Natural hair has never been so popular and so empowering. I’m sure we’re all familiar with the 1960’s slogan “Black is Beautiful” and the electrified and somewhat defiant political jolt it created – those big afros that were so prevalent and worn proudly. Today, the words are accepted and celebrated but for many, the meaning still has trouble being genuinely realized. We say Black is Beautiful, but do we truly believe it? Feel it?
Every woman who considers wearing her hair natural today is well aware of the negative stereotypes that have been passed down for generations. Most African American women over the age of 50 would never dream of leaving the house with their hair in its natural state. Slowly but surely we’re turning the corner, more and more African American and mixed-race women are feeling stronger and more confident about stepping into who they are and embracing and loving their natural hair.
The hours spent during our childhood with our mothers pulling our hair back into tight braids, the tears we held back as the brush fought to tame the ‘wildness’ was an act of love. Our mothers wanted us to look “beautiful”. They wanted the world to accept us or at the very least, to judge us less harshly. For Black girls, the first time at a hair salon is like a rite of passage from the first press and curl, relaxer or the first weave. For as long as Black people have been in the new world, that has meant the finer, straighter and longer, the better.
So many Black women, from those in post-apartheid South Africa, to the women whose demand fuels the multi-million-dollar weave industry in Nigeria, to African German and African Brits have been led to believe that “White hair” is more beautiful. Luckily, the current trend towards natural hair truly is global. In a post-modern world where the first American mixed-race President paved the way for acceptance of Black culture into the mainstream, where Ursula Burns, the first female African American CEO of a Fortune 500 Company wears her hair in a natural TWA (Teeny Weeny Afro) state to free up her time to run a successful business, where the Miss USA 2017 crown was held a few inches higher by a gorgeously coiffed Black curly head of hair, the decision to wear hair in its natural state seems like it should be a non-issue, but sadly, it persists.
As an owner of a natural hair accessory business (PuffCuff) I aspire to continuously build relationships with my customers beyond a simple business transaction. I’ve done a ton of demonstrations, educating women, men and children on how to style their natural hair and have witnessed, firsthand, how this knowledge immediately translates into greater self-confidence and a sense of empowerment.
Throughout generations, everyone’s mother, grandmother, sister or aunt had a different routine of maintaining their hair. But what happens when you don’t have an individual to teach you how to do your natural hair? This is a dilemma many young women deal with being the first generation naturalista in their own family.
In a TED Talk called “A Celebration of Natural Hair”, Cheyenne Cochrane sums it up by saying “We know that when Black women embrace their love for their natural hair, it helps to undo generations of teaching that Black in its natural state is not beautiful, or something to be hidden or covered up. We know that Black women express their individuality and experience feelings of empowerment by experimenting with different hairstyles regularly. And we also know that when we’re invited to wear our natural hair in the workplace, it reinforces that we are uniquely valued and thus helps us to flourish and advance professionally.”
Recently the older slogan “Black is Beautiful” was updated to “My Black is Beautiful” and gives the slogan a more personal sensibility, encouraging Black women to be confident and love everything that goes along with being Black, including their (God-given) natural hair.
Ceata E. Lash is the inventor/founder of the PuffCuff Hair Clamp.