A few have asked me to do a husband tag video in the past but I always felt a little shy about it, however, we decided to go for it. We answer the main question asked over dinner: HOW DID WE MEET? Find out how Obama(!) reconnected us.
I recently went to see Crowning Glory - To Weave or Not To Weave a play by Somalia Seaton with my friend Leillah Sekalala of nosrunchie.com.
Now, I knew that the play was based on the experiences of Black British women so when I got there, before the play started, I reminded myself that being Black African I needed to be as open-minded AND objective as possible, however, by the first line: "White girl I wish I was, I wish I was....don't say it, ..., I wish I was YOU!" I was like, oh no you didn't!
I thought, "I've never wanted to be white, EVER! I love being black...I am NOT going to like this play" but fortunately, within five minutes I'd changed my mind because I realized what had been said was completely true, the actors weren't saying they wanted white skin but that they had the privileges that came with it: going to shops and finding products that were designed to work with your skin tone or your hair type and so on; they wanted to have grown up with dolls that resembled them and teenage glossy magazines that reflected their own image - who doesn't want that?
The quality of the writing, the well-structured sentences, came through and the acting did the play justice. It was very well acted by all.
Ultimately, the play was about admitting to and overcoming the insecurities that plague the Black British woman:
All the acting was done in the form of a soliloquy and was very well executed. Some parallels can also be drawn here with the African American experience.
A Black African like myself (and Leillah) who was brought up where we the majority will probably walk away asking themselves many questions and considering things that perhaps they may not have considered before.
In summary: a thought provoking, worthy watch! Book your ticket here.
Story originally seen at slate.com.
When I saw the title of this story I was immediately intrigued. Not because white women had had their hair styled in a "black way" but because I was curious about which styles were being classified as "black".
Beyond braids and the Afro I have never really thought about what other styles are truly "black". Black hairstyles are "black" because only black women tend to style their in this way. We do so because our hair texture is highly flexible, you can do anything to it.
How did these white women come to have black hairdos?
A young, black artist in New York called Endia Beal took a bunch of middle-aged, white women and made them agree to having a black hairstyle and then have a portrait photo taken. She chose the styles that each woman would have. The result, is these pictures:
Why middle-aged women?
Endia wanted to start a discussion as well as to challenge pre-conceived, accepted notions and stereotypes about how someone is supposed to look like in the workplace. Endia thought that many young white women may already have experienced looking different in the workplace but the vast majority of people aged 40+ would not have had this experience.
Choosing this segment of the population made her pieces more striking.
How did Ms Beal come up with the idea?
Ms Beal is tall slim and black. She interned in the IT department at Yale where she was getting a qualification in photography; whilst she was there many of her colleagues were shorter white men. To add to the difference she rocked a large red afro. She then found out that large swathes of her colleagues were curious about her hair - they wanted to touch it.
So what did she do? She set up a camera and let everyone not only touch her hair but pull at it and tell her how they felt about the experience!
This small project led to the portraits.
How did the portrait "subjects" react?
All the people who took part were excited by the experience and the ability to ask normally awkward questions without the awkwardness.
When their hair had been styled and a picture taken, not even a single one wanted it taken down. They were taking photos on their smartphones and posting them on Facebook. They couldn't wait to go home and show their families. They embraced the look immediately.
What do I think about the project?
I love the idea. I myself know what it's like to show up to work in a non-conformist hairdo.
These images will challenge views and negative stereotypes about hair that people may not even know they have.
However, I am realistic, I know this project won't lead to a plethora of white women wearing black hairstyles; not because they don't want to but because their hair doesn't style as easily and it also doesn't hold styles as well as black hair does.
What can we do to support Endia?
She hasn't asked for support but I've looked her up and I'm following her in all these places:
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I know lots of people have experienced negative attitudes to our hair so I thought this positive story was worth sharing:
I am at a hair salon having my hair done.
One half of the salon has a black stylist and the other half has an Indian lady waxing people's facial hairs.
About an hour after I've been there the Indian lady approaches us and starts touching my hair. I don't mind people touching my hair if they ask or if they are a friend but on this occasion but she was neither! I look up about to say something but I can literally see the admiration dripping from the young, Indian lady's eyes so I say nothing.
Before I can ask anything she says "I wish my hair was like this" - she has very long, bum-length hair but she says it's boring because she can't braid, twist or style it in all the ways we can. Having been working in a black hair salon for a while she has gained an appreciation of just how malleable our hair is and she greatly admires that.
