July 24, 2009

Category: Best Of, Lifestyle, Real Talk

I Am Not My Hair!


I guess it was yesterday or maybe Wednesday when singer, Solange Knowles was snapped by paparazzi rocking a very short-cropped coif. And before this young mama could get back home, the Web was a’buzz about her buzzed cut. Of course the haters had their Yaki Platinums in a knot over the do saying she and others are allegedly biting “the bald look” of Kanye’s ex Amber Rose. And those were the sweet comments. Other bloggers and the like called her ugly, butch, and alleged that she was having a nervous breakdown ala Britney Spears. I’m always surprised by the drama that hair or the lack thereof creates in chocolate ciphers. It actually seems more of a spectacle than ever, which is surprising in this alleged post-Black era. And even more startling in this post-Badu era.


Erykah has had long lock extensions, a massive cloud of an afro, braids, and even a straight punked out shag— all wigs and non-permanent. The one style that I know was real was her beautiful baldy. Yes, Badu made a few people squirm with her numerous looks, but in the end we love her because of her killa style not inspite of it. So I thought we had moved on past the Happy-To-Be-Nappy backlash. Well apparently not. Comments about Skip Gates’ arresting officer (heck about Skip too) were more genteel than the rants I read about Solange and her lo’ fro. Clearly not interested in being the reticent media darling that her sister has become, Solange gave the finger virtually by posting a smart, self-determined response to her critics on her Twitter page:

ive. had. my. hair. cut. like. this. for. two. weeks. i. was. NOT. inspired. by anyone. but. my. self. i. have. done. this. twice. in. my. life. i. was 16. i was 18. did. not care about your opinion. then. dont. care. now. dont. need. your. attention. or. your. co-sign. i am #3. trending topic. before. IRAN. &. some of you cant even locate it on a map. its sad. dont. want. a. edge. up. or a perm. because. im not trying. to make this “a style” or a statement. i. just. wanted. to. be. free. from. the. bondage. that. black. women sometimes. put. on. themselves. with. hair. this. phase. of. my. life. i. want to spend . the time. the energy. and the money. on something else. not in the hair salon. m. not. mad. at . all of you. that have made your opinions known. and have sent negative. energy. my way. i expected this of you. ONLY reason i responded to this i have is because i was disappointed to see my name more talked about then #iranelection we. gotta. do. better. people.

I read this and immediately clicked the “Follow” button to make my respect and love official. I mean I had her CD and was digging “T.O.N.Y” and “Would’ve Been The One,” but there’s nothing like finding out a woman is a bad mamajama that doesn’t give two dabs of Afro-Sheen about the opinions of others. I just interviewed India.Arie for Heart & Soul mag and she echoed similar sentiments:

I never thought I would like having short hair, but when I did cut my locks I felt free. It was a very valuable experience, especially as a Black woman, because we just don’t tend to think short hair is cute.

This bald banter is just a vacuous crater that ironically is brimming full of notions linked to beauty, race and sexuality that can be traced back to slavery. Like why when Amber Rose, an exotic, eurocentric-looking woman, sports the cut it’s considered sexy, trendy even, but when MeShell NdegeOcello (who’s been rocking that cut for a good decade now) does the same, she is marginalized? Hint: it’s tied to sexuality and race– House Negro vs. Field Negro.


Secondly, and this is small in the whole scheme of things but totally irksome to me: the styles that Cassie and Rihanna are wearing should not be classified as bald. Their sides are shaved low. Nada mas! Media and mainstream heads always trying to make cute grrrls more radical than should be.

Bald, Black, and beautiful is Sheila Bridges, Nnenna Agba, Grace Jones and previous to 2008– Tamarkali. Plenty of my homegrrrls rock the same look and they are not making a statement or trying to push a new record or makeup line. They are reveling in who they are and enjoying the freedom of hassle free hair—humidity and flat irons be damned. So can we move on and use our energy to analyze something a lil more interesting like this.

Props to Bilqis M., Karen H., Alec Wek, Roshumba, Bethann H. , Moikgantsi N., Penni, Elayne F., Laini M. and Bashir for keeping it low and drama free!




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8 Responses to “I Am Not My Hair!Comment RSS feed

  • MML
    July 29th, 2009 7:27 am

    hair is political. lisa jones said that? love the 2.0, kiddo….

  • Bilqis
    July 29th, 2009 3:35 pm

    I’m so glad you spoke out on this! I first saw Solange’s reveal on the Wendy Williams show and although she didn’t comment the body language and face implied she thought that it was kooky.

    It did not stop me from cheering her on in my head yelling “Go mama! Be who you are!”

    I’m still shocked that in this day and age we get such strong negative reactions when a women cuts her hair off. In my opinion it’s one of the bravest, freeing steps you can take in this society that still beats us over the head (literally) wth European standards of beauty! And it’s not to say that those standards have to go without appreciation but come on!!! Can’t we all live here!!

    I’ve been wearing my hair short since the late 90’s. I’ve had moments where I’ve toyed with growing it out yet I always end up cutting it off, coming back home to where I know I rock, I am free and look my best!

    Mad love to all my beautiful warrior women with heads so bald that you can read exactly what’s on our minds and know we are forces to be recognized!

