Becky With The Good Hair
Today I wanna talk about hair. It's the perfect time to do it as it's Thursday so I can throwback to when I had my braids put in (I've long taken them out now - I feel free!). What I'd like to discuss today is about good hair and what exactly good hair is. Have you ever watched that documentary by Chris Rock called (would you believe it) "Good Hair"? It's basically about hair culture, particularly for African-American women and what black people generally perceive as desirable and attractive hair. Chris said he was prompted to do the show because his 3 year daughter asked him "Daddy why don't I have good hair?". This is not just an African-American issue but one worldwide, where my own nieces in Nigeria, under 6, have also absorbed the idea that their hair isn't good while mine, being of mixed heritage, is "nicer".
I was always been taught that I have "good hair". I grew up in Nigeria, so if it wasn't my mother reminding me every day about the beauty of my hair and how lucky I am to have European locks when most mixed race girls don't, it was Nigerian men and women being mesmerised by my natural hair, wanting to touch it to see if it's real. Afro hair was perceived to be kinky and not as good. I'm not sure how this concept spread and why straighter/sleeker hair is seen as better but it concerns me when it starts impinging on small children's thoughts and self-esteem. When the world criticises Beyonce for not "tidying" up her daughter's hair and my nieces have their hair pulled back in braids so tight, their hairline is slowly starting to shrink back, it's sad. The pain I experienced whilst getting my hair braided, wow I don't know how little children stand it. To be fair, I had extensions in to make it longer so the braids felt way heavier, plus I've since been informed that it should not hurt that much (after 5 hours of braiding, I could not sleep for 2 days I was in such pain) so I might not have had a good first experience or maybe I'm just a wimp haha.
I wanted to do my braids as an experiment. I've said before that I'm really loving the look of them at the moment so thought it would be perfect to have some fun in Nigeria and play around with my style. I wanted to go for that Lisa Bonet/Zoe Kravitz look so long, thick braids was my vision. 5 hours later, I looked in the mirror and I was not sure of what I saw. I looked so different and I couldn't work out if it was a good or bad different. My sister felt it odd cos my natural hair is so "nice" and my mother panicked at the thought of the braids making my hair "kinky" later. I just did not know if I felt like me anymore. It was then I realised how much this "good hair" business had been drummed into me and how important my hair had become to my identity. Then I was actually glad that I had to challenge myself in a new way and re-conceptualise my identity outside the girl with the nice hair. It's really interesting because the longer I had it on, the more defiant I become about my look, about feeling ethic and rebranding this look to be "good hair". It was not an easy feat, however. I became conscious of the fact that I was starting a new job in a fashion role so wondered whether my hairstyle would be deemed "professional" or "tidy", especially when you hear ridiculous stories of black women being warned about their hairstyles at work. I also was conscious about my hair around my boyfriend. Though he was a massive supporter of me experimenting with my look, I know that my hair is one of his favourite physical features of mine. He likes the tell the story of how we first met, the first thing he saw was my hair and he was smitten. I asked him that if things were different that night and we met when I had my braids in, would he have approached me and he admitted (and I'm grateful for his honesty) that he probably would not have approached me as fast. I'm not trying to show him up here, it's just interesting to think about whether his preference is simply based on personal choice (he likes the Brazilian looking ladies haha) or rather a long standing concept ingrained in our society that black hair isn't as attractive or sexy. Think about the Beyonce song, "Sorry" where she disses her husband for not being there for her and advises him to "call Becky with the good hair". Instantly, Twitter boomed with guesses at who Becky could be but before Rachel Roy came up everyone assumed Becky was white. To be fair, Becky as a name is more associated as white but (and I may be idealistic here) I just don't like the idea that someone with the good hair is assumed to have sleeker locks. Why couldn't she be a beautiful black women with a kick ass afro or any other nationality with different textured hair for that matter? Why is that not good hair? I may be pushing this a little far fetched but I like the fact of reclaiming the concept of good hair. So for today and in this post, I'm claiming Becky with the good hair with my braids (this is only in terms of hair btw, I'm no one's sidepiece...shame on you Becky!).
P.S. I have taken the braids out now. While the pain subsided a bit and I thought I looked DOPE AF, I started getting uncomfortable with all that hair on my head. I had 3 packets of long hair hair on me and it felt like I was constantly wearing a blanket, one that was so itchy but I would not allow me access to itch it! I also started getting small spots all over my forehead so it had to come off asap. Black women, I got mad respect for you yo! Props cos it ain't easy! xo
*Title from "Sorry" by Beyonce
This was after the pain started to ease and I was feeling fresh ;)