Coffee Rhetoric: natural hair
Showing posts with label natural hair. Show all posts
Showing posts with label natural hair. Show all posts

September 25, 2011

TypeF Negative

A series of online videos apparently produced and endorsed by Tyra Banks for her new fashion and beauty channel, TypeF have struck a flat chord with the natural hair community. JoAnn Robertson, who describes herself as a licensed hairdresser, is featured in a chain of How-To videos where she dispenses natural hair care advice such as "How to put your afro to the side" and "How to put an Afro down." While demonstrating how to "loosen a tightly-coiled afro without straightening," JoAnn both half-heartedly and carelessly rakes a paddle brush through her dry, disheveled afro and waves a blow dryer throughout the base of her hair sans a heat protectant... before modeling her attempt in a cheesy, overly saccharine smile and pose...


Needless to say, the natural hair community was *not* pleased. 
"Remove your afro hair videos- RESHOOT the videos with quality content-- REPOST the new vids and ensure that the #naturalhair community is as healthy as it can be!" demanded one commenter.
"Tyra you disgust me you BITCH!!!! Make us Black women look so bad >_< " insisted another. 
Of course Twitter, Facebook guru fan pages, and blogs were incited to chorus as well... keeping a close eye on the channel, posting any new developments... including an acknowledgement from TypeF, duly noting the outrage in a statement:
Dear YouTube viewers,  
Thank you for voicing your concern about one of the hairstyle playlists found on this channel.  We have disabled the set of videos in question and will have our editorial team review each one based on your feedback. If you have further concerns, please don't hesitate to contact us directly. 
typeF YouTube Team 
The playlist is still up by the way...

 As a woman who has worn her hair sans chemicals for more than ten years, I was initially flummoxed by JoAnn's process. I watched it, and then I re-watched it. I read the shock, dismay, and outrage from the natural hair community and weighed-in on one forum. I went to TypeF's website and perused its YouTube channel in search of other videos showing JoAnn mussing up her natural hair and while acting comically pleased with her work... posing and stretching her mouth in what seemed like a mocking smile. A brief Google search of JoAnn Robertson's name quickly turned up proof of her legitimacy as a neatly coiffed stylist and professional. I quickly went from bewilderment to amusement, and guffawed my way through more of her brief, flinch-worthy natural hair tutorials, as I quickly came to the realization that JoAnn was busting chops. Let me explain... 

With the rise of natural hair gurus making their mark on YouTube and the blogopshere, some of these natural hair divas have become newly minted entrepreneurs and happy collectors of free swag from well-known to up-and-coming cosmetics companies peddling natural hair care wares and looking for free advertisement. Natural hair maintenance has become big business... cosmetics companies and  the media has definitely taken notice. A frosh crop of new-found naturals undoubtedly see how lucrative sharing their natural hair care regimens can be and have gotten in on the action. 

There're definitely a few natural hair care forums and YouTube videos I genuinely enjoy watching, for fresh new ideas and to know other perspectives on natural hair care in other countries. However, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out how insufferable some natural hair wearers can be in their approach. The lingo, the dictatorial and condescending attitudes toward other naturals about what they should or shouldn't be doing in their personal hair care routines, the time consuming routines, the product junkie-ism, the obsession with hair typing, the daily length checks, and the hair envy... It's overwhelming and exasperating. Whenever someone looking to go chemical-free asks me for advice, I simply tell them how I began my journey back in 1999, suggest that they learn the basic do's and don't's of  natural hair manipulation, realize what's best for their hair type, and to defer to YouTube for ideas, making sure to take the valuable suggestions; while not considering them to be the sole words of wisdom, as everyone's needs are different.


Regardless of what TypeF's and JoAnn's motives are behind this particular playlist... It comes across as parody to me and it was inevitable considering the hubbub from naturals about which natural hair techniques are acceptable. Not to mention the outrage and attention seem to have encouraged TypeF on in their antagonism towards the natural hair community, as recent videos have been uploaded... including several featuring a different woman named Tanya. As frustrating as it might be for some to watch JoAnn Robertson seemingly mock natural hair maintenance, I wouldn't take it as a personal affront. I'm finding the videos hilarious and quite possibly a brilliant marketing scheme by TypeF... It appears they also seem to know whom to broach for free advertising... (Wink)




July 25, 2011

Hands Off! -- In Which I Rant About Natural Hair... Again.


