes, i thought a lot of them were in poor taste. also, i think you’re right… he was completely in denial about how men CONTRIBUTE to black women’s hair self esteem issues!

  3. Guys care about hair. Black men care about hair. And yes, they *do* make fun of naturally curly black hair. I don’t mean big spiral giant curls, but tightly coiled hair.

    All it shows me is that they have issues too about their own hair and just feel lucky enough that they can go short without the social consequences. I still get made fun of for my hair, depending on the audience.

    We don’t make ourselves feel ashamed about our natural hair. That’s something the world puts on us.

  4. On the aftershow Oprah said that at one point she wanted to cut all her hair off because she felt like Solange. She didn’t want to be a slave to her hair and she told Bill Cosby what she wanted to do and he told her not to because she doesn’t have the head for it.

  5. I’m thinking I just really don’t like Solange. Something about her just doesn’t sit right with me. Let me explain it real quick. I didn’t see the episode, just some clips on some other blogs. When Solange comes out she tells Oprah she’s had a relaxer since the age of 4. Then later on she says her mother/parents had always made it a point to not deal in the “good hair” debate, not allowing her to use those words. It seems a little sideways or I can’t come up with the word but it just doesn’t sit right with me that someone who says good hair is healthy hair(Tina Knowles) would put a relaxer on a 4 year old.

  6. “But there was still some points raised that left me scratching my head.

    At one point, Chris Rock declares that “women relax their hair for other women, because men don’t care about hair.” Then he goes on and on about when he’s dates Asian and white women in the past, how his hands have been thirsty, and he’s enjoyed running his fingers through their hair. So… which is it? Pick one and stick with it, Chris. In my experience, men DO care about hair. They just try to convince you that they don’t. They may not notice if you subtly change your style. But in general — and in my experience — men will express anguish if you start talking about cutting your hair off, or changing the style dramatically.”

    *Thank you and goodnight!*

  7. A few things;
    1.Oprah making it a point to let people know that was her hair and not aa weave bugged for some reason and I’m not aure why.

    2.The elephant in the room- Malak Compton-Rock wears a weave, no?

    3. I found out that Phyto has been inundated with calls asking about their perm after finding out that Oprah uses that brand of perm.

    I’m still reserving judgement until I see the film, and yes, Oprah did a better job of covering this than Tyra, but I still feel like this missed the mark a bit.

  8. naadiihead says:

    check out how even kourtney kardashian goes to the black hair salon to get her weave tightened!

    http://sandrarose.com/2009/10/02/kourtney-kardashian-gets-extensions/

  9. Tina Knowles was a hairdresser. I have no doubt she put a relaxer in her 4 year old’s head. If she saw nothing wrong with relaxers (and probably still doesn’t) and felt she was a professional who could deal with them, why wouldn’t she? It was in her professional best interest not to alienate any clientele by making distinctions between “good” hair and “bad” hair, so I can see how that would happen.

  10. OneBrownSnowPea says:

    Chris Rock made some contradictory statements. I remember how Chris looked at Solange when she came out with her short hair. I thought “oh boy, he doesn’t like it”, but lo and behold he said she looks pretty in a unique way. I can accept that statement. How ever, why is typical beauty white beauty. I think we need to to realize that there are many different types of beauty. But to too many people for so long equate whiteness with beauty.

  11. I agree, Chris Rock did contradict himself with his statements, but I’m thinking it had more to do with the comedic theme of the show, his attempt at making a joke about his hands being thirsty, trying to make the audience laugh & become more comfortable with the topic, it just kind of foiled his intitial statement.

    His comment about Black men not caring so much about hair…Yeeaaahhh. I’m not buying it even it was wrapped in gold! My father was one of the first in my life to comment about my natural hair after I BC’d…and his comments were none to nice, in fact his clever idea was just to ignore me.Shame really. But in the end I don’t need Chris Rock to tell me what I already know, what I’ve come to expereience over the years.

    Regardless though, I enjoyed the show, I loved taking a look back over Ms. O’s pics of hair…it should reminds us all that it’s okay to go through different stages with our hair…DO YOU essentially, authenticity is a beautiful, attractive thing!

  12. If you read the comments on Oprah’s messageboard and many urban messageboards across the net,(especially Joy Bryant’s blog on Essence) then you will learn that this whole hair movement is bunch of bs…there were comments on Oprah’s board that made me want to cry…the women felt the show justified the way they thought…

    I just don’t see how anyone can think Chris Rock of all people could bring an ounce of positivity to this discussion…as what’s been stated before look at the comments he made about black women’s hair…when refering to Oprah’s hair now then he said that was good jlo hair (nevermind jlo wears wigs and weaves 90% of the time herself)…I’m just getting disgusted by this whole thing…

  13. Julia Chance says:

    Is there a way to few past Oprah episodes on line? I missed this, and she doesn’t rebroadcast on her site.

