Comedian and The Talk co-host Sheryl Underwood has made some pretty bad headlines after calling Afro hair “beady” and “nasty.” Here we go again: another celebrity making an unintelligent comment about our God-given hair. This time around, natural women (and Black women in general) shot back.
In case you haven’t heard, CBS aired a rerun of an episode including the distasteful remark last Friday. The topic of discussion focused on former model and Project Runway host Heidi Klum admitting that she saves the hair of her biracial children after shaving their Afros. After being completely thrown off and appalled by Klum’s statement, Underwood made a nasty and rude comment: “Why would you save Afro hair? You can’t weave… Afro hair. You don’t ever see [Black women] in the hair store asking for curly, nappy beaded hair. That’s just nasty.”
Co-host Sarah Gilbert joined the conversation, saying she also saves her son’s hair when Underwood interrupted, saying that it was “probably some beautiful, long silky stuff.”
Really?! So this is what we've come to? It’s perfectly acceptable to save some “long silky stuff,” but disgraceful to save African-American hair?
When I first heard the comment, all I felt was disappointment. Here we have a former president of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc., a former naturalista, who’s gained the opportunity to bring a solid Black woman’s perspective to a national syndicated show, and what does she do? Not only does she bash natural hair, but she outwardly praises European hair as if it should be the aspiration. As a natural hair community, we have to continuously fight against negative hair stereotypes. To have someone who used to wear braids and Afro puffs calling our hair “nappy” and “nasty,” and speaking on it as if it carried some type of disease, is a hard slap in the face.
While Underwood meant for the comment to be a joke, it seems as though Black, natural Twitter had the last laugh. Feeling insulted and infuriated, Black women quickly invaded Underwood’s Twitter mentions with responses to her comment. The outrage was so intense that Underwood eventually agreed to sit down with Curly Nikki in an interview to offer an apology, saying that the joke was “misinterpreted.” The comedian also appeared as a radio guest on The Steve Harvey Morning Show earlier this week, where she gave a sincere apology for hurting “her people” and the fans that have supported her entire career.
Wow, the power of social media.
The apologies sound nice, but we know enough to understand that time and time again, people, even Black people, have continuously made outrageous comments about Black women and our hair. And I’m pretty sure they meant them.
I understand that Sheryl is a comedian and I also get that not every Black person rocks with natural hair. There’s nothing wrong with that at all. But at the end of the day, putting down the natural hair of your own “people,” the hair that you have under all of those wigs you wear, make you look like a sad sellout. Period.
At the end of the day, Underwood has this large platform she can utilize in media, and whether she agrees or not, any shots taken at “her people” will not resonate well, regardless if she was just trying to be funny or not. I’m glad she was held accountable for what she said. I don’t know if the comment came from self-hate, distaste for natural hair, or simply ignorance. But I do hope that she understands the underlying issue behind her comment, and possibly resolves her own underlying issues (because when she takes her wigs off, she is not rocking some “long silky stuff”… trust).
Kudos to the natural hair community for sending a clear message that we will not be the butt of jokes or negative comments about our hair. We love every kink, nap, and curl just the way they are.
LaParis is a freelance beauty writer from St. Louis currently residing in Brooklyn. She is also the creator of the blog tailoredsilhouette.com.