‘Of course I never said African women with Brazilian hair have low self-esteem. That’s absurd’. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

• Apr 12, 2013 • Tags:

Please read my interview with the Observer to know what I did say. I love my hair, its kinky and dense and coily. I love playing with it, trying hair butters and oils, wearing corn rows and afros. But sometimes I get tired of it and want a break. So I add extensions. I like extensions, but I always look for extensions that look like my hair. For me, the best compliment for extensions is the question: is it your hair?

Many of us say our natural hair is too hard, too difficult. But that’s because we weren’t taught how to care for our hair.  (I have discovered the wonders of coconut, castor, shea, even honey for softening hair. Trick is add it when your hair is wet! You get wonderful softness!)

Relaxers are not about softness. They are really about texture. Otherwise there are ways to soften hair without permanently changing the texture of hair.

Of course African women don’t want to be white, but we live in a world where the mainstream idea of beauty is straight hair. Magazines, films, popular culture all show straight hair as ideal. My cousin wears a wig to the gym because she says her natural hair underneath is too ‘ugly.’

Our hair is not straight. And so we have internalized the idea that our hair, as it grows from our heads, is ‘rough.’ We force our hair to do what it was not made to do – and our hair falls off at the temples until we have no choice but to use weaves endlessly. Kinky hair is rough only in comparison to straight hair. Kinky hair is beautiful. (Never mind that my Lagos hairdresser always asks, ‘Ah, Aunty, when will you perm this virgin hair?’ And I tell her, ‘Ah, this is how the hair came on my head o. Did God make a mistake?’)

People often think natural black hair must ‘mean something’. Maybe you are hard core black, an angry black, authentic, a soul sister, poetic etc. But sometimes natural black hair just means you like your hair the way it grows from your head.

I want us to talk about the choices women are forced to make. I want us to push back against the idea that to be professional or glamorous, to go for a job interview or a wedding, requires us to have straight hair.

I want natural black hair to be as equal an option as anything else. Not something to hide. Not something we have to ‘do something about’. I would love it if black popular culture figures wear a long straight wig today and wear natural kinky hair tomorrow. And for both to be thought of as equally beautiful.

– Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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