Hair on stage

Posted in Beauty standard, Racial/ethnic stereotyping with tags on August 8, 2012 by Confessions of LadyV69

I know I’m late to the party, but I was busy with other matters last week. However, the issue of Gabby Douglas’s hair didn’t escape my attention. This 16 year African American girl was the first one to win a gold medal in her sport, yet a number of people on Twitter and Facebook felt that her hair (and how they found it lacking) was more important than her accomplishment.

Disgusting. And yet given how black people and women are generally socialized and regarded in our society, those people’s ignorant and shallow comments really shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise. Women are generally valued more for our appearance than for our accomplishments and intelligence. And a black person competing in what is considered a “white” sport and doing well in it threatens certain people, because Gabby’s success will undoubtedly inspire other girls of color to enter the sport and certain people fear that those “niggers and spics” will eventually take over and dominate it, shattering the belief that only whites can excel at it. It’s happened in other sports before(baseball and basketball are two of the biggest examples) so don’t think it can’t very well happen here.

As far as Gabby’s hair is concerned, it’s worn in a slicked back ponytail that is the standard in her sport. Does anyone honestly think that anyone’s hair can remain neat and in place when doing backflips and swinging on high beams? Seriously? That Gabby had to be subjected to the pressure of having to look perfect and sleek when she is an ATHLETE is totally ridiculous. Why it was even an issue is indicative of the virulent racism and sexism that is pervasive in our society. Are men, even black ones, subjected to as much scrutiny about how their hair looks or how thin they are, whether they are athletes or regular Joes?  Hell to the no. However since girls and women are generally valued more for what they look like on the outside and not for what they are on the inside, it can lead a fair number of them to do drastic things to change their appearance in order to fit our society’s BS narrow standards of beauty, things that their bodies were never meant to tolerate. Things like slapping caustic chemicals on their heads to straighten their hair because their God given curly or kinky hair are regarded as ugly and bad. Like getting Botox. Or even something as extreme as starving themselves so they can fit our society’s ideal feminine shape as something akin to a concentration camp victim. Unless we expand our standard of beauty, the pressure and desire for girls and women to fit into our narrow one will continue. And it’s a sad thought.

Hair and the family revisited

Posted in life, Traveling natural with tags , on August 7, 2012 by Confessions of LadyV69

Sorry for disappearing again, but I had a death in the family almost two weeks ago and I had to go out of town for most of last week to attend the funeral. I had been apprehensive about going because I hadn’t seen many of my family-both immediate and extended-in about five years. I won’t go into most of the reasons here but one reason I had some trepidation about the trip was due to the fact that a lot of my family had never seen me with fully natural hair, since it’s just been nearly three years since I gave up chemically straightening it. I was prepared to deal with ignorance due to this goldie oldie post as well as from what I’ve seen and heard other naturals experience.

I didn’t take any pictures while I was away, but these pictures from about a month or so ago represent how I generally wore my hair the whole time, which was in a wash and go. I knew I didn’t want a style that required a lot of upkeep and I didn’t want to bring a lot of products with me as I had limited luggage space. I also didn’t want to fight with my texture too much as I was down South and it gets hot and humid as hell down there this time of year.

I actually received fewer remarks about my hair then I thought I’d get. My sister, who has had locs for five years, asked if I had a jheri curl in my hair ::big eyeroll:: Some of you reading this may be clueless about what it was, but I’m old enough to remember when it was all the rage ::shudder:: My sister actually had one when we were in high school, as well as my mother and several other members of my extended family. It was basically a perm that  gave you looser curls so you’d look as though you had “good hair”::another eyeroll:: People with it moisturized their hair with curl activator gels and moisturizers. Those products can actually work well with natural hair as many of them contain glycerin, a highly touted moisturizing agent. That is if you’re so inclined. They do tend to be greasy, so if you don’t like a greasy feel to your hair, they may not be for you. Some of us may have issues with them if you had the curly perm in the past though. If you’ve ever seen the movie “Coming to America,” the scene where Eddie Murphy’s rival and cohorts all get up from the couch leaving jheri curl juice stains on it is priceless, but if you were ever in that situation, it was hella embarrassing. So, where was I ? Got off on a tangent. Oh yeah. I had KCCC in my hair and that product can make  it appear as though I have a jheri curl, but seriously? Why slap some chemicals in my hair to give me curls when I already have them naturally? The jheri curl was probably one of the most asinine inventions in hair care ever as many people who got them already had curls. Just goes to show you that not all naturals have a clue about all facets of natural hair. Then a cousin stated that she couldn’t go natural because she didn’t have good hair. Which got a sideye. “Good” hair is hair that is healthy, no matter how tight your curls are, not hair that is straightened to the point where it’s fried to a crisp. We have a long way to go before the “good hair, bad hair” mentality is eradicated because this way of thinking is still so pervasive in communities of color. Those were the only comments I got about my hair-to my face anyway. Compared to what other naturals experience, I got off pretty lightly. Some people may wonder why I felt a little uneasy about my hair around my family because after all, it is just hair. But it’s extremely indicative that how black women wear our hair is a huge issue that can have major social and political implications. Sometimes, hair isn’t just hair.

