In his new documentary Good Hair, out in October, Chris Rock and a bunch of Black celebrities attempt to explain the meaning of ‘good hair’ (to some in the Black community the straighter your hair the better your hair, hence the term good hair) and to highlight the billion dollar black hair care industry.
After a question posed to him by his daughter, Rock turns the camera on black women and the many different techniques we use to enhance or complement our looks whether it be weaves, wigs or extensions. And in a very funny but extremely revealing way, he highlights the constant conflict many Black women face with their natural hair.
For obvious historical reasons, Black womens’ self-image struggles have been more public and visible. However, beauty complexes are varied, culturally and ethnically specific and no race can claim to fully accept women as they are. Many Black women struggle to accept their hair, White women are at war with their bodies and many Asian and Hispanic women are continuously fighting the melanin in their skin.
So while I agree with the documentary’s underlying premise, from the various clips I’ve seen I have to say that Rock has forgotten to highlight one major element in his documentary, hair extensions have never been a Black girl thing –it’s a woman thing and in some periods of history it’s been a guy thing too!
Just think about your favorite female celebrity for a moment Black, White or Asian. I’m pretty certain she has rocked hair extensions or worn something ‘not natural’ in her life in order to enhance her look and appeal. And she’s not the only one. Almost every female celebrity in the world has at one time or another used hair extensions regardless of their ethnicity even if they don’t admit it.
And this is where we Black women have excelled. Black women and men through talent, ingenuity and in some cases necessity have been able to provide specific looks to other Black women and men for a tenth of the cost.
And as it became more mainstream to rock a celeb look and to change your hairstyle monthly, women from other races have once again decided to embrace what we black women have been doing for decades. And not only has it become socially and culturally acceptable to wear hair extensions, you can buy them almost anywhere too! So now, any woman that wants a specific hairstyle can achieve the look almost instantaneously.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to my stylist over the past ten years and seen a White girl sitting in the chair next to me getting a weave or braids. Or have visited my local beauty supplier and seen Hispanic and Asian women shopping for wigs and extensions. During my last visit to my stylist, guess who was sitting next to me getting his hair braided? A blond haired, White kid about 12 years old and his mother was the one who brought him!
Highlighting the trials and tribulations of some Black women and their hair battles does have some comedic value, I wouldn’t lie (have you ever seen a woman wearing this hairstyle?) BUT in the end I hope we understand that women of every race and every age struggle with self-acceptance and Black women are no exception.