Today, CNN.com featured an interesting article about Black women who wear their hair in its natural state and their displeasure with having it touched by stranger-hands. Of course, as with anything in the media featuring Black women voicing their opinion or personal stories about anything having to do with their being, it incited people to chorus. "Can I touch it?" recounted an incident as told by Tamara Winfrey Harris, who runs the blog What Tami Said, in which a woman standing nearby reached out to touch her natural hair as she and her husband made their way to their table at a restaurant, much to Tami's chagrin: “I turned around and she said, 'Oh, your hair is neat.' It just floored me because who does that, just reaches out and touches strangers?"  
The article also referenced blog posts which delve into the issue of Black women with natural hair who disdain having their hair petted by curious people who they have no type of rapport or relationship with, which can be read here and here. The article prompted people to trivialize the subjects' personal experiences by claiming how keen us Black folk are on playing the race card, before going tit for tat about how they as white people suffer the same indignities and suggesting that we should feel flattered about being petted like a goat at a petting zoo by strangers: "Someone wants to touch your hair. So what? I have blond hair, and I've stood in line at a convenience store and have had my hair touched by blacks."  And it empowered them to fan the flames of their bigotry:  "No matter what you say or do, black people are going to get offended and remind you of their enslaved history, as if NOOOO other race was ever enslaved.  Get over it... black pubic-like hair is not the only type of hair that summons curiosity."
Subsequent blog posts followed- (Many written by the Black blogging community) - either further explaining why it's not cool to violate someone's personal space and sensibilities or also wondering; What's the big deal? Accusing the Black natural hair community of being "pretentious" and "uppity."
See, here's the thing… whether people think the article featured a segment of women who're overreacting, the fact of the matter is it's simply not cool to violate someone's personal space and touch any parts of their person uninvited. I've had experiences where I've been asked by curious people, if they could touch my hair so they  can "see how it feels" or have had people reach out to grab or touch... growing annoyed when I denied them access or ducked out of the way. There were moments when I was caught off-guard and have had folks actually grab and disturb my neatly piled puff or pinned bun. For me, the issue of having my hair touched is political and a matter of intimacy as well as vanity. Are people that presumptuous and arrogant that they think it's okay to violate someone's personal space, particularly when someone has expressed their discomfort with it? And of course a few hissers from the be-weaved/relaxed peanut gallery turned it into an anti-natural hair manifesto, knowing damned well if someone ran their hands through their neatly laid tracks or freshly relaxed hair, they'd throw a fit of epic proportions, despite proclamations to the contrary. Why am I pretentious because I don't want some stranger mussing up my 'fro? I can't imagine walking up to some pregnant woman and rubbing her belly or squeezing her breast implants... nor can I fathom ever approaching an attractive man in fitted jeans and softly reaching out to caress his bulge because I think it "looks cool" nestled behind the taut denim fabric. Expressing genuine interest in someone's hair because you're curious about it... asking them reasonable questions and reaching out to touch or tousle it, are two very different things. And the latter is simply ill-mannered. 
Regardless of the reasons why Black women with natural hair don't want their hair touched and whether people agree with them, people should respect the wishes of others and pipe down. No one has the right to demand that someone "just deal" with having their hair touched and their boundaries crossed. How I express myself as a woman who happens to be Black and the way I extend or present my personal aesthetic is my business and no one (in this day and age especially) has authority over or is allowed to commandeer that right. That's my word. 

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More of my natural hair diatribes... 

July 14, 2011

Au Naturale...

Anyone who reads this blog, knows my affinity towards Black hair being in its natural state - (without ever throwing shade to anyone who chooses to relax, straighten or weave their tresses. Makes no never mind to me how someone choose to wear their hair, but I realize women in my community are still very sensitive when it comes to hair... regardless of how it's worn, and feel the need to be combative and defend their choices ) - In keeping with expressing my love and appreciation for natural hair and hairstyles...  wanted to share this video of lyricist, Sa-Roc's visit to It's A Natural Thang Salon in Atlanta, GA, as she gets her locs maintained and styled into an awesome, futuristic-type 'do.
 
I'd also like to share this video of a UK Natural's visit to a natural hair care spa in Milton Keynes, UK called Mahogany, as she gets a fancy, cornrowed hairstyle. And yes these sorts of videos have the capacity to hold my attention for at least an hour or two... It's how I spend my Sundays. (Don't Judge!)