My Ugly Truth

Posted in business of beauty on July 18, 2012 by Confessions of LadyV69

So, the natural hair community has been all ablaze the last couple of days over this video by a well known natural hair vlogger, Taren. The link is here:

The video is super long at a little over 30 minutes but you only need to watch about half of it to get the gist of it. A lot of people start vlogging or blogging as a hobby. If you get big enough to where you have a lot of subscribers, companies may start contacting you to review products for free. If the company’s sales increase based on your favorable review, well, great for the company. How successful you are depends on the particular vlogger or blogger. Some consider 1,000 subscribers a success. Others consider 10,000 a success. And yet still others may consider nothing less than 100,000 subscribers to be a success. At which point do companies contact you to do reviews for free, I have no clue. Anyhoo, Taren states that once a natural hair or some other beauty vlogger on You Tube gets a certain number of subscribers to their channel and/or is made a partner on the site (You Tube will make a vlogger a partner on the site once they reach a certain number of subscribers and they’ll pay the vlogger a certain percentage based on the number of clicks. I think the minimum subscribers you need is 50,000, but don’t quote me ’cause I don’t vlog) then they shouldn’t have to do product reviews for free. They should get paid. Because if they are representing the company in some fashion anyway and are reviewing a product for how many hundreds or thousands of viewers, they might as well get a cut as they are helping a company to get sales. After all, celebrities endorse products all the time. Like Jennifer Hudson becoming a spokesperson for Weight Watchers. She’s getting paid by them to sell their brand to people who want to lose weight. Why is it okay for Jennifer Hudson to get paid and not Taren, Tiffany or any other Ms. Nobody Special?

Here’s my take on the whole thing. I don’t do product reviews on here. Blogs that do that are a dime a dozen and I’d just add to the clutter. Besides, I know that what may work for me may not work for you and I don’t want people to feel that I somehow “mislead” them. That happens on a lot of blogs (and You Tube videos) already as it is. So rather than create drama over something that really isn’t all that serious, I’ve chosen to take my blog in a different direction whereby I try to relate how my hair affects my life and the lives of other black women who’ve chosen this path and discuss the political and social ramifications of our hair. Because in some instances, our hair is a lot more than just hair, although some naturals may believe otherwise. That may mean that I never get 50,000 odd subscribers that Taren or some other vloggers get, but I didn’t start doing this to get famous or to get paid. I started doing this because writing is my hobby and my passion and I wanted to share that with people.

