The pure hair motion is forgetting its radical roots

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“Black is beautiful!”

You may hear these three easy phrases chanted within the background of a 1968 video clip, through which Black Panther activist Kathleen Cleaver, carrying her comfortable brown hair in a halo-like Afro, explains the great thing about pure hair. On the time, carrying your hair pure, refusing to chemically alter Afro-textured hair, was a robust rejection of racist magnificence beliefs and a radical type of self-love.

“Dig it? Isn’t it beautiful?” Cleaver asks the interviewer with a radiant smile. “Alright.”

Half a century later, black girls’s hair has remained a political battleground. Again then, Cleaver says within the clip, black girls “were told that only white people were beautiful—that only straight hair, light eyes, light skin was beautiful. And so black women would try everything they could, straighten their hair, lighten their skin, to look as much like white women.”

That’s sadly nonetheless true. In South Africa and around the globe, younger schoolgirls have been threatened with exclusion for daring to put on their hair pure, and employers push tips that counsel pure hair isn’t neat or acceptable for the office. In the meantime the marketplace for “weaves, extensions, wigs, independent beauty supply stores, distributors, e-commerce, styling tools and appliances”—the trade constructed round black girls’s manipulation of their hair—is anticipated to succeed in half a trillion {dollars}, in response to the market analysis agency Mintel.

It’s no surprise then that Cleaver’s phrases and the messages from the black cultural revolution of the Sixties and Nineteen Seventies nonetheless resonate immediately. And as soon as once more, throughout the globe, the pure hair motion is rising. Within the US, this motion coincided with a 37% drop in relaxer gross sales from 2012 to 2017.

Pretty curls.

However at the same time as black girls stopped shopping for relaxer, we as a substitute began shopping for into one other magnificence aspiration: an idealized picture of pure hair. Gross sales of styling merchandise marketed for black hair elevated by 1 / 4 within the US, an increase attributed partly to the pure hair motion. There are millions of articles, Fb pages, and YouTube channels devoted to Afro-textured hair.

It is a cult that worships the thought of “lovely curls”: normally unfastened ringlets which can be bouncy, thick, and glossy. A fast search on YouTube for probably the most watched pure hair tutorial lands me on a video, which has been watched over 17 million instances, on the way to obtain these legendary curls. 

Discovering this world of pure hair was extremely empowering for me at first. As somebody with completely different hair texture to my mother and most of the girls in my household, I didn’t have anybody to show me the way to “do” my hair. So these movies and tutorials had been lifeline. However I didn’t really feel empowered for lengthy.

I straightened my hair with blow dryers and straighteners for many of my life, however abruptly stopped three years in the past. By then, it had develop into not possible to disregard the harm the warmth was inflicting; leaving my hair brittle, skinny, and dry. However quitting the straightening didn’t immediately crown me with a wonderful Afro. As an alternative, my pure hair felt limp and lifeless—not in in the slightest degree highly effective or self-affirming. The temptation to straighten it once more grew every single day.

I dived into YouTube, and its aspirational gallery of gorgeous, curly hair being shaken, scrunched, and fondled by glamorous vloggers. I used to be advised I might simply replicate if solely I purchased the precise merchandise—which I did, spending a whole bunch of {dollars}.

This left me feeling even worse. It doesn’t matter what shampoos I lathered with, what conditioners, type milks, and gels I labored by way of to the ideas, what oils I slathered on, and sprays I doused myself in, my curls fell flat, stayed frizzy, and stubbornly refused to be beautiful.

I wasn’t emulating the sweetness requirements of white girls, however I felt beholden to a different commonplace—lengthy, shiny, bouncy ringlets that body completely round my face. (My looser curls no less than had been repeatedly represented in movies, adverts and tutorials—others have criticized the pure hair motion for prioritizing mixed-race women with unfastened curls over these with hair that holds tighter curls.) These girls are placing black magnificence entrance and heart and that’s necessary. However this cultural revolution didn’t essentially change how I noticed myself. It simply moved the aim submit from one very best to a different. 

Shake it all about.

Shake all of it about.

I labored onerous towards this aim. At any time when somebody complimented how nice and wholesome my hair was wanting, I’d at all times interject that I used to be simply firstly of my journey and that my hair would look a lot better as soon as I acquired it to the place it wanted to be. Lastly, my cousin requested what the tip outcome was meant to appear like precisely? I despatched her hyperlinks to my favourite YouTubers. Her response was blunt: “The end game is for you to look like someone else?”

It wasn’t till I finished evaluating myself to magnificence gurus—giving up the hope that the following product I purchased could be the golden ticket to the curls of my goals—that I lastly got here near understanding what Cleaver meant again in 1968.

The pure hair motion is about many issues. It’s about understanding the way to type your hair and preserve it wholesome. However the motion can be rooted in revolutionary political concepts. It’s about rejecting unattainable magnificence beliefs, not permitting them to demoralize us.

Black is gorgeous—interval. Not some forms of black hair or some black individuals, however all. The unconventional energy that Kathleen Cleaver was digging lies in accepting your self. It has been a sluggish journey, however that’s now my aim. I’ve discovered to simply accept good hair days and dangerous hair days. And step by step, I’m rising to love the individual mirrored again at me within the mirror.

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