Category Archives: Beauty

Black Beauty

Loving this series, brought to my attention by Ms Afropolitan. Awesome to hear from this collection of Black women talking about our wonderful city of London and Black beauty.  So many things resonate with me on a personal level; particularly what Minna has to say on Black beauty in a political context, in contrast to the visual or aesthetic. Check out the London edition but the whole series is worth a look.

What say you, is there such a thing as Black Beauty?

Advertisements

Colourism; will we ever see the end of it??

I’ve read 2 articles about colourism this week.  It’s not a subject I’ve discussed in any depth on this blog but it’s one that I often discuss with my girlfriends.  Here I’ve added a link to an article which is written as a response to the other article I read earlier in the week, The Problem with Black Women.  The title alone slaps you in the face, right??

I’m not going to put my own opinion in here; I’m interested to hear what you think so please comment.  I’m up for a healthy debate on this one!

Wrong and Strong??

So, I’ve written about many things so far that I feel pertinent to me and my experience of being an African woman in, and of, the diaspora. So many topics to tackle and I’m sure I’ll get to them all at some point or another. But the one I’m finally feeling ready to tackle is hair. Black hair. Thousands of words dedicated to the topic and I’m about to add a few hundred of my own.

I’ve mentioned black hair in my other blogs; not in any great detail but I have made reference to it when I’ve described some of the elements that bond and cement friendships amongst some of us. The shared experiences of the all day hair appointment; the burnt scalps; the growing out headaches; the Sunday night hair plait session with a tired, tetchy, head-conking mum.
These experiences do not define but they are certainly part of my personal story of black womanhood.

So I’ve decided to write a series on Black hair. I will gather a group of girlfriends to share our stories and experiences which will be as diverse as we are. Together we’ll cover issues around beauty norms, identity, the politics of black hair and the journey to knowing and loving your hair.

Hopefully some of them will resonate with you.

But for now let me start with a rant and an experience.

I’m gonna start this story 15 years ago with my decision to go natural. I had relaxed hair and one christmas (you know the pre-Christmas appointment, right?) I had one of those all day, half the night appointments which had me in a hairdresser in Finsbury Park (it’s still there) from about 2.00pm to about 9.00pm. I decided to locs up that night.

So I wore my dreads for 10 years which I loved. I cut them off about 5 years ago and have been growing my hair out ever since. And I’ve loved that too.

Today I had a hair appointment at 10.00 to put some kinky twists in. I have a party tonight, a photo shoot on Monday and an event of Thursday so I thought I’d mix it up a bit, get a new do and keep my head warm. These twist out dos are great but COLD. Any way, I arrive just after 10.00. There are 3 women in front of me and 2 stylists on. Now, when I book an appointment for 10, I expect to book a stylist who will be waiting for me when I arrive. I do not expect to share or wait for one.

The owner assures me that I will be seen shortly. I am sceptical because the woman getting small cane rows is only half done; the owner is putting two big side plaits with extensions into another woman’s hair and she has another woman waiting for a weave.

I am now contemplating leaving because I am on a tight time frame; I have to be out of this place for 2.30 because me and Husband are driving to Sheffield for a party he’s DJIing at. I cannot rock up at home 2 hours cos he will lose his mind. If I commit to starting the twists, I’m committed for however long it takes. I’m also thinking now:

I’m not paying full price for this, I’m getting me a discount today

At 11.00, I’ve been waiting for pretty much an hour. The owner has called a colleague to do it for me, as long as I’m happy to go to another salon. A pain in the butt, but I’m still wanting to get this hair done so I’ll go with this woman. I ask how much she’s gonna charge me. The woman quotes me a price higher than I normally pay. I say no, this is what I normally pay. Before I have a chance to say anything else, she negotiates with her colleague. Turns back to me and I tell her I am not paying the regular price as I have been waiting for an hour. The colleague walks out the shop, clearly unprepared to be paid any less than her quoted price.

I tell the owner that she should be offering me a discount for keeping me waiting so long and putting me an hour behind schedule. She starts arguing with me. I get up, out my hat on, put my coat on and prepare to leave. She starts trying to tell me that she got me someone to do my hair, etc. I am not having this. I have been a semi-regular customer of this woman for 3 years. I had my scalp burned in there before (I should never have gone back after that). I had my wedding hair done in there. If you keep me waiting for an hour, you offer a discount. So this woman is trying to ‘wrong and strong. And I leave.

Furious.

I have never walked out of a hairdresser before but I am sick to the back teeth of this kind of service and the presumption that my time is not valuable; you can keep me waiting an hour, not offer a discount and expect me to be happy with that.

That is not happening.

There are many things I could say about this experience. I’m angry because I do not want to be forced to go through this every time I visit a hair salon. I’m angry because, as a paying customer, I expect to be treated professionally and reasonably. I am angry that my time is being valued so little that it is deemed perfectly ok to keep me waiting for an hour and not offer an apology or compensation.

I am angry because this, unfortunately, is not an isolated experience.

So, I’ve decided that I’m gonna locs up again. I’ve come full circle.

Here’s a pic of me with my solution for hair nightmares and another with my trusty twist out style.

Look out for the next blog in my hair series. I’m looking forward to hearing your stories and opinions so please leave me your comments.

2015/01/img_1655-0.jpg

2015/01/img_1453-0.jpg

Lauryn Hill, a Night Bus and a Feminist Struggle

Last Thursday, I went to see Lauryn Hill at the Manchester Apollo with my Nerdy Friend. By the way, we have discovered so many other similarities between us, I’m starting to think we are the same person living in a different time space/time continuum. We both cite Salavdor, Bahia as our favourite places on Earth, we found out that we were both in the hair dressers, on the same day, at the same time, having red kinky twists put in(!) and last week I sent her an email while on a journey to Preston and she sent me this picture!

