Hmmm, maybe Viola's started something. Thandie Newton has decided to cast aside the Motions/Dark N' Lovely/TCB box in favor of rocking her own natural hair. Newton's motivation comes from wanting to set an example for her daughters Ripley and Nico. "I don't want my daughters to judge their beautiful curls," she said. According to The Daily Mail:
"The British star, 39, said she stopped using chemical relaxers typically used by black women to straighten their locks after seeing comic Chris Rock's documentary film Good Hair. The movie enlightened her to the fact that the products contain enough of the corrosive substance Lye - more commonly known as caustic soda - to dissolve a Coke can. She added: 'The stigma with some black women seems to be that "nappy hair" (natural afro hair) is almost as bad as loo roll trailing from your shoe."
Although she was inspired by Chris Rock's film, Viola's stunning turn at the Oscars probably had a lil' something to do with this as well. At least that's my guess. Although I was slightly disappointed with the Oscar fashion overall, Voila's do', along with that fantastic dress, she wore, was one of the highlights of evening. Seriously, when's the last time you've seen a major black female celebrity walk a red carpet sans anything adorning her head, save for the hair she was born with? Don't worry I'll wait....exactly. It was a great moment that could inspire black girls and women, both famous and non-famous, to do the same. And it's great Thandie wants to make her children feel comfortable in their own skin, or in this case with their own hair. Too many times I think parents, or mothers, rush their little girls into the salon for that first perm and press before they've even learned how to tie their shoes. I hope Thandie and Viola's decision to wear their hair in a natural style will help people recognize that a black woman doesn't have to sew in a mound of extensions or plop on a lace front to be gorgeous. But this did leave me pondering a few things.
Personally, I don't care if anyone, be it a man or woman, wants to weave it up, slap on a wig, chemically straighten or color their hair. No one should feel like they have to conform or repress their aesthetic preferences in fear of being viewed as less authentically black by "holier than thou" uber-Afrocentric types.
Ya'll know who I'm talking about--the ones who smell like a bodega, extol the virtues of alien dome-shaped head wraps or foot long Predator dreads while sucking their teeth at the rest of us, swear off fried food but will devour a two piece and a biscuit with dirty rice like it's their last meal, and spout Malcom X, Huey Newton and Marcus Garvey quotes before they'll tell you what time it is. All while often engaging in the same homophobic, racist, misogynistic, misandrous or other morally questionable behavior they criticize the "niggas with golds" (five points to whomever can guess where that comes from; a hint: ATLiens:) and girls with "hair weaves by Europeans and fake nails done by Koreans" (no points--that's too easy:)" for. But I digress.
To me using relaxers, weaves, wigs and such only become an issue when the individual in question feels that they aren't or cannot beautiful without them. That something is "wrong" or "ugly" about their natural hair. Then the issue becomes not about looks or fashion, but about self-esteem and self-image. Of course, this problem would probably be helped if more black folks, black women in particular (since they're usually the ones straightening their hair), chose to put down the lye cream and wore their natural, kinky hair as is. So it's a catch-22.
To sum it up: I'm happy that Viola (if only for one appearance--hopefully not) and Thandie have decided to go au natural. It sends a good message and adds another splash of much needed diversity into images of black female beauty. But where do we draw the line between being proud of and reveling in the glory of our natural, African hair and restricting others' freedom (through judgement, side-eyes and so on) to do whatever they want with their locs? Discuss.