  14. The fact that Tina K. as a hair dresser put the relaxer on her own 4 year old makes me think much less of her.

    The problem I have is that even as a professional your four year old doesn’t have “healthy hair” once you put in a relaxer.

  15. that whole “Black men don’t care about hair” is total BS. We’ve all witnessed black men making a fuss of the girls with long wavy hair. We’ve all experienced negative comments about short or kinky hair. Tell a black man you plan on cutting your hair or transitioning to natural and more often than not he will discourage you.

  16. I know black men care about hair. This guy I was dating as a freshman told me I needed to stop wearing my hair in a ponytail and do something with it. My cousin goes on and on about how he likes women with long hair. My ex said he preferred my hair natural. So yes black men care about hair.

  17. A comedian doing a doc on Black hair? Well I guess our hair is a joke right? I mean I see those White people at sporting events wearing those afro wigs because our hair is just so darn funny right.

  18. Have you ever observed that many black women’s hair looks dramatically different from their (very) young daughters’?

    If not, exceptions aside, I’d like to suggest you pay close attention to all the mother-young daughter pairings you see at the next multi-racial/multi-ethnic event you attend.

    In other groups, on average, Mom’s hair is very similar to Daughter’s hair, at least as far as texture goes. But it’s often very different with us.

    Malaak Compton-Rock’s hair doesn’t look like her beautiful daughters’ hair, so why wouldn’t the children aspire to have something else?

  19. It appears most people actually respect and admire Oprah’s Afro. But then most of the comments here by black ladies make it seem like most people degrade Afros.
    I think it shows more confidence to be proud of what you have than trying to secretly change and appear like it’s different. I’m not really against hair doos and artistic expression but at the same time you should enjoy being your true self in a manegeable way because there will be times you won’t have all the conditioners available to make it appear differently.
    By and large I notice girls with afros get positiveley noticed for their striking appearance and are able to style their hair in some fascinating natural ways.
    Power to the Fros and all the other natural looks.

  20. I like Chris but when he said men didn’t care about hair, I definitely looked at him sideways. My bigger issue is that Chris leaves you (the audience) with the impression that every Black women has worn or is currently wearing a weave. When he talked about running his hair through Asian and White women’s hair, I thought, has he never in his life met a Black women without a weave? Not every Black woman wears a weave. I did like that the show also looked at White women’s hair issues also. Its not just us.

  21. I’ve already watched the movie at the Toronto Film Festival, so I have a different perspective on Oprah’s recap.

    Here are my thoughts:

    1. I was annoyed that Oprah kept saying that the good hair syndrome was something that “black Americans” experience. Hell, I’m Canadian and I know we struggle with that issue over here too. And I’ll bet this issue is something that black women the world over struggle with.

    2. Thanks for bringing up Malaak. After watching the movie, that’s what I said to my friends. I think it would have been great if she weighed in on the issue, otherwise it’s like the pink elephant in the room that no one wants to address.

    3. I thought it was interesting that Solange said she’s glad that she liberated herself from weaves, yet she added a disclaimer that foreshadowed she may change her mind in the future. Hmmm…

    All in all, you are correct, it was a much more organized show than Tyra’s big reveal.

  22. Men do care about hair! The last guy I went out with asked if I ever had my hair long (it is about 2 inches and natural) and that he likes long hair. I told him I have worn it long but don’t any longer and won’t anytime soon. The way I see it is if he liked me enough to ask me out with my short hair, it should be an issue.

    I’m looking forward to the movie but I’m also so happy to have my short, non-relaxed but dyed hair. it’s exactly what I want.

  23. Oh, hell yeah—men DO care about your hair texture. I remember a long ago boyfriend, who bitched and moaned about my short natural hair, so I grew it out and relaxed it. Darned if he didn’t cheat on me right around that time. I forgave him (somewhat) and took him back, but he came back to a woman who had marched back to the hair salon and went back to her short natural hair and I dared him to say a dang thing about it. He’s no longer in my life, but I will never again let a man coerce me into perming my hair.

    By the way, I did love Oprah’s show.

  24. kellygirl says:

    I don’t think it’s just black men caring about black women’s hair. I’m married to a white man and over the 13 years we’ve been together he’s helped put perms in my hair(when i was too broke to go to the hairdresser) and helped take braids out.

    He’s said a few times that me going natural or cutting all my hair off freaks him out. Our two girls have beautiful natural hair and I don’t even contemplate a relaxer for them(no matter what comments we get on how thick it is and a relaxer would ‘tame’ all of it).

