woman with braids

“It’s just hair!” These are the words uttered by friend, free spirit and hair guru Jane Carter that I will never forget. At the time, I was a beauty consultant at a top natural hair salon in Atlanta and we were hosting the master stylist for one of our monthly curly education workshops. She comically blurted this out to a super stressed out woman with short natural hair, after she anxiously flung a slew of hair care questions to Jane. You’d think she’d been diagnosed with an incurable disease the way she spoke. Her tone read: 'I’m natural. Everyone’s telling me something different. The world has ended.' Perhaps she’d been preyed upon by the hair police? 

Smack dab in the middle of this wonderful curly movement is a group of women who maintain as serious opinions about natural hair care as conservatives feel about abortion. Mere mentioning of sulfates, mineral oil, petroleum, alcohol or parabens will get you a thirty minute lecture. They live by the texture commandments—spitting off curl types of 4c and 3b like new sorors at a probate. These ride or die curlies are not the first hair elitists—as we sisters have a long legacy of hating on strands growing out of everyone else’s scalp but our own. 

Though most don’t have a highly publicized social medium to verbally whip these highfalutin kinksters—Solange does. Natural hair blogger Curly Nikki posted the singer-turned-model’s quotes from her feature in the June issue of Essence—which garnered a slew of comments bashing Solo for everything from her love of faux curls to the fact that she favors and typically wears softer, less defined styles. How absolutely ridiculous is it that natural hair enthusiasts would bash someone for appreciating their curls in a less manipulated state? 

Solo retorted with a few tweets telling the masses that she never vied for the position of “team natural vice president,” nor does she even “know the lingo.” She ended with my favorite line, “I don’t want to talk about no damn hair…no mo.” Who would’ve ever predicted that “good and bad” hair would play out this viciously in the natural realm? You can’t police personal style, folks. Nor should you attempt to create bondage in a movement all about self-expression. 

We’ve become terribly critical of the way women wear their natural hair because of this surge of information and products. It’s a blessing and a curse. Simply because we’ve expanded our natural hair vocabulary to include these helpful styling terms doesn’t mean that anyone is forced to scrunch, coil, fingerstyle, spiral set, shingle, braid or twist anything. Nor should you be put to shame because you favor using products that don’t pass the test of any self-proclaimed expert or blogger.  The expectation to abide by the rules and regulations of the looming natural hair taskforce is unfair and counterproductive. Curly criticism is no more appealing to potential naturals than the hell-bound huffing of a pastor is to a so-called sinner. 

Have our opinions of other people’s hair gone too far? Yes. I say that as a reformed elitist. A ten-year natural who’d unfriend you on Facebook and delete your cell number if you told me that you used clear gel. Today, I just simply love hair in general. I love Solange’s gorgeously steamed-out ‘fro, as well as her faux styles. I love Viola Davis’ TWA (teeny weeny afro). I love Corrine Bailey Rae’s big, fluffy twists. I love Kim Coles’ mid-length spirals. I love Ledisi’s stunning locs. But I also love Beyonce’s magical lacefronts, Queen Latifah’s silky amber tresses, Ciara’s ombre fetish, Nia Long’s sassy short cut and a host of other hair hotties. Individuality is beautiful. 

Let’s put the focus on healthy hair—regardless of your texture or type.