This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend a media seminar. Those of us in pursuit of various goals in media (radio and television) used this forum to discuss ideas and learn from the woman doing the seminar because of her experience and many years in the industry. It’s interesting the things that can come up after a seminar is over and people feel comfortable speaking without fear of being singled out. One topic that came up after the event wrapped up happened through casual conversation. It was this issue of hair and women. Particularly a black woman. We talked about how sometimes we felt the need to make changes just to fit in and not miss out on opportunities.
During my modelling days, there was a famous model named Roshumba Williams. During the 1980’s and 1990’s she was one of the few Black models who wore her hair natural. That being, no relaxer, no weave, no wigs. Just look at the photo of her and Beverly Johnson pictured above showing the contrast of the normally accepted long relaxed look. It was rare to see a Black model be successful without going for the straight styles. I myself was blessed with having thick strong hair. When I relaxed it, it was quite long. I often had people ask me if my hair was real. There came a time when I began considering cutting my hair to go natural. When I expressed this to my modelling agent, he gasped and told me I would never get work as a model with natural hair. It was the ’90’s, Naomi, Tyra and Beverly Peele were the ‘It’ black models. None had natural hair. From a business standpoint, I can see where he was coming from.
In the end, I went natural and it hasn’t come without struggle. In our society, Black women primarily relax their hair and it’s often seen as more acceptable and professional in the workplace. It’s not often you see a Black woman with her hair in its natural afro state in positions of power.
As a woman with career pursuits in television media, it’s been a challenge for myself. In my opinion, it’s very difficult for a woman to become a news anchor or television host with natural hair. It’s not impossible but, it’s not easy either.
Think about it. How many Black women who are news anchors or television media personalities have natural hair. If you see it, usually it’s in creative fields like art, fashion or music.
I remember having jokes with a friend of mine about not getting the job because we didn’t have that ‘anchor woman hair‘. You know what I’m referring to. There is a typical, acceptable style of hair usually seen on female journalists. Straight, blonde and long. Think beauty pageant hair. That’s not to say there aren’t any that are different from that but, it’s the stereotype.
Over the years we have seen changes but, it’s still very slow. Afros and braids are still not widely accepted in media nor in the business world. Why is that? Do people not see the beauty in our differences? Or do they just want everyone to look the same?
There is a real beauty in showing who we are and what God created us to be. Now, I’m not saying there is anything wrong with having your hair different from its natural state. I do think making changes to our hair is one of the fun things about fashion and beauty. However, when one particular group is not widely embraced for their naturalness, it can be a source of conflict for some.
What do you think about this?