(Another older post that I thought was still pretty relevant.)
As of late, I’ve been catching all the media promotion for Chris Rock’s documentary “Good Hair.” The movie, which debuted on October 9 to theaters across the nation, offers a deeper look into the lives of African American women’s hair, with brilliant commentary thanks to Chris Rock’s cocktail of cunning wit, keen aptitude for timing, and great understanding of social relevance. Though some say that by poking fun at personal hair- grooming rituals, the movie inadvertently serves African American women up as a punch line, it was not the love- hate tango that black women dance with their hair that interested me most. My greatest interest was actually the reason why the movie was even dreamed up.
Supposedly the comedian overheard one of his young daughters expressing a desire for “good hair,” which his daughter went on to describe as hair completely opposite of her own in color, length, and texture. Horrified, Rock was then prompted to explore black women’s behavioral patterns in styling their hair. He wanted to understand what these women do to it, how these women do it, and why these women do it. Additionally to my understanding, because I have yet to see the film, Rock tries to uncover if all of black women’s mane endeavors are in pursuit of attaining a concept of “good hair.”
Many women thought the documentary was funny. I understand why. Many women were offended. I also understand why. As a member of this demographic, I have done everything to my hair (except shave it off!) that is being noted in the documentary and have received the full range of reactions to my new do’s (from admiration to a date laughing abruptly in my face). Trust me, I understand why African American women’s hair grooming techniques and the reasons why we do them are a touchy subject.
But I think that in bemoaning the fact Rock pokes fun at some of the over-the-top methods used to present hair (many of which I am guilty of LOL) is doing a disservice and, bluntly, missing a greater tragedy. The mere need and existence of a documentary like “Good Hair” shows that there is another generation of young women that think something’s wrong with the skin they’re in (or in this case, the hair on their heads). There is another generation of young women growing up and wondering why something about themselves is not “right.” When Rock’s daughter asked him why she didn’t have a certain type of hair, she was actually asking him why her God-given hair wasn’t worthy of praise.
Chris Rock can joke all he wants to about my press and curl. It’s not going to stop me from getting my hair done. I might even joke about it with my stylist. Because I’ve gone through every style and battle with my hair, I have consequently learned to appreciate it, no matter how it is worn. But I cringe to think that the funny man had to create this documentary for a young lady not even in her teens. I cringe to think that a girl so young already recognizes that her assets do not fit into mainstream standards of beauty. And I cringe to think that issues of self- worth are trudging through our younger generations of women so unnecessarily. I understand how long my journey took to love every coil, color, and curve I was adorned with at birth, and am dismayed that another generation of young ladies may face that journey as well.
In my last blog, I dared young women to not fear adversity, but to welcome it. I dared them to welcome the growth that comes keeping one’s head when everything around is in disarray. Today, I am daring young women to simply love themselves. It cannot be done for anyone, thus as a young lady, one has to make the commitment to accept and love oneself without condition. Again, I emphasize, without CONDITION. Until this task is done effectively and efficiently, one is only allowing themself 99% of life (and we are all responsible for our personal happiness). And if you know a young woman that needs to understand how brightly her light shines, by all means tell her. You never know when you might be the factor that changes someone’s perspective on life.
Unfortunately, the pressure to beautiful will never completely disappear and that’s why understanding one’s inherent value is so important. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but the radiance of the soul, it shines on everyone. There is something about all of us that is worthy of praise and acceptance, and the most blaring horn of devotion should come from oneself. Or, as I read along time ago in a Nikki Giovanni poem: “You show me a woman who is not full of herself, and I’ll show you an empty person.”

Imani Josey

Imani is a writer from Chicago, Illinois. After graduating Howard University in Washington, DC, Imani received her Masters from Northwestern University. Sometime during all of that studying, she danced professionally for the Chicago Bulls as a (Luvabulls) cheerleader, and won the titles of Miss Chicago and Miss Cook County for the Miss America Organization, as well as Miss Black Illinois USA. Read her short story “North” in the forthcoming Hidden Youth anthology, out November 2016 by Crossed Genres.

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