Beautify Me: My Hair Story

My girl Bella over at Afrobella.com had an amazing post yesterday about comments made by a former employee of Glamour magazine. In case you don’t know the story, an editor from Glamour made a stupid ass statement to some female attorneys last year. The editor thought Afros were not a good look in the work place. (Oh word?) This statement set off a firestorm. (Sistas wore her ass out in letters to the editor.) Readers wanted an explanation. You can read Glamour‘s response here.

In an effort to keep it 100 (%) with it’s readers, Glamour formally addressed the issue with a round-table discussion of professional black women in corporate America and how their hair has affected their jobs in the March 2008 issue. I was especially interested in the article, “Your race, your looks,” as a former co-worker, Jami Floyd of Court TV  (now truTV) was interviewed.

The Afrobella.com post as well as the Glamour article got me thinking about my own hair story.  Currently I have locs, which I love but it wasn’t always that way. Before locs, I too, was a slave to the creamy crack and relaxed my hair. And before that I had braids, a natural, a weave, and yes, a Care-free curl (don’t laugh). My hair styles have run the gamut over my 34 years. But it wasn’t until I cut it all off and began the locking process did I truly love my hair and begin to love me.

As an adult I have always worked in the entertainment industry. From record labels to cable television, I have never had a problem within the work environment with respect to promotions or opportunities due to my hairstyle. The opportunities have been lacking, but I believe that has more to do with my choice of industry rather than anything else. However, I still get the questions and the intrigue as to how my hair does what it does.

The running joke at my current company is ‘let’s see if we can touch Jessica’s hair”. I absolutely hate that shit. I don’t want people touching, digging in, or pulling my hair. The cartoonist, Keith Knight has done some great posts on this very subject. What is it about me and my hair that intrigues people so? I understand that my hair is different, it’s not straight. I get that, but I never and I mean NEVER reach out to touch other people’s hair. The objectification that I get is so annoying and anyone that knows me knows that I have ZERO tolerance for this nonsense. I can often be heard shouting, “don’t touch my hair,” from my cube in record label land. I like attention but please…PLEASE.

Over the years I have had many troubles with self-esteem. I’ve never believed I was beautiful. That feeling began in grade school where I was one of maybe 10 black students in a private Connecticut school of 550. When the white kids started dating I was never included. It’s silly to think that I needed validation from boys to think I was beautiful, but I did. Those kids made me feel inadequate and made fun of my ‘nappy hair’. My 20th reunion is coming up for that very private school in May. Although I’m not interested in attending, I wonder what my classmates would say about the NEW Jessica.

The feeling of inadequacy was reinforced in the all black high-school I attended from grades 10 -12. In addition to being told that I ‘talked white’, my hair wasn’t in the styles that these kids wore either. Back then, I didn’t even know what a weave was and neither did my mother. So again, my hair didn’t measure up.  But I was grateful for one thing:  my family has never made me feel less than beautiful because of my hair style or skin tone.

My mother, in fact has had a myriad of hairstyles over the years. From an Afro in the 70s to beads and braid in the 80s to a mod Grace Jones style hairdo in the early 90s. The problems have come from  black men who constantly ask when I’m going to cut my hair and use a relaxer. Well… listen up fellas, I’m not. This is the hair style that I am most comfortable in and I won’t be changing in the near future or if ever.  I have had no rhythm from black men, except the Rastafarian’s since I loc’d my hair. Believe me, that has made me start to rethink my stance on interracial dating. Some say the men can sense when someone doesn’t feel good about themselves, I say it has something to do with black men loving long, straight hair.

Honestly, why does this happen? Is it that natural black hair styles are not represented in the mainstream media? That may be part of it. Even though Glamour has made a huge effort to correct a past wrong, it and most other women’s magazines don’t have hair tips for people like me. I’d probably gasp if I ever saw an article on how to maintain a loc’d hairstyle or which products create moisture and don’t damage the hair.  Allure and Cosmo need to get on board. Essence magazine, the bible for black women has been giving out tips for years but should not be the only resource. I read Essence but I also read other magazines. Black women should have multiple places to go for beauty tips.

So today, as I start my day I will look at myself in the mirror and smile. I am beautiful even if men, magazines, television, and former classmates don’t agree.  And, I’ll keep hoping to see myself in the woman’s magazines that I love to read each and every day.

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5 responses to “Beautify Me: My Hair Story

  1. gimmegimmefierce

    Oh dear….issues of hair, my most sensitive of subjects. People have actually accused me of attempting to deny my Latin heritage by Japanese-straightening my curly, Slash-esque hair. No doubt, my natural hair is beautiful (thanks to Daddy’s tight curls and Mom’s thick, straight hair,) but if my heritage is contained exclusively in outgrown dead keratin cells (a.k.a. hair) , then I’m doomed. Please…..PLEASE. You know how I celebrate my roots? I speak fluent Spanish, maintain valuable traditions, know my history, cook up some bad-ass “arroz con pollo,” and dance salsa like I’m on a bed of hot fire. My sisters obviously share my ethnicity and all have stick-straight hair, so gimme a friggin’ break. So I straighten my hair. Know what? I can cut and style it any way I want (I just sheared off over a foot of it and am sporting the Katie Holmes!), and it takes all of 5 minutes of my precious time to make it happen in the morning. I too, attended a high school where the student body was predominantly of my own race. Yep…been straightening since way back then. There are people who I’ve known for years, who have no idea my hair is curly, but who know it always looks hot. Who cares? How is that a symbol of anything other than personal style and taste? (sigh) So Jessica, I celebrate you for exploring different hair styles and deciding which is best for you, without the need to please anyone but yourself. After all, it is the true fashionista’s nature to experiment and take fashion risks. Maybe I’ll ask Michiko to poodle-perm my hair next time around. Would that be Hispanic enough?

  2. OMG! gimmegimmefierce. I guess this crap happens across many…MANY ethnic backgrounds. Keep doin’ you.

  3. It brokes my heart to know that you had to endure so many years of judgement because of your hair. I have never in my life meet a race of people that hate themselves as much as black folks do. I can’t figure out why. Why is it that damn near every women in Hollywood has a weave? Why is it that the same black women we are walking around here with severly damaged hair continue to put relax it. It’s almost like they would rather have damaged straight hair rather then nappy hair that is healthy and thick

  4. I am so feeling your blog! You always tell me i live in a bubble cause i have never encountered any hair issues connected to race ya know! but i do know that that comment made by that Glamour bitch was ridiculous…can I touch your hair? I personally never liked my curly hair becuase it was crunchy…that’s right i have to put so much gel in it to tame it that it just looked crunchy…the only reason i love kepping it straight is cause its easy! but if i had beautiful thinck curls that stayed in place and didn’t look like the crunchy noodles from the chines place id be rockin em….so what’s next!???

  5. UGH don’t mind the spelling errors, these acrylics are too long..time to get a fill in and cut down!

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