The Beauty of Black Women’s Hair is Scary Territory for Non-Hair Brands

I was told by a friend who spoke one on one with an industry insider who does a lot of hiring for influencer campaigns, that the problem with Black women is that we change our hair too frequently and brands don’t know what they’re going to get. People are very afraid of the unknown, especially when it comes to the essence of their pristine and often white washed advertising and campaigns. And yes, these words came out of the mouth of a fellow Black woman. I can’t begin to express the liberation I felt when I finally wore my natural afro out for the first time. For a long time I wore my hair in Havana twists while I transitioned from permed hair to natural hair.  During that time, I became acutely aware of the kind of brands who’d approach me because they were looking for that look. I even had a brand double check to make sure that I was still rocking my twists for a possible hair campaign. Hair is a huge market right now, especially natural hair. Every brand who wouldn’t have thought to market to naturalista’s who rock protective styles, locks or afros are coming out with products specifically for Black women. What a time to be alive.

I do however feel like my Havana Twists were holding me back from landing larger non-hair brand campaigns who thought my look was too Black for their aesthetic. Of course I wouldn’t want to work with those brands anyway but it’s disheartening. I distinctly remember doing a campaign in which I was rocking my natural afro. If the brand had bothered to look at my Instagram account they’d know that that was the style I’d been rocking with for the last few weeks. Working with this brand was the first time I ever had to do *several* reshoots for a brand. I couldn’t understand what I wasn’t getting right. They wanted me to interpret my definition of luxury. I gave them luxury makeup, a black silk dress, deep velvet fabrics and colors and a bomb ass afro. They were some of the most editorially stunning photos I’d ever taken. They replied that the photos didn’t feel luxury. I asked what their definition of luxury was.

They responded by sending me 3 photos of models: 2 white girls with slicked back pony tails, and a black girl with a slicked back pony tail all with plain white tee shirts on. That said everything. They didn’t want me to have an afro. They wanted me to pull my hair back and make it as small as possible. So I mimicked the same boring none luxury photos they sent me and collected my check. It’s little things like that that let me know that I was filling a quota, the Black girl quota but they didn’t really want my Black Girl Magic too. Unfortunately, I see this a lot and I think it’s just brands looking to fill that: Hey, we’re inclusive but only within our narrowly defined terms of inclusivity, especially when it comes to Black women and their hair. 

Black is trending. Black Girl Magic is trending too. Hell even Black Outrage is the new marketing strategy getting brands attention for all the wrong reasons. But I guess they figure all press is good press. There are even white men gaining popularity from mocking Black women and their hair. It’s completely acceptable for anyone who is not Black to wear hairstyles traditionally worn by Black women in advertising. There are never any problems with that but when a Black woman wants to wear her hair the way it naturally grows out of her head it’s deemed ghetto or problematic. New York City as of last month, Black History month (go figure)passed a Ban against Hair Discrimination. It’s a step in the right direction and a long time coming. Of course it’s Black women and men who are always labeled unprofessional when rocking their natural hair. I distinctly remember having a very bad hair day and trembling as I wore a head wrap into work for the first time. A lot of people had things to say, most were just fascinated but I shouldn’t have felt that way in the first place. It was the same way when after wearing long twists for a year, and rocking my natural afro to work for the first time. That was the day lots of people asked to touch my hair and marveled at how it could stand up yet be so soft.

Uniqlo Dress| Cult Gaia Earrings | Jil Sander White Boots | Stila Aria Lipstain | Laura Mercier Caviar Chrome Eye Color in Opalescent

GET THE LOOK


Now that I’m blogging full-time, I need every opportunity available to me and find it necessary to change up my look every now and then using wigs. This is why I don’t wear my twists as long as I used to and because I needed a change. It’s pretty baffling at the increase in brand collaborations I’ve gotten now compared to when I was rocking my twists. I’m not sure if my straighter hair has something to do with it but I don’t doubt it, not for one second. Brands really have to get through the uncomfortableness they have with Black women’s hair. The beauty of our hair is that we can essentially give you anything you want. You want long rupunzel hair, I can get that in a day or two thanks to my local beauty supply store on 125th street. You need an afro, I can do that too or maybe some Havana twists, give me $200 and 3-4 hours and I gotchu. Thanks to the evolution of wigs which Marjon Carlos wrote about to eloquently in this piece for Refinery 29, we can literally give brands anything they want yet we are always put into a box. The versatility of black hair is our greatest strength and should be perceived as an asset not a hinderance. Hopefully brands and the Black women who’s job it is to hire Black women for influencer campaigns or hell any job, will catch on to that fact. Until then…I’ll continue to rock whatever hairstyle I feel like rocking every two weeks after wash day. 