Regarding Taren’s rant, I personally don’t like vloggers who are paid to review products. I just don’t. I can’t value their honesty when they sell out and it creates a huge conflict of interest. It also creates a problem for the integrity of You Tube in general. The site was created so that regular people like me can have a voice and so that we can be real, without the influence of a third party. If every vlogger gets paid to review stuff now, the vloggers in question may as well become actors, the videos in question may as well become commercials and You Tube may as well become an informercial site. And why should I sit through a 10 minute informercial with regular Joes when I can see them on TV with professional actors? To take this further, many companies that cater to natural hair simply wouldn’t have the budget to pay a vlogger anyway. They are start ups and don’t have the kind of distribution or purchasing power that a L’Oreal or a WEN would have. And, just my opinion, Taren acted totally ratchet in that video. I can’t see L’Oreal or WEN being willing to have her represent them and paying her as she is totally unprofessional. I can see how easy it is for someone on You Tube with 90,000 odd subscribers to think they’ve hit the big time, but in the grand scheme of things, in a country of nearly 300 million people, 90,000 people subscribed to your channel is miniscule. Outside of You Tube and natural hair message boards on the Internet, most people have never heard of Taren. I’m sure some of you reading this have never heard of her. Hell, 99.99% of the population has never heard of me. The entire discussion of vloggers getting paid is fueled by greed and an overinflated sense of self and entitlement. Because if every vlogger should be paid to review a product, I should be paid just for maintaining this blog. Or even just for breathing.

There’s a number of response videos to Taren’s rant, but this is the best one I’ve seen so far and it reiterates everything I’ve said on here:

Words never used to describe black women

Posted in Beauty standard, Racial/ethnic stereotyping on July 16, 2012 by Confessions of LadyV69

I got this from another site and I felt it was too good not to share. Back to regular scheduled programming in a day or two.

http://strugglingtobeheard.tumblr.com/post/27290184625/words-never-used-to-describe-black-women

The talk, Part II

Posted in Beauty standard, curly/kinky hair with tags , on July 11, 2012 by Confessions of LadyV69

I actually had an entire paragraph written out yesterday that preceded the post I shared from another site, but WordPress ate it. Here is yesterday’s post.

That post really hit a nerve because 35 years ago, I was that child. A child who was reared in a predominantly white neighborhood and was envious of the long, straight hair that her white classmates possessed. A child who felt that her kinks and coils were ugly. A child who dreaded having to explain why her twists and braids were able to stay in her hair without unraveling while the braids and twists her white classmates attempted to put in their hair unraveled within seconds. And so on. All these years later, I realize that I dreaded having to explain my hair to people who didn’t look like me because at the time, I actually didn’t really understand it. No one in my family understood it either. Neither did friends of the family. Basically, many of us were taught that it wasn’t acceptable and that it needed to be hidden with wigs or weaves or “fixed” with chemical or thermal straighteners. When I begged my mother for a relaxer at the age of 9 or 10, all she said at the time was that I was too young. She didn’t have the tools nor the self esteem to instill the kind of pride in my hair that the mother in that post did and by the time I was in high school, I was allowed to get the perm. I’d love to say that what that little girl experienced was an isolated incident, but I can’t. Unfortunately, similar incidents like that are played out among numerous little black girls all the time.

That post also segues into a major pet peeve that I have. Now, what grown women do to their hair is their business. However, when I first started posting on hair boards, I soon discovered that my first perm at 14 was at a fairly late age. I was shocked to see a number of people admitting that they had gotten their first relaxers at the age of 3 or 4. Those caustic chemicals can damage the hair of grown women, resulting in burns, scabs and hair loss. You can imagine how much more damage they can do to a small child. I personally don’t remember girls getting perms before around the age of 10 when I was growing up and a number of them weren’t allowed to get them until puberty, like me. Perms were a rite of passage in my day. Now mothers are slapping chemicals into their daughters’ heads before they even reach kindergarten. The reasons go beyond the mainstream media. They’ve brainwashed black women into accepting the European standard of long, straight hair for decades. It’s partly due to the fact that we live in a faster paced world where people want instant gratification. Today’s mothers don’t have the patience or the time to care for their daughters’ natural hair in the way that it needs to. So their solution is to slap a relaxer, regardless of the damage they can do, because they think straight hair is easier to care for. However, a lot of women don’t have the knowledge to care for relaxed hair properly and are unaware that it needs protein treatments, deep conditioning and the like just as much as natural hair. If anything, relaxed hair needs those treatments a lot more frequently than natural hair. Besides laziness though, the message the mothers are sending to their daughters’ is damning by perpetuating the belief that their hair is ugly and that in order to be accepted or even loved, it needs to be straight. They should accept the burns and scabs as a badge of honor because”beauty is pain.” I wish we could banish that phrase from the language. Being beautiful shouldn’t have to be painful by doing things to your body that it was never meant to tolerate. I also think the push to perms our girls’ hair at younger ages is partly due to our society sexualizing our children at younger ages. It’s not uncommon for parents to go to Children’s Place to find clothes more suitable for a prostitute than for an 8 year old. Straight hair is regarded as sexy in our culture. Black girls in general aren’t regarded as beautiful but we can easily change their hair so that they won’t be ignored in the very least. It’s kind of sad, really.

