zendaya schools the masses on black hair

dear white people, not only can you not touch black people’s hair, but you’re also not allowed to make disparaging jokes about it.  fashion police host giuliana rancic learned this lesson after saying actress zendaya coleman’s faux dreadlocks smelled like “patchouli” or “weed” at the oscars on sunday night.

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for the record, zendaya was doing it for the gawds at the oscars, wearing an all-white vivienne westwood dress with long dreads.  the 18 year-old boldly disrupted the beauty matrix by rocking a hairstyle that some would label too pedestrian for the formal event.  it’s taken years for sisters to rock the hair that actually grows from their scalps on the red carpet so faux locks is definitely a milestone.  i mean, what’s next? braids? *gasp*

while black folks were slow clapping at zendaya’s decision to show authenticity in a white-washed spaced (literally white-washed as there were no people of color nominated in any acting categories at the awards) rancic decided it was time to take shots.  claiming she was only commenting on zendaya’s “bohemian chic” look makes the fashion critic comments even worse.  race privilege allows whites to limit locs — a hairstyle that historically represents an act of resistance — to a fashion trend. race privilege also allows whites to brush aside their comments as a joke when the comments clearly draw upon racist stereotypes.

thankfully, it’s clapback season and zendaya responded to rancic’s comments in the thoughtful instagram post below:

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soPOPular! tackles diversity in the fashion industry

it’s new york fashion week and my limited research shows that runways are just as white as seasons before.

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while models transcend racial lines, major fashion houses with the budgets and power continue to produce fashion shows with very limited diversity. janet mock’s new show soPOPular! tackled this issue with guests bevy smith and miss j.  i loooooved bevy smith’s analysis and was happy to learn she’s a fashion og, having spent years as fashion director for both rolling stone and vibe magazine.  bevy hit the nail on the head when she said, “if you don’t have diversity in your personal life, you certainly won’t have it on the runway.”  i totally agree — we’re dealing not just with pretty clothes and artistic presentations, but a society built on white supremacy.  the fashion industry isn’t exempt from this harsh reality.

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check out janet’s interview with the fashion stalwarts here.

data from jezebel.com

black women’s scalps matter

DSC_0064 1i’m still traumatized from the ceramic flat iron event of 2014 when i damaged my hair in a straightening incident gone bad. so you can imagine my excitement when i realized my hair had grown long enough for two strand twists. a pat on the back and a few shea moisture products should have been enough to celebrate my accomplishment, but noooo i decided box braids were the perfect turn up to salute a 1.5 inch twa.

like most black women, i grew up getting braids; in fact, i have lots of memories from childhood and early adolescence picking out $.99 packs of hair and spending hours at a cousin’s/family friend’s/aunt’s home getting my hair braided.  time-consuming and painful, the results were usually “worth” it — women learn early that beauty requires the sacrifice of comfort.  however, as i became older and developed greater agency over my body, i decided both long hair and extensions weren’t my jam, choosing to rock short hair (even a caesar cut in 10th grade). by my early 20s, i went natural and changed my entire beauty paradigm. so i thought.

pain has no real memory, and my freedom from perms, weaves and beauty salons made me think all was well in these box braid streets. in fact, my first set of braids in early december weren’t too tight, only requiring a few pain pills and lasted for about a month. i thought, “ok, that wasn’t so bad, now it’s time for round two…”

you know that moment when you’re weighing pain versus beauty? “just how much pain is worth ensuring my relaxer/sew-in/braids are on fleek?” i had that feeling while my scalp was being yanked from my head during my second set of braids. finally, in a moment of weakness, i admitted to the stylist that she was braiding my hair too tight.  it came out like a whimper, the voice of a woman shamed by not being strong enough to sustain the pain required for a good hairdo. the look on the stylist’s face was one of sheer disappointment as she reminded me that my hair was thick, short and giving her a hard time — all synonyms for “nappy.”

daily doses of tylenol 3 and several sleepless nights later, i mustered the courage to peek at my scalp and realized it was filled with sores. i wish i could tell you that i immediately snatched the braids out and treated my aching scalp, but that would be a lie.  i wish i could tell you that self-care was more important in the 48 hours after i noticed the sores than a cute hairstyle, but that too would be a lie.

the reality is i tortured myself in the name of beauty, ignoring all my body’s signs that it was in distress. black women are like addicts, our relationship with our hair can be abusive and toxic, but it can also make us feel so, so good. however, a few high moments aren’t enough for me to deny this very important lesson: black scalps matter.

check out “dreaming ourselves dark and deep: black beauty” in bell hooks’ sisters of the yam for more on black women’s relationship with our hair.

olikoye by chimamanda ngozi adichie

“outside the rain continued to fall gently until olikoye was born.”

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olikoye, the newest short story written by chimamanda ngozi adichie is simple and historically rich, the perfect embodiment of chimamanda’s recurring themes in less than one-page. the story appears in the art of saving a life, a collection of short stories commissioned by the bill and melinda gates foundation about the importance of vaccines.  check it out on matter.com.