June 14, 2011

Coffee Buzz: Nu Style Cut Creators


“In many traditional cultures communal grooming was a social event where a woman could socialize and strengthen bonds between herself, other women and their families. An individual's hair groomer was usually someone whom they knew closely. Sessions included shampooing, oiling, combing, braiding, twisting adding accessories. Hair grooming of afro-textured hair was considered a very important, intimate, spiritual part of one's overall wellness, and would last hours and, sometimes, days depending on the hair style and skill required.” –Wikipedia, entry on Afro-textured hair

… And so explains the importance and camaraderie surrounding many Barbershops and Hair Salons. I’ve always been more fascinated by the fraternal aspect of most Barbershops however. They seem like places where men not only congregate to get themselves freshly groomed and have their fades lined up, but a space where they open up to one another and share their inner-most feelings about the myriad of topics from relationships (especially) to racial issues to current events. I’ve always wanted to walk into a barbershop and sit amongst men as they poured their hearts out, laughed and guffawed about the trials and tribulations of interacting with women and dating, notwithstanding my very female presence in their midst. Not to mention the men (most of them very attractive) from all walks of life, spanning all ages and income levels that frequent barbershops; their own little slice of heaven… and a sliver of celestialness for single women. Every now and again, while traipsing around downtown, I’d slow down a spell in front of a barbershop operated on Ann Street in downtown Hartford and peer inside through the window (pretending to see if the post office was open). This very same barbershop has now re-opened on 255 Main Street, 1 South and Downtown Hartford, CT and is owned and operated by Cedric Roberson.
Armed with some vitals this one particularly hot afternoon, I decided to walk inside rather than leer at the patrons, barbers, and stylists through the window and ask for one Mr. Cedric Roberson. I introduced myself, and found a very warm, low-key, and friendly gentleman who was glad to walk me to the back for a brief chat and offered me a cold bottle of water to help cool down.
I would learn that Cedric, a quiet spoken but seemingly driven Hartford business owner, has been in the business for the past 18 years and is a skilled Loctitian who oversees a few other comparable dreadlock experts, barbers, stylists, and braiders. Community and being at the helm of a positive work space seems to be of the utmost importance to Cedric. Upon walking in, I noted how quiet, clean, and cheery the space and people were.

“When we moved to Main Street, we scaled back and are just keeping the basics. We went from renting on Ann Street, to actually owning this space. We’re more visible on Main Street and there’s more foot traffic.” Cedric explained. This creates an opportunity for new comers to check them out! Nu Style Cut Creators specializes in the cultivation and maintenance of natural hair (and you all know how I laud natural hair!)… This includes braids and especially the process and maintenance of dreadlocks.
Upon browsing around the neat shop, I took in its shiny hardwood floors, a mounted flat-screen TV (turned to a sport of course), the easy flow of conversation and more importantly the display case filled with products… including PERFUME OILS AND INCENSE! I hastily made my way over. Cedric unlocked the case and allowed me to peruse and woman-handle the various scents. There were so many to choose from… so I chose about nine of them including; Amber, Frankincense, Lick Me All Over, and the aptly named and scented Michelle Obama. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Cedric Roberson is a noted spiritual and community leader, who oversees his own ministry and encourages people toward their path to enlightenment and spirituality, prompting his shop’s patrons to appreciate his presence even more!
Cedric said that appointments are gladly accepted and walk-ins welcome! Nu Style Cut Creators’ Hours of operation are Tuesday – Friday 8am – 6pm and Saturday 7am – 5pm. Credit cards are accepted!

More importantly, there is free parking!! For more information call 860.560.3600

I genuinely love discovering noted, local business owners and interesting people in the Hartford community! Makes navigating my city that much more exciting!