The mother and daughter in yesterday’s post are the epitome of strength and confidence, something more people in our community need. Will we ever get to a point where “the talk” won’t be necessary, because our hair would have been fully accepted as normal and not a curiosity? I hope the answer is yes, but who knows.

Posted in Uncategorized on July 10, 2012 by Confessions of LadyV69

livingnaturallyeverafter

Let me start off by telling you all that I am not an authority figure on hair nor do I claim to be the best parent in the world. Now that I put my disclaimer out there let me introduce myself. My name is Asmarett  Ashford and I am the founder of Living Naturally Ever After. I am a married mother of two who lives outside of Atlanta, Georgia. I work full time as a school counselor in a rural school system outside of Atlanta. This is my first attempt at blogging so PLEASE be kind.

                                                                   Good Hair and the Talk.

                My daughter went to a well known and highly sought after private school in Atlanta, Georgia from the time she was 3 years old until she reached the 2nd grade. This school is known in the African American community in Atlanta as “the school”. Many prestigious and…

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Summer hair

Posted in great outdoors, Natural hair care with tags , , on June 27, 2012 by Confessions of LadyV69

We’re in my favorite season-summer! Which means long days, barbeques and the beach to name a few things that can be fun this time of year. This time of year can be a double edged sword for naturals, though. On the one hand, with the increased humidity in many places, it means that the air is rich with the moisture that our hair desperately needs. On the other hand, all that moisture may cause our hair to swell, meaning that controlled, defined hair like this (which was the result of a flat twist out I did over a month ago) :

could turn into BAA (Big Ass Afro) like this within minutes of stepping out the door:

https://i1.wp.com/strawberricurls.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/aevin-dugas-main-3_497x280.jpg

Regarding the woman in the above picture, she’s Aevin Dugas. Last year, she made the Guinness Book of World Records for having the biggest fro. It measures more than 4 feet and is bigger than a disco ball. I only wish my hair can get as huge as this.

Some naturals don’t care about their hair starting out one way and then changing into something else, but if you’re the type to spend considerable time styling your twist/braid/bantu knot out and you get upset about the elements turning your hair into a style you didn’t intend, here are a few things to consider:

1. Simply don’t try to fight nature: Sometimes prepping for twist-outs and roller sets will only end in futility. Once the humidity gets ahold of your hair, those styles can become fro-outs real quick. If you do not intend to rock one of these styles only to end up with another, you can opt for a wash-n-go or other styles that won’t fight with your texture.

2. You can try protective styling to keep your hair off of your face and neck. I gave up on protective styling awhile ago as my hair isn’t thick or dense enough for certain styles to look good and my edges are too fragile for others, but a lot of naturals swear by it as the key to length retention.

3. You can try hats. Curly and kinky hair can be unpredictable, especially in humid conditions and hats are a great accessory. They have the added benefit of keeping your hair protected from the elements (wind, sea, sun, etc.). I’m not a big hat person myself, though I do have a big collection of baseball caps.

4.Forget heat styling. All the time and effort it would take to get your hair straight will only be undone once you step out the door. Your hair could resemble Ms. Dugas’s within 5 minutes. Not that it would be a horrible thing as she has great hair, but if you don’t intend for your hair to turn into a fro, save yourself the hassle and keep your hair curly.

5. Don’t use products containing humectants in high humidity, especially if they are listed within the first five ingredients, which means they are in high quantities. Humectacts attract the moisture in the air and draw them into your hair, causing it to swell. The most common humectants are glycerin and propylene glycol, but there are a few others.

I do have a caveat to all these tips though: If your hair is fine and thin like mine, there are times when you may actually welcome the frizz and the swelling as your hair will appear fuller. For those times when you don’t mind hair that’s undefined or uncontrolled, feel free to disregard the whole post. 😀

Happy summer, everyone!