xx

Monroe

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12 Comments

  1. Melissa
    March 22, 2019 / 12:14 pm

    Such an amazing article… love all your looks Monroe obsessed with the new bang wig it’s evErything on you 🙂

    • monroesteele
      Author
      March 22, 2019 / 5:58 pm

      Thanks for reading Melissa! That one is my new favorite too.

  2. Ylvette
    March 22, 2019 / 1:14 pm

    I have never in my life had anyone ask to touch my hair. I used to think my friends were exaggerating or making much ado about nothing. I didn’t take them seriously. However, I began to hear more and more complaints. They will criticize us for being our authentic selves while appropriating our culture. Crazy.

    • monroesteele
      Author
      March 22, 2019 / 5:58 pm

      Really. Wow. People ask me all the time and some don’t even ask and have gotten cursed out. LOL. Thanks for reading.

      x
      Monroe

  3. Lavette McGill
    March 22, 2019 / 6:28 pm

    Excellent Read!!!

    • monroesteele
      Author
      March 24, 2019 / 8:46 pm

      Thanks mom!

  4. April Lynn
    March 22, 2019 / 11:54 pm

    OMG…I.was literally screaming and high fiving my phone. I once worked for a company and had just started my natural hair journey. I wore my two strand twist fro to work with my cowri shell barette, for the next 45 minutes the morning meeting was spent discussing my hair. And yes they also wanted to touch it!!! I was pissed and irritated for a good minute. I wouldn’t want to be any other race, however being in this Black skin and hair comes with a price.

    • monroesteele
      Author
      March 24, 2019 / 8:46 pm

      Haha, I can definitely relate April. Thanks for reading love!

      xx
      Monroe

  5. Gloria Bissessar
    March 27, 2019 / 5:02 pm

    “the Black girl quota but they didn’t really want my Black Girl Magic too” Loved this Just Wow!!!! This was a phenomenal blog. You touched on so much that we as black girls/women deal with daily. Whether its work or our personal lives, our hair seems to always be the subject of contention. I’ve dated guys who don’t really care but then some prefer straight hair but the majority, “Thank God”, prefer the natural kinkier hair that I was born with. This is truly a good time for us because slowly but surely, we are being fully accepted for who we are.

    • monroesteele
      Author
      March 27, 2019 / 9:44 pm

      Whew honey, a word. Can’t wait to hang out.

      x
      Monroe

  6. DENISE M OATES
    March 28, 2019 / 10:04 am

    When I first started the transition a few years ago. I was shocked to have more comments coming from the black women in my office, when I wore it free. Thing like girl you know you need to go back to relaxer or get it straighten and get all that under control and pull it back. Even my boyfriend for awhile beg me to not do it. lol So it got to a really good length this year (stretched reach past the back of my bra band below shoulder blade) and I surprised at my texture because part of my hair actually had wave and curls and some part just a bit more dryer and lack luster. It only took 2 months for a new medication to undo all that growth basically at one time. Two and half weeks ago after washing my hair, I was adding the oils back to it with hands and finger and it was just coming all out and is continuously fragile. Now with ragged ends it reaches the shoulder and I know I have to trim those ends away. I never wore braids but that a suggestion someone gave me but I don’t if my hair even strong enough for that. So probably back to the ponytail and the fake buns. Sigh and it summer, I had so many plans for it. Sooooo sad and mad (darn dr.). I’m too old for this.

  7. monroesteele
    Author
    May 5, 2019 / 8:29 pm

    Right. I love my wigs! Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to comment!

    x
    Monroe

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