January 04, 2011

Hair Raising Tale: The Beauty Supply Store


Warning: Gratuitous use of personal pics showing the versatility of my natural hair. Deal.
Anyone who reads Coffee Rhetoric or who knows me personally, understands that I am vigorously passionate about issues having to do with women of the African diaspora; Especially how we're portrayed, exploited, "fetishized", oppressed, suppressed, trivialized, marginalized, and perceived. Image, body types, and of course hair. The struggle will never get old with me. I won't ever stop negating the stereotypes and foolery continuously projected onto Black women. Whether media pundits sans a clue (with Steve Harvey's help) continuously resurrect a dead corpse, struggling to analyze the reasons why they think we're ALL hopelessly single to being told our brand of beauty doesn't suffice unless a bunch of prerequisites come before it, or it be someone staring at us with their mouth agape when they realize our features are in fact diverse and not as homogeneous as they think... And so this story goes... 
About a month 1/2 ago, my best friend The Notorious C.A.T. came for a long overdue visit. Of course lots of fun and foolishness ensued. Anything less wouldn't make sense. I introduced her to haunts new to her since her last foray into Hartford... we visited some old, familiar ones. Per usual, Cat insisted on making her annual pilgrimage to a certain beauty supply store downtown to stock up on the must-haves lacking in her adopted northern New York town of Plattsburgh. 
As the Korean woman behind the counter rang her purchases, I noticed her animatedly speaking in Korean to her daughter, who was also behind the counter reading. The conversation seemed to be directed toward Cat, whose unrelaxed, curly hair was pulled back at the nape of her neck, in a puffy ponytail. We both looked at the woman and her daughter quizzically. 
"Oh, we were just talking about your hair." The daughter said to Cat. "It looks really nice. Is is real?" She asked. 
While I struggled to not express a serious case of WTF-face, Cat, in an amused voice, answered, "Oh! Yes. It's real!" 
"Oh wow! Okay." The girl answered incredulously as she and her mother nodded their shocked approval. 
Cat and I exchanged looks, smirked, and thanked the inquisitive Korean woman for ringing our purchases and went back out into the cold... laughing that all-knowing laugh. We reflected for a brief moment outside the store... 
I told Cat what'd just transpired reminded me of the scene from Chris Rock's eponymous documentary 'Good Hair,' where he visits several Korean-owned beauty supply stores, afro-textured wigs in-tow in a humorous attempt to sell it to them and measure its worth against the more popular and preferred 100% Indian Remy brand, beloved by Black women who get their hair weaved. "They don't wanna look... Africa... like this! They wanna look the style!" one heavily accented Korean store owner exclaimed, stretching his hands out on each side of his head for emphasis. "Nobody walks around with nappy hair nomore!" his Black employee sneered. Other beauty supply stores had similar reactions. Alas, Chris Rock concluded that our afro-textured hair wasn't worth a damn, apparently. 
I presume to think that Korean-owned beauty supply owners are probably so accustomed to seeing Black women walk in, with their need-to-be-done hair wrapped up in scarves, to purchase Indian Remy- (and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that)- that the mere idea that one or two would walk in with derring-do, their natural, neatly styled kinky/curly hair on display on a mission to buy Cholesterol conditioner to lovingly maintain and care for it, came as a complete shock to them. 
Perhaps the store owner (and many other shocked and awed of the like) couldn't ever fathom soft, healthy, thick hair sprouting from the scalp of a Black woman scalp or grasp the fact that many of us would rather wear it instead of what's sprung from an Indian woman's... or that, quite possibly, a head of healthy hair lay protected underneath the weaved heads of many Black women, who're merely giving their own hair a breather from styling and maintenance. 
On a few occasions, I've been asked if my own pulled back, 70's inspired natural hair was a textured ponytail piece or bun pinned atop my head. 
While I maintain that there is absolutely nothing wrong with a Black woman experimenting with her hair and wearing it however she sees fit, our hair and bodies along with our dating and sex lives seem to pique the curiosity of many and becomes a topic of debate amongst those not in the know or who think they do. However, I'm left to wonder if the minority of us who aren't merely just trying a different look and who do truly despise our features and resent the texture and depth of our hair, don't shoulder some of the responsibility for the reactions of those outside our community.
The hair issue is a perpetually complicated one.. and there are a number of beleaguered Black women who are downright indignant about the texture of their hair, as illustrated by the beauty supply clerk in the 'Good Hair' clip, who co-signed her employer's disdain for "Africa hair."  I'd be remiss if I also didn't call out so-called natural hair wearers who follow rigid, multi-layered hair regimens and live by that blasted hair typing chart popularized by Oprah Winfrey's long-time hairdresser, Andre Walker, in an attempt to monitor and alter the texture of their natural hair... perhaps to mimic a Bi/Multi-racial woman's hair type
Black women undoubtedly seem to be under a constant microscope. Other people outside our community pick up on the conflict that rages within the minority of my sistren who dislike themselves, and they run long-distance marathons with it... formulating these grandiose ideas about our appearance, particularly that somehow we all want to mimic a uniform look based on a euro centric aesthetic
I'm often quite dumbfounded and somewhat disgusted when other Black women, who aren't attuned to the actual texture of their own hair, express the same type of surprise at the versatility of my natural hair. As if they, themselves came out of the womb relaxed or be-weaved. It's akin to a clear case of mental conditioning (read: brainwashing).  
Listen, there is absolutely nothing wrong with experimenting with hair as a personal form of expression, but once Black women become that far removed from themselves that it extends beyond a personal aesthetic and simple vanity in a way that causes them to disconnect from what and who they really are, then it's damaging and it perpetuates the growing list of ignorant rhetoric about us. 
Be mindful. Why on earth would you co-sign someone else's virtual (read: distorted) sketch of your image and allow them to wage a totalitarian ideology of how they think you should look? 
That is all. 