Even before I went natural I always appreciated all the cool things I could do with my hair but seeing this lady's reaction confirmed to me that there are many other people out there who do too even if we're not aware of it.
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I've only just watched this video. When I heard about it I thought it's possible that people may have taken Sheryl's comments out of context, you know, with her being a comedian and everything; however, after watching it I think she was not only stupid by perpetuating "afro hate" but she might actually believe what she said.
If you don't want to watch the video this is the gist of it:
Sharon Osbourne talks about how Heidi Klum ziplocks her kids' afros when she cuts their hair because she doesn't want to throw the hair away.
Sheryl Underwood says "who would wanna keep afro hair?"
The other host throws her life line and says, "you know, some parents like to keep their kids' first hair for memory's sake".
Sheryl Underwood digs an even bigger hole for herself and says, "Well your kids have nice silky hair - but afro hair...now that's just nasty"!
What do you think about all of this? Okay or plain stupidity? Importantly, now that she's apologised, do you forgive her?
To me, it means one thing: not having chemically relaxed hair, period.
Some people have broadened the whole meaning of having natural hair to include a lot of, in my humble opinion, irrelevant notions. I will iterate some of them and explain why I don't particularly agree with them:
A: Don't use "non-natural" or "non-organic" stuff
You might have also made a general commitment to go organic, eco-friendly and so on but that really has nothing to do with maintaining natural hair. If you've done that, great, but it doesn't mean natural-haired folk that have not taken the same oath are "not natural".
A note on sulfates
The only reason I avoid sulfates is because they dry hair out, not because they're synthetic, period.
A note on parabens
Once I realised parabens actually don't have an adverse impact on hair I stopped avoiding them like they were the plague.
As a new natural I heard folks talking about how awful parabens were for hair but after doing my own research I discovered it wasn't so. They have been linked to cancer in some studies but the results were so insignificant that both the US and UK government concluded the amounts in everyday products are safe to use. That said, I don't know to what extent big businesses bought governments to turn a blind eye so I do avoid parabens just not as much as before.
B: Don't wear make up
I posted a picture of someone with heavy makeup on the Facebook page yesterday and someone gave a little rant about how you shouldn't wear make up if you're natural. Needless to say, I deleted that comment.
Don't wear wigs
Why not? Wigs are a great protective style and if someone chooses to wear wigs it won't harm their natural hair in any way. They will need to ensure their edges aren't getting any thinner from abrasion but the fact that they have unrelaxed hair does not change.
Of course, if one chooses to wear wigs persistently and not ever show their natural hair, I would find it a little strange and to me, it would mean they don't like or accept their natural hair but that's my issue, right?
Don't straighten your hair with straighteners
Girl, it is your hair. The only thing with tongs is that overuse will lead to heat damage. If you went natural because you didn't want hair damage my only question would be, why do you want to damage your hair with straighteners then?
You're not accepting your African heritage
I was born and bred in Africa and there is a lot more to us than our hair.
It is true that some see afro hair as "not ideal" or "not appropriate" or even as "slave hair". Those people need to deal with their own negative stereotypes; it is not your problem.
I will admit that initially, I went natural because of hair damage from relaxer but over time it has evolved into a statement about me not wanting society to dictate what "ideal" hair should look like. Especially if that idea is not my kinky afro!
I want kinky and coily hair to become so ubiquitous that society (in the West, in Africa and beyond) accepts it as totally normal and acceptable. I also want people to accept and to be happy with the crop of hair that God gave them - as Whitney said, learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.
Even if relaxer was not damaging I would not use it because I do not want to make permanent, irreversible changes to my hair's texture.
End of the day, it is YOUR hair and you can do to it what you please, to be natural however, just means not making a permanent change to the structure - nothing more or less. What do you think?
Dealing with other people's comments and reactions can be one of the hardest things about going natural.
It's even harder when those that are closest to you are the ones saying things that hurt your feelings.
One of the saddest emails I got was from a lady whose husband simply didn't understand why she would want to go natural. He asked her why she would want to "look like a slave?"!! Yes, I was gob-smacked too.
Firstly, because slavery has historically transcended race although over time black people bore the brunt of it but secondly because I couldn't believe how rude and insensitive he was being.
