Student Perspective: Natural Hair Movement Expands Definition of Beauty

By Christelle Glaudin ’19

Kinky! Coily! Curly! Wavy! The natural hair movement has be soaring through the nation as women and men of African ancestry return to wearing their afros, twist outs, braids, cornrows, bantu knots, dreadlocks and many more.

Anecia Henry ’19 said, “It’s a movement of black women and black men being comfortable in their identity and their appearance for themselves. [It’s] really breaking away from the standard of beauty that has always been forced, and really taking on something that is their own.”

The movement is about more than just hair. It’s a symbol of acceptance, confidence, and freedom and it introduces a way of reclaiming black heritage. These aspects are what make the movement so important.

Ms. Causah Vann said, “The movement is important because it teaches people to love themselves as they are and not be ashamed to portray who they are to the world.”

The natural hair movement also aims to educate society about  the beauty and powerful history of natural hair.

Chinwendu Onianwa ’18 said, “As a child with melanin in my skin, chances are I am [going to] have naps or curly hair, which some people deem as uncivilized and unmanageable. If there’s a movement which raises awareness about natural hair and its beauty, others won’t have to question my hair and what goes on with it.”

The natural hair movement can trace its powerful  history back to the days of slavery. According to the New York Times, natural hair was viewed in a negative light by European slave masters during the 18th century.

The British colonists believed afro-textured hair carried a closer resemblance to sheep’s wool than to human hair.

Due to the realities of slavery,  European hair became the standard of beauty, and blacks began to view their hair in a negative light. Mixed children who were often a product of plantations rapes, received better treatment due to their lighter skin and  looser curls.

As the years progressed, many black women relaxed their hair to live up to the society’s standards. This practice has been carried over into the 20th and 21st century.

Marlie Adrien ’19, who has relaxed hair, said, “A friend recommended my mom to perm my hair because she was struggling to take care of it. I would also be in pain after washing and braiding my hair. At the time, if I was offered a better option to taking care of my  hair, I would not have permed  it.”

Rosangela Duplessy ’18, who made the transition from straight hair to natural hair, said, “The reason why I permed my hair is because I wanted to fit in. Many of my classmates had long straight hair, and I always thought that having straight hair would mean you’re beautiful. My hair got really damaged and I later realized I shouldn’t be unhappy just to conform to society’s expectations.”

The women and men who made the decision to go natural have encountered a variety of struggles. They are often subjected to hurtful comments.

Sanisha Ramsey ’19 said, “Someone once said to to me, ‘you have nice hair for a black girl.’ After that person told me that, it made me that I feel upset because this is unfortunately the way society talks about my people’s hair.”

Likewise, Henry said, “Something I get a lot is ‘I want you to straighten your hair so much. It would be so pretty if it was straight.’”

Although this movement has become a powerful symbol of freedom, acceptance and unity, many individuals believe it can still be improved. The media needs to diversify the types of hair that it portrays.

Duplessy said, “Looser curls are the face of the movement. I understand  that’s still considered to be natural. However, looser hair was always considered beautiful. Kinky haired women are being left out by the media and the companies that make looser hair women the face of the brand.”

By portraying specific hair types, the media and other platforms are conforming to society’s standards and are contradicting the main purpose of the movement, which is acceptance.

Those who are participating in the movement are hoping that people will learn to accept their natural hair and all the other aspects of their body that make them unique. It is their dream that one day afro-textured hair will no longer be a subject of controversy and an aspect of their lives which they have to constantly defend.

“One of the most annoying things about having natural hair is the fact that it has to be a movement,” Henry said. “Also, the fact that everyone has to have an opinion on it when it’s really just me looking how I want and doing what I want, and that’s all it should be. You shouldn’t be able to have an opinion on what I do with my hair, how you feel about it, or what you think would look better.”

Likewise, Corey Adams ’19 said, “Honestly, I hope that we don’t need the movement in the future. I want people to be able to look back at it and think, ‘why did we need that?’”

If someone is considering going natural, they should research the movement and join the Natural Hair Club, which meets during period 10 on Thursdays, in room 451. No one should feel pressured to go natural because of the heat of the movement. It should be a personal decision.

“Make sure you’re ready,” said Duplessy. “If you decide to cut off all your hair and regret it afterwards, it defeats the purpose because you’re supposed to feel like a whole new person and embrace your natural beauty.”

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