  • T
    July 30th, 2009 11:01 am

    “not care about your opinion. then. dont. care. now. dont. need. your. attention. or. your. co-sign. i am”

    Solange’s statement on Twitter is exactly what I think about women with their head’s shaved. They either exude confidence or sometimes are actually insecure and trying to convince themselves to be confident. (Think that commercial..I’m gonna wash that man right out of my hair). Maybe Solange is trying to prove how different she is from her sister!

    Most of the women I know that shave their heads recently broke up with someone. I can’t say that is why most women shaved their heads but 9 times out of 10 women are trying to make the statement that Solange made on Twitter–They don’t care! Well, okay I guess neither do we!

    People say that they feel free by shaving their hair–that is an ironic statement–if having the hair doesn’t mean anything to you how can you feel free without it? Does our hair hold us captive? LMAO–okay now I’m just being silly; but really to me shaved heads are just like a hairstyle, you do what works for you–but I must add some women and men just shouldn’t do it, cause now the rest of us are thinkin’ damn your head is shaped funny–or in Solange’s case your ears are too big for a shaved head (just my opinion).

    Anyway, our hair is our crown and when its shaved off like it or not your making a statement–your hair/or lack of hair either compliments you or not–its all a matter of opinion, as for me–well I have a nugget head so I’m keepin’ my hair!

  • Christina Royal
    July 30th, 2009 12:04 pm

    That was a great article. Hair is power, *sometimes*, I have to say. I shaved my head again on June 11th of this year. This is full chop #3 or 4 for me as an adult. The first couple of times, people (outside of NYC) freaked out and often looked at me strangely, as if I were trying to *say* something with my hair that they couldn’t quite hear. I really wasn’t trying to say anything. I was just being me.

    This go round, I have to say, strangers come up to me almost every day to compliment me and are awestruck that I had the nerve to get rid of a full, thick head of hair. This most recent chop wasn’t motivated by politics or inspiration, either. I just didn’t want to have hair anymore, and actually did (and do) feel completely different as a result. It *is* a very freeing experience to be bald as a woman. So maybe it’s a personal politic, after all. And a personal decision.

  • Maiysha
    July 30th, 2009 1:48 pm

    As someone who’s sported a cropped natural, braids, perm, and a weave… and back again numerous times, I completely agree with all of your points, Nicole. I’d further it to say that hair, like religion and politics, is really a personal issue. I was DEEPLY offended by the backlash against Solange last week — and at the fact that people actually believed that their opinion of her personal choice was valid. Fact is, I think we all have the right to evolve as WE see fit, in whatever manifestation we feel appropriate at the time, and should have the right to respectfully do so without being heckled by the peanut gallery! And it disturbs me that in this day and age, after all the wars waged and still raging, the one right Black folks seem not to have earned (or to afford each other) is the right to define ourselves on our own terms.

  • Thembisa
    August 5th, 2009 8:53 am

    Holla! The Hotness is back and right on time! Go Solange!

  • Moikgantsi
    August 7th, 2009 1:45 pm

    When I was a little child, I would put on hoods and scarves and hold them tight making myself look bald. I always thought “too bad girls are supposed to have hair, because I actually look better without it.”

    Then at age 7, I went to South africa, where most school-aged girls were rocking short naturals. I realized then that only in America are girls “supposed” to have hair.

    Last year, the Africa Channel, ran a top model-like show, featuring women from throughout the continent of Africa. When quite a few of the women were “made over” the stylists removed their tattered weaves and gave them baldies instead. The women who received this cut were among the most stunning in the group. The sista who won the competition, was bald and beautiful.

    The problem is, that we are so overwhelmed with a white standard of beauty that we can’t see ourselves anymore. We don’t know when we look ridiculous in ratty-ass hair weaves or when we are stunning without hair. We, Black women need to reclaim ourselves on so many levels that its sad.

    Funny thing is, for the past three days, I had a picture of myself wearing a wig, posted on FaceBook. I got really positive replies. One person even told me that I looked younger and more vibrant?! Imagine that. Luckily, I know the difference between a tacky-ass wig and vibrant. We have a looooong way to go when the length of a sister’s hair still elicits such a strong response, good or bad. Thanks for posting the article Nicole. And more power to Solange for daring to be free.

  • erikka
    August 10th, 2009 11:36 am

    I love the new site! You’ve come so far, congrats Nic!

    I love this post- I felt like putting up my own “I AM NOT MY Hair” post on FB given the reactions to my recent status notification. They always say that you always want what you don’t have- if you have curly hair you want straight, if you have straight you want curly, long hair- short hair, etc. I just decided to get the best of my LOVE/HATE relationship with my hair and cut it off. I LOVE it now, especially when it’s curly and that in itself is a feat. To all those that say why did you do it or look at me sideways for parting with my long hair I say this- you’re not the one cleaning the tub train or sweeping my bathroom floor. Or spending hours trying to figure out how to style it or shield it from the rain and the humidity. It is freeing in that respect. When I stepped out of the chair I even felt lighter. I am not my hair, my hair doesn’t make who I am. Hopefully now that it’s short the associations people have made with me and my hair will stop.