You don't owe anyone an explanation on why you are going natural but it might help to say a little something to help them understand you a little better. I recommend the following:
It turns out that South Africa's president, Jacob Zuma, is a natural hair supporter and has "urged" African women to embrace natural hairstyles and avoid straightening their hair using chemical relaxers.
It is true that relaxing hair is still crazy-popular in Africa but natural hair is making a comeback there as it is in the US and in Britain. The more people African girls see with natural hair, the more they will come to embrace it as a normal and manageable thing to do. Let's keep blogging and vlogging!
Watch this report on BBC by Lebo Diseko:
But you're also a lot more than just your hair!
In the ideal world people would be judged exclusively according to their personality. However, you don't see personality, you see how a person looks first and from that all your stereotypes and judgements box that person into "their category".
Everyone has stereotypes, some are good and some are bad. I was watching Wife Swap US (Haigwood/Hess-Webb) the other day: A very smartly presented, culturally-conscious black family was swapped with a set of white hill billies that lived the most bizarre life: they didn't send their kids to school or even home school them, they brushed their teeth with butter and clay (eww), they ate raw meat and believed water is bad for you! The woman looked a hot mess, she thought taking care of herself was a "waste of time".
When the white mum was trying to force her beliefs on the black family the black man said something that struck a cord with me, he said, "How can I take you seriously looking the way that you look?" This statement stopped the hill billy mum in her tracks because she realised it was true; to be taken seriously she needed to present herself better.
The fact is, the way you look leads to an instant judgement about your character and the judgement sticks. If you are a healthy weight, smartly dressed, you've taken the time to put on a little make up and maybe shave your legs and pits people think:
The stereotypes some may associate with my kinky hair are: wild (!), unkempt, messy, not professional, slave!
These stereotypes are changing but we are certainly not there yet, the more people wear natural hair the faster natural hair will be accepted as not only normal but also "good hair" in itself.
This process has already started to happen with some chinese people adorning reverse relaxers. Some black folk think the look makes a mockery of us but they couldn't be more wrong, it's a big compliment. I love reverse relaxer because it essentially says "I want to look like you black folk".
When I wore a relaxer I was essentially saying the same thing to straight haired folk, whether I acknowledged it or not. Many white girls with wavy or curly hair also spend hours every week straightening their hair for the same reason, they have been brain washed by the media and social strata to believe "straight" looks better and is more socially acceptable.
It's okay to want the straight haired look sometimes but it's NOT okay to want it all the time. It's a sign that you don't fully accept yourself. Whether you agree or not, that's what you are saying. Some have worn weaves for so long that if their head was supplanted with their own kinky hair they'd look in the mirror and think, "That's not me!" But it is you honey, it's as "YOU" as you can get.
I look different with natural hair than I did with relaxed hair.
My kinky 4C hair is naturally messy looking when it's loose. It doesn't twist out into silky looking bouncy coils. I acknowledge and accept these limitations; I work with them. If I am going to an important event such as an interview I pin my hair up. It looks neat albeit different to straight hair. Partial pin ups with some loose hair at the back also look good.
People write to me with their natural hair frustrations and ask for help before they slap on relaxer. Be patient with your hair, once you figure out what your hair "likes" your life will get much easier and you will be quite happy to BE your hair.
When I was growing up the older generation, that is, my parents and their friends looked down upon locs. At the time, the only people that had them were weed-smoking rastafarai that hadn't ever held done a "proper" job. Locs came to be associated with this group, hence the negative image.
Those days are swiftly sliding away. A two hour flight away from my native Malawi, in South Africa, long locs are hot property.
If you're rocking long dreadlocks don't pass out at a party; yes, your smartphone and cash will remain intact but you'll have to start growing your locs from scratch because they will be G-O-N-E.
Long locs fetch as much as $300 on the black market, that's right, $300, so they're more precious than a second hand smartphone.
These locs are then sewn onto the heads of people that want instantly long locs. Personally, I find that kind of gross. But different strokes for different folks!
Hair theft is also common in the US, the only difference is that they steal it from a store not right off someone's head!
There is a lesson to this story...
...if you're planning vacation time in South Africa, remember to insure those locs!
I now blog about wealth creation - so if you have any money questions meet me there, you can do all sorts of cool things like leave me a voicemail.
By Heather Katsonga-Woodward
I was a natural hair blogger and mixtress living between London & Chicago from 2012 to 2017. I always thought I was 4C but some say 4B; images below - you decide! Heather xx