“Wow….your hair is tough.” Those words ran through me sharply. Those words spilled out of my cousin’s mouth as her hand unwelcomely touched my hair, neatly braided in two French braids touched with a finesse of London rain. Her hair, resembles a Rastafarian Rapunzel, long, dreds, sleek, beautiful and black. Yet it baffled her why I would not want to do anything with my hair……but just keep it natural. No Braids. No Weave. No straightening. No wigs…. just your regular 4C West African curl.
All my life I have always kept my hair the way it has always been. The way that it came fresh from my mother womb, tight, curly, frizzy, kinky and black. Yet all my life I have always had to justify my “natural state” to people.
Caucasian women put their hands through my hair exclaiming:
“ It’s wooly,”
“ It’s oily,”
“why is it harder than the mixed race woman hair in the office on floor 2?”
Mixed race people with the looser curls, look upon my hair with disgust chastising me with:
“ Your hair is Nappy,”
“I thank god my hair is not as tough as yours.”
“ You should get a weave, Indian girl, human hair…..we have the best hair.”
“ Your Afro is soooooo cool”
Yet some never want take you home to their mums without you “de-blacking” yourself with hair bone straight- Chinese weave or alternatively you can be that novelty negro with the afro…..there for the summer but never for winter, the home or for life.
Black women: Respect you, most salute you but some can’t understand why you would let their secret out of the bag. (Rebecca who works in PR, you know the black girl on floor 2, her hair doesn’t grow down and straight…..it grows up and curly sssshhhhh don’t let the secret out of the bag….)
Black men: Some respect you, some salute you but a couple can’t stand the mirror that you are, the mirror that is placed in front of them showing their blackness in its entirety.
It’s exhausting constantly having to explain, justify and protect your natural beauty all the time, to EVERY. SINGLE. PERSON. Whether it be to your family, friend or work colleagues.
As an actress, my job is to tell a story from the perspective of a character. I have to evolve and give a voice, life and soul to a character. However, as a black actress, before you even get the chance to sink your teeth into your character, you have to convince someone to see past your “hair issues” and actually take note of your acting.
I know it sounds ridiculous! But believe me, in many cases it’s the truth. A friend of mine *Sapphire a successful actress in her 40’s recently had a meeting with a management team. The meeting was going really well until the Manager a young middle-upper class women *Pearl, started to educate *Sapphire about wigs and the need to ensure that she had a range of wigs for auditions. Yeah like *Sapphire hasn’t lived her life as a black woman for the past 40 years! Girl bye! I am sure more often than not *Sapphire has walked on many sets, and seen that look of worry when a basic makeup and hair stylists sees her. So for the sake of an easy life, she has a range of wigs and is seasoned in doing her own makeup to tv standards!
We have fabulous black actresses like Issa Rae switching up the hair game every scene on Insecure (with a couple of hair pieces/ wigs which match her natural hair texture.) But even before you get to the silver screen, a black actress is still made to feel that they have to spend ££££$$$$ on wigs to disguise their natural hair. There are some creative people who lack imagination and are unable to focus on a black women’s acting if her hair is in an afro state when she auditions. Does the same apply to a white actress who has peroxide hair or ginger hair? Are you unable to focus on that women’s acting because her hair colour or hair length is not the same as what you envisaged for the character? OF COURSE NOT, because we all know that you can just place a wig on that woman or ask her to dye her hair a certain colour…. but heaven forbid you do the same for a black woman.
It amazes me just how many people of all walks of life are concerned about a black woman’s hair, beauty and demeanor but hardly anyone is concerned about the constant oppression and silencing of black women in society.
In response to my cousins “Wow…. your hair is tough,” I quoted: “Don’t touch my hair, when it’s the feelings I wear” … Solange… cheesy I know….but I had to!
*Made up names.
@AnniwaaBuachie: I am not a writer, just a blabber, a lady that asks many questions but never knows how to collate the answers. Just a normal lady with nothing more to say, than words that mean nothing but say something.