A High Price to Pay

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We know who they are: Beautiful Black women in the spotlight at the peak of their careers who have inspired us with their beauty, talent and strength throughout their careers. 

Naomi wearing the long, straight and silky which became her trademark style and Brandy, her long box braids encouraged so many of us to go out to the nearest salon to copy her style. There are others, many others... we see them, never wearing their own hair but only wearing extension, weave, wig... brightly colored and straight, bleached blond, jet black or subtle and curly. And we sometimes woncer about what is going on underneath.

Knowing Black actors has given me a little insight into the Hollywood Hair wars and what Black actresses have to to do conform and get roles in tv and film. Conforming sometimes means the directors want straight hair. to get the rold you do what you gotta do! Also, being under bright lights and in outdoor circimstances promotes many actors to protect their real hair under wigs and weaves in order to minimize damage. A wise decision.

Back in the late-eighties, early 90's when I was still relaxing my hair, I was a client of Michael Jackson’s hairdresser on LaBrea in Los Angeles. He was a very personable guy, like most hairdressers are, and rarely talked about his famous clients. Until one day... he told me he had refused to put another chemical through Michael’s hair – his hair had been burned off around the hairline and he was balding. Michael by this time had resorted to “magic marker hairline” and "hair in a spray can" techniques to try and create some semblance of a hairline.

He said he had warned Michael that the Jheri curl chemicals he was using was melting his hair off and offered him some alternatives to prevent the destruction of his hair and scalp while still maintaining the look, but Michael wouldn’t hear of it and moved on to another hairdresser who would do to him what he wanted done--- regardless of the consequences of doing so. In the end it was this attitude of Michael’s that killed him. But I digress...

naomisadAlopecia takes many forms, but these two are the ones I am talking about: TRACTION ALOPECIA from wearing too-tight braids and CHEMICAL ALOPECIA from relaxers. Once you notice it happening, what would you do? Most cover it up with wigs or weave (if they can afford it) until it grows back, then continue to use relaxers. It’s that difficult to break the cycle when your conditioned mind, or worse, your family and loved ones, tell you your natural hair is ugly.

Do we know better? Obviously not most of us.

After all these decades, generations of hair loss. Putting up with the burning, scabbing, balding, scarring effects of chemical relaxers and the use of excessive heat just to end up with a limp and thinning crown with see-through ends and a hairline that marches back with every application. The burned foreheads, ears and napes of millions of our daughters are still being used as some kind of tribal rite of passage.

I am hopeful that with education, we can lead our sons and daughters to a better future, by learning to love and accept their whole selves – their shade, their features, their hair, from day 1. And some day natural hair and healthier bodies will be the norm.

Until then I will keep moving forward with Nappturality and bringing attention to what needs attention.

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