    My eight year old has already made comments about wanting straight hair and I know me getting relaxers doesn’t help prove to her how beautiful her own hair is.

    I’m seriously considering going natural after having perms, jheri curls and braids for 23 years.

    It’s a lot to contemplate and scary because I was taught that my hair is my crowning glory and it should always be a certain way which is the permed way. I am interested in seeing my hair in its natural form since I don’t even remember how it looked.

    As for the hubby? Whatever I do, he’ll be fine and love me no matter what.

  25. I love it when natural hair gets any kind of airtime! Regardless of the content-as long as theirs some light shed..it’s all a continuum that will lead to more becoming aware of the beauty that resides behind the lye.

  26. @ Julia Chance – I found the entire episode here http://rapradar.com/2009/09/30/chris-rock-on-the-oprah-winfrey-show/#more-5172

  27. @cheleski
    “beauty…behind the lye” now I’d like to see a movie with that title, and that angle. (yes we know today’s relaxers are no-lye)

    @dgh
    I think that’s a VERY good point and an interesting observation. No wonder our girls aspire towards the inevitable perm since they’re being lead by their first and most influential role-models.

    As far as white women, and even most hispanics (i.e. Jlo) wearing weaves..I think that we’re still missing the point. Why do we think that it’s such a “little known fact” that they do and have been for years? It’s because the texture of the weaves IS SO VERY CLOSE to their own. What black woman has ever sewn additional kinky hair into her hair to “fill it out”? I think the issue with black women’s hair is texture 1st, length 2nd. We’re the only women who predominately change the TEXTURE of our hair.

    It’s one thing to have SOME women wearing relaxers or even weaves for style, but since we’ve gottent to the point where it’s actually “out of the norm” to NOT have a perm (since age 7-8 or possibly younger)…and where black women don’t even know how to care for the hair TEXTURE that God put on our heads without chemically altering it…then that’s a PROBLEM.

  28. I meant to write “gotten” above.

    But I also wanted to add that maybe if more black women wore their hair in its “natural” state then maybe the manufacturers would take their money out of the relaxers and take time to put out products to help care and maintain our natural hair. hmmmmm..

    Plus don’t people know it takes more MONEY to care for relaxed hair. If you go too long without that needed “touch-up” your hair (or your child’s hair) will begin to break off. Now without the chemicals, all it’ll take is a little time ( & maybe $1.50 jar of bergamot) to moisturize the hair and keep it healthy until you can afford a deep conditioner or hot oil treatment. This is how/why women become SLAVES to the relaxer.

    Finally, we’ve all heard the excuse/ the MYTHS that it’s too hard to manage natural hair…and it’s so much easier to style straight hair. Maybe if a few more women wore natural hairstyles, it would be easier to find inspiration and ideas when we walked out the door.

  29. I saw the Oprah show, but not the Tyra Banks one so I can not compare. I am not sure whether the show will start a revolution but I am noticing that Newsweek Human Condition has dedicated this week as “Good Hair Week”, complete with an interview with Chris Rock on Friday. I am looking forward to seeing the film.

  30. *stands up and applauds NLSmith*

    On Nappturality someone who saw the movie put it very well (paraphrasing): Chris Rock reveals the baggage, but he doesn’t UNPACK it. Meaning: He doesn’t go into detail on WHY black women did and do what they did and do. And with all the time spent on relaxers vs. weave, the third way (natural hair) is barely discussed.

    Not like this movie’s coming to Iowa any time soon, but I’m probably going to wait for the DVD. If it’s still showing when I visit Chicago next month, then maybe I’ll see it then.

    OT: Bella, you got your winter coat yet? lol

  31. Sigh. I wasn’t too impressed with this Oprah show. Maybe b/c I had to answer one too many questions about black culture during high school, but I just hate Black People 101 lessons. I’m glad to see that there is a discussion about the billions of dollars black women spend on hair, but this show never even mentioned why some (not all) black women feel compelled to relax and weave. I would have been happy with a brief mention of our hair history. I was almost turned off by Chris’ obsession with Oprah’s hair. Did anyone else catch how he said he wanted to see where weave hair came from since his daughters would eventually be wearing weaves? And that slave comment got many eyerolls from me. Oprah’s picture looked like many black women’s kindergarten pictures.

    I’m still going to see the movie this weekend if I decide to drop my Finance class, but I’m not as interested as I was before.

  32. I’m still going to see the movie this weekend if I decide to drop my Finance class, but I’m not as interested as I was before.

