Halle Berry, Beyonce and Natural Hair
By A. Yamina Collins | December 8, 2014 No Comments
Halle Berry caused a slight storm of dismay when she took the father of her six year old daughter, Gabriel Aubry, to court recently, claiming he was trying to make their daughter, Nahla, white by straightening and lightening her hair.
I never comment on current “events” like this, as it tends to fall closer to the line of gossip. But I want to take this opportunity to focus, not on the sensationalism of two public figures, but about about hair – specifically black hair.
The protest of readers on many blog sites did not bode well for Halle. Folks cruelly called her names, and insisted that straightening the child’s hair shouldn’t be a problem because, after all, Nahla is 3/4 white (Halle has a white mother and black father; Gabriel Aubry, Nahla’s father, is Canadian white). Indeed, many people lamented that Hallee was making a big deal out of nothing, while others took Halle to task for having Gabriel as the child’s father in the first place.
Personally, I don’t think Halle was making a big deal out of nothing.
I, for one, am actually in agreement with her on the issue. Perhaps because I suspect the point she is trying to make is about acceptance and preconceived definitions of beauty when it comes to kinky hair.
Let’s face facts. We live in a world where neither Gabriel Aubry nor Halle Berry would ever be caught trying to change their daughter’s natural texture into something kinkier than it already is. Why not? We all know why not – because straight hair has always been seen as the identifying mark of femininity.
Actually, before I go any further to discuss Halle and Nahla (and later, Beyonce and Blue Ivy) I want to take a brief walk down history lane. If we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that both blacks and whites have held a deep-seated hatred of nappy and kinky hair since the days of slvery. Whites condemned our hair as something ugly and unruly, and blacks, unfortunately, picked up on this hatred and came to believe the lie.
Thomas Jefferson, for example, one of this country’s Founding Fathers, once went so far as to state that white women were more preferable to black women in terms of beauty because, among other things, white women had “flowing hair”. In 2007, Radio talk show host Don Imus, in referring to the Rutger’s University women’s basketball team deemed it appropriate to put down the team by calling them “nappy-headed” hoes. Nappy hair, in that moment, was intentionally used as a put-down. Think about this – when have you ever heard a white or a black man try to demean a woman by labeling her hair as “straight and flowing”?
Because of the hatred many of us have come to harbor of natural black hair, even black women have come to perpetuate this hatred. In 2013 talk show host Sheryl Underwood, in response to Heidi Klum keeping her biracial son’s hair in a zip-lock bag, said, “You can’t weave-in Afro hair. You’ll never see us at the hair place going ‘look here, what I need is nappy hair’ That just seems nasty.”
Wow. A black woman calling nappy hair nasty. And, yet, it’s not actually shocking. Ms. Underwood grew up under the same system of thought I have grown up under – self hating our natural hair. This is why we see so many black actresses and singers constantly flaunting around blonde and straight wigs, and weaves.
Think I’m making it up? When is the last time you saw a white woman walking around with a weaved-in afro? And how many black actresses and singers do you see consistently walking around with kinky hair?
From movies to books to music videos, hair that is not processed, lightened or straightened has never been acceptable as a crown of beauty on a woman. This is not a minor issue. Hair, after all, is huge for women. It is, quite literally, our crowning glory; that thing sitting at the top of our heads for all the world to see.
And so, for black women—who come in a myriad of shades with different hair textures— to be encouraged over and over again to hide anything that is remotely kinky or curly from growing out of her head, is painful. It is, I assume,, part of the point Halle is trying to make.
I wish Halle well because I think she wants her daughter to live in a world where – regardless of whether the child’s father is white or not – the girl does not have to process or lighten her hair anymore than it already is.
In fact, since Nahla is already 75% white, it seems odd to me that her hair should be straightened or lightened her hair. The child already has light skin and hair. Why blot out what little there is of her blackness? And why put unhealthy chemicals into the head of a six-year old?
At least, Blue Ivy doesn’t seem to have that problem. That little’s girls kinks and curls are growing out all over the place.
I have long sense applauded Beyonce her for keeping her daughter’s hair natural. It’s a signal to black women all over the country that they don’t have to perm their little girl’s tresses.
It has dismayed me that so many people, especially my beautiful black people, have called Blue Ivy’s hair unkempt. From these people, I have tried to understand what the real problem is, because to me, Blue Ivy’s hair looks just fine.
Some have complained that her hair doesn’t look combed. I have said that it is combed, but that her hair does not grow straight and down. It grows upwards and outward. What I have sensed, from other blacks, is a kind of horror that a black child’s hair should be seen by the world in its natural form.
This truly saddens me.
Then again, like I said earlier, whites and blacks have had a long held, deep seated hate-affair with natural hair – from the days of slavery until now. So I applaud Halle and Beyonce for taking these small steps in changing the conversation about black hair. Don’t get me wrong – I know that some people criticize these women for wanting their daughter’s to have natural, even while keeping their own hair processed or weaved-up.
But I think I understand their dilemma.
Halle and Beyonce have, in a sense, accepted the artificial and European idea of beauty. After all, European standards of beauty helps to sell records and movie tickets, don’t they? I am not in agreement with this, just pointing a sad fact. I wish it weren’t true. I wish Halle and Beyonce would both buck the system. But perhaps, in a way, by fighting for their children’s naturalness, they are acknowledging the damage already done to their own psyche’s.
I think they want something better their daughters, and the generations that come after them. Indeed, we need little girl’s like Nahla and Blue Ivy to walk around with the hair they were born with. We need them to show it off to the world – curls, kinks and all, in a display of beautiful diversity.
White women’s hair runs straight and long, and that is a wonderful thing. But it is equally wonderful that our grows in just the opposite direction. If we could only embrace that truth, and appreciate it, we might find that black hair is as marvelous as God intended it to be. It doesn’t need to be straightened, lightened or blotted out.
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Some notes about the HOST OF YAMINATODAY.COM – A. Yamina Collins
A. Yamina Collins is the author of the fantasy/romance novel The Last King, A modern-day love story about a young woman innocently caught in a war between two age-old nemesis: God, and immortal beings whose ancestors ate from the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden.
The Last Kinghas already been in Amazon’s Top 100 Bestseller’s list in Fantasy, Sciencefiction, Women’s Fiction Literature and Christian Women’s Literature.
THE LAST KING BOOK SYNOPSIS:
Twenty-eight year Emmy Hughes has never quite fit in—she’s six feet tall, dark-skinned, and daydreams of being Galadriel from Lord of the Rings. But when she is badly injured in a car accident that kills her mother, Emmy does not dream of fantastical worlds anymore—she just wants her shattered life to be normal again.
Unfortunately, normalcy is the last thing in store for her once she meets Lake George’s newest arrival, Dr. Gilead Knightly. Granted immortality from a line of people whose Great Ancestor marched into the Garden of Eden and ate from the Tree of Life, Gilead has been alive for centuries and has met everyone from Nubian kings to Napoleon.
But Gilead and his eccentric family are also hunted beings because God considers the Edenites’ possession of immortality to be theft. And for thousands of years He has dealt with their transgression by sending each of them a “Glitch” —an unsuspecting human meant to retrieve this stolen “property” of immortality and kill them off.
When Emmy discovers that she is Gilead’s Glitch, she is not only thrown into a world of immortals who eat bone marrow, panthers who read minds, and a family whose blood is made of pulsing gold, but she finds herself the target of Gilead’s vengeance: he must get rid of her before she gets rid of him.
Easier said than done. Because Glitches are not only an Edenite’s greatest threat—they’re also their greatest love.