January 18, 2010

Hair Today, Hair Tomorrow


People who know me personally-- those that've read posts here, on Coffee Rhetoric, realize or have come to realize how passionate I am about Black women's issues. Specifically those having to do with our unique brand of beauty, our image, and our hair. A little more than 10 years ago, I opted to stop using chemicals to straighten my hair. I wear my hair "natural" if you will. That's a personal choice I maintain til this day. I love my hair in its natural state and tend to not care what anyone else thinks of my hair's type and texture. Natural hair does NOT a militant make... nor is it me trying to make a political statement. It's me, being at peace with myself. I did not come out of my mother's womb with a chemical relaxer. And I don't answer to or flinch over the negative connotations of the phrase "nappy."

While I don't subscribe to altering the state of my hair via relaxers, weaves, lace-front wigs or what have you... I don't begrudge any other Black woman the right to do what she sees fit to do with her hair regimen. To each her own. I am only concerned with my own hair routine. And while I would LOVE to shrug and say, "It's just hair," and move on... unfortunately for Black women... it isn't that simple. Women of color will always be embattled over the texture of our hair and skin shade. Unfortunate. Multi-layered. Complicated. And rooted in a painful history. And lately, I'm discovering it's not as cut and dry as relaxed hair vs natural hair vs hair that's beweaved vs that which is bewigged.
For the past 2-3 years or so, there has been a huge influx of natural hair care products, YouTube tutorial videos, online forums, and websites celebrating the beauty and versatility of afro-textured hair. But even within the natural hair community, there is a lot of controversy.
There are "naturals" who are obsessed with texture and so will swear by a hair system/chart to determine their "hair type" -- or to aspire to a 3C hair type, most commonly associated with mixed race people. Some naturals are more concerned with length and so will find ways to stretch the hair to its maximum- (preferably "bra strap long" some women on various forums will brag).
I've come across blogs where there is petty squabbling in the comments section over which natural hair care method is the best and only way to treat afro-textured hair or whether or not the blog's host features enough women with kinkier textured hair, versus women with "mixed race" hair.
It's maddening. While I do enjoy discovering new ideas, products, and recipes for my own hair, I've made a conscious decision not to concern myself with dictatorial methods of natural hair care. I run my hands through my hair everyday, and so know what does and does not work.

I find it most unfortunate that even while Black women reach their epiphany and "free" themselves from eurocentric hair and beauty expectations, many still can't make peace with themselves, even within the confines of the natural hair community. When will this "Good Hair/Bad Hair/Not Good Enough Natural Hair conflict end? These natural hair mandates are exhausting. I've read debates over whether or not First Lady Michelle Obama "presses" or relaxes her hair straight.  Or whether EVERY natural will experience major consequences if some of us choose to blow out our afro-textured hair using minimal amounts of heat. If we'll experience major growth if we take this vitamin, or that vitamin. If our White co-workers and dating prospects will like or accept us if we style our natural hair a specific way. All hell broke loose on the Black (and some predominantly White) celebrity blogs, when Solange Knowles stopped wearing wigs and cut her hair closely to her scalp. Listen, who cares? I would LOVE to see and for us to seize the day when hair will just be considered that. Hair. And when we can truly and really, for real, be happy in our own skin and with the depth of our hair's texture, without this seemingly constant need for validation.