  33. I cant wait until this movie comes out and Oprah’s hair is to die for I need to find out what she is using

  34. cocofiere says:

    Oprah was better than Tyra’s foolishness but are any of us surprised by that, really? LOL

    @Lee–I was thinking the SAME thing! I’ve never worn or thought about a weave & am a lifetime natural but I’m NOT an anomaly. There are lots or sisters like me. There ARE some “new naturals” who were once hooked on the relaxers/hot irons/etc. and those who have had weaves/pieces but to generalize and say ALL Black women have or have had relaxers and/or weave was simply ignorant. I also gave him the side-eye regarding his dating other races and being able to run his hands through their straight hair. Maybe he’s frustrated since he can’t get his hands through his wife’s weave (which likely caused part of his daughter’s insecurity). We come in all shades of Blackness and hair textures (straight, wavy, loose curly, and tight curly, kinky, thick, fine, long, medium, and short) and it bugs me that so many don’t get or acknowledge that fact. Maybe if people made themselves aware, they’d be less afraid/hesitant about being their natural selves and it could stop being a big deal.

  35. cocofiere says:

    I meant “of” sisters not “or”–was typing TOO fast. :P

  36. Did Chris Rock travel to the NW? If so, he would have discovered that the rain causes most black women to loose their minds. We perm and weave until we are “accepted” in our predominately white environment.

    As for me, my natural transition began this summer. I was frustrated trying to maintain my hair after excercising. It was expensive!I was forced to reevaluating my expenditures and my reason for staying in bondage.

    Now, I am free!!! The greatest lesson Ive learned is Self Acceptance. Wearing my hair natural gives me a certain boldness. Chris Rock’s movie may not address the causes to secretly desiring “Good Hair”. But, I hope it will cause women to evaluate their perception of beauty, and the choices they make to achieve the “ideal” fantasy.

  37. @NLSmith I agree with most of your comments but I think its unfair to speak for every woman and their reasons for wearing weaves. True, other races wear “extensions” that closely match the texture of their hair. But these other races also spend tons of money on flat irons, potions and lotions, and chemical alterations to straighten curly and wavy hair, creating a pin straight sleek look. Furthermore, kinky afro textures are becoming more and more popular weave options. Many women want the option of rocking that fabulous fierce fro look but don’t want to be stuck to it.

  38. Ladies please take heed…
    “No one can make you feel a certain way about yourself. In order to be truly loved, you MUST first love yourself. You will never know real love until the love you give others you turn within.”

  39. I didn’t see the show but am watching today’s episode and curious about it. I googled and found this very good blog. Did Oprah have any Hispanic women on? We have our own unique hair issues too.

  40. Yes, CHRIS’ wife and her weave, just like JADA PINKETT SMITH and HER weave, are glaringly missed in this movie (which I haven’t seen yet) and DEFINITELY caused a good part of the ROCK gals envy, as well as young WILLOW SMITH probably too. I wonder IF Chris DID approach the subject with his better half, and if he ever thought she was ‘all natural’ or knew all along since he probably couldn’t run a hand through it, lol? Like he said about DAVID LETTERMAN, ‘you can go to somebody in every case to get help, but when you are in trouble with the WIFE, you have nobody to turn to!’ (paraphrasing)

  41. Men, especially black men do care about your hair! I told my ex I was thinking, just thinking about transitioning to natural and growing my perm out. He told me flat out “you know I don’t like that s***.” That was pretty hurtful and a big wow moment. He also thought braids were unprofessional and in retrospect kept his own hair it a very short fade so he clearly hated afro texture. I transitioned anyway, but I will never forget how much hatred a black man showed towards our unique features. It is sad really. Surely all the blame does not lie with black men but we do share some of the responsibility. Had I been a lesser or more easily influenced woman I might have been convinced to keep relaxing and show disdain towards my own dna.

  42. The one thing I dislike about the african american community/culture is that we spend to much time denying and pointing the finger at others.RAP MUSIC does not make people do violence, but it doesnt help.I listen to Barry White to get me in the mood for love and gospel music to inspire/overcome.. Nobody will ever do a driveby to classical music.Teen pregnancy and the incarceration rate is a major problem in the innercity with black and latino cultures,it is worthless to point to suburban/rural america or “white people” we need to address the realities we need to deal with.. Of course black women dont wanna be white,but America through systematic racism and white/euro supremacy taught us that we are not beautiful and things black arent good or desirable.From relationships to self identity we hate ourselves or was taught to; through mental slavery; a fact.Nappy hair is way more manageable than straight hair, because that is its natural state.I love this movie for shedding light on the issue just as The color purple and Boyz and the hood did. Lets face facts, stop avoiding truths and blaming others… Madam Cj Walker would be ashamed if she knew how much money we made the Koreans and Whites and how less we control of our hair… :(

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