IMG_0922-0

Spooky.

Anyway,  we went to see Ms Lauryn Hill. The last time I saw her was at a Brixton Academy, in the 90s as Fugee mania was just about to peak. It was a great concert.  Obviously since then, life has happened to Ms Hill. And it’s not necessarily been kind.

tumblr_n3l3fsvJ5x1qbh3s0o1_500

Many column inches has been written about her incarceration for non payment of taxes, her relationship with Stephen Marley and her (alleged) subsequent drug use and mental breakdown. Not to mention her racist comments a few years back.

I’m not here to talk about that.

The concert was a shocker but also amazing. She was over an hour late coming on stage. I thought at one point that there was going to be an announcement that Ms Hill would not be performing at all.  We were prepared for this because the reviews for this tour so far have been awful, quite frankly. By the time she did actually arrive on stage, the goodwill and atmosphere that her warm up DJ had managed to create had all but disappeared (he’d been playing for 45 mins, hyping the crowd for Ms Hill to come on but each time she seemed to miss her cue). The boos had started when she eventually walked on stage.

Her voice was amazing. She looked amazing. But she had chosen to perform drastically rearranged versions of her most loved songs and the crowd was NOT happy. To be fair, as an artist she is totally entitled to do what she wants with her material BUT, given she has a tiny back catoulouge, given she was over an hour late on stage (with no apology), given that the reviews have been bad, you would think that she would’ve worked harder to get the audience on side. She might have made more effort to understand her audience and give them just a little but more of what they wanted after waiting so long for her.

042313-music-lauryn-hill-performs_t750x550

She turned things around after singing Black Rage, though. Haunting lyrics. The second half was pretty much phenomenal and it seemed that she was all but forgiven for her tardiness, her lack of empathy with her audience and a very ill judged ‘Q&A’ where she asked the audience why they were booing her.

In many ways, me and Nerdy Friend felt let down by Lauryn last night, even though we danced our arses off to Doo Woop (That Thing).

But I’m not even here to talk about THAT!

On the night bus home, we had an interesting conversation about Lauryn and Beyoncé. I have a bug bear about Beyoncé. I admit it. Mostly, this is because it would seem the media seem to believe that she invented feminism and we should now be following her lead. A byline in the Huffington  Post recently made me seethe with anger, as they took Chimimanda’s definition, which Bey sampled, and basically said ‘ Bey has given us a definition of feminism, now go forth and practice it”!

feminist

WHAT?! Please let us not forget that she only sampled this. It is borrowed from Chimamanda!

Anyway, my friend said if Bey’s spike heels and leotards have got 13 year old girls talking about feminism then that can’t be a bad thing. And I do agree with this. To an extent. The balance between a woman owning her sexuality and doing what she pleases with it, which might be using it as a feminist platform VS the fact that more often that not our voices are not heard unless it’s wrapped up in a hyper sexual package….I’m not comfortable with a lot of how Beyoncé chooses to present herself as seriously talented woman. But I will fight to the death for her right…..

So we started talking about this some more and in my head I saw Ms Hill and Bey side by side. And as disappointed as I felt by how Lauryn had behaved, I would still see her any day of the week over Beyoncé, who I consider to be so talented, so professional and in many ways a role model. She works hard for what she has. And she will also give the fans what they want and then some.

lauryn_hill_1383073909239       BeyonceKnowles

However. In these 2 women I see a stark representation of feminism and black womanhood.

Beyoncé is a mega star. She has worked hard, played the game, married another mega star and become a celebrity juganaut. All the while, there’s been a lot of flesh, a lot of swishy weaves and crowd pleasing. She is the acceptable face of African American womanhood, living the ‘American Dream’.  Her moniker ‘Queen Bey’ says it all.

Lauryn refused to play the game. Dark skinned, dreadlocked Lauryn, full of attitude and consciousness. Lauryn, who looked amazing with barely an inch of flesh on show. Lauryn, who consciously fought against playing the game, having her image manipulated in order to be more ‘ consumer-friendly’.  A woman who fought the law and the law won.

Her fight to be herself in all her Black womanhood, with all her flaws, without the industry (society) manipulating that; she lost that fight. They out her in jail. Essentially, they showed her that if you ain’t gonna play the game, we’re gonna squash you.  This is not to say that Lauryn is a complete innocent.  She carries her share of responsibility.

There is a tension between assimilation and disruption.  The message is if you assimilate, you can be a winner, you can be one of us, you can be a Queen if you want. But on the terms we set.
But if you try to disrupt those terms, we will shut you down. We will make it hard for you to even be heard. We don’t want your kind of black womanhood here.

Despite still feeling disappointed with Lauryn’s apparent disregard for her fans, I see her her defiance and fight to represent her authentic self as a political act.  As a feminist act.  And I admire her for that.  Beyonce ‘s doing her part; don’t get me wrong.  She has the right to self identify however she pleases.  And Nerdy Friend is right; there are girls growing up out there who will feel empowered by Bey’s brand of feminism.  I’m not the feminism police, neither do I want to be.

For me, these two women represent an interesting narrative about Black womanhood, feminism and the struggle to be our authentic selves.

A couple of interesting reads for you.  Different perspectives but both are interesting commentary on Ms Hill, her fans and what creative licence means.  Enjoy!

http://www.clutchmagonline.com/2014/10/hurts-bad-cost-lauryn-hill-fan/https://medium.com/cuepoint/in-defense-of-ms-hill-6fa84ba81d63

 

‘That difficult 2nd album….’

It’s been an insane week.  Pretty much the norm and if I’m honest, just how I like it.

The week has been heavily influenced by the 1st post of the blog, published in the small hours of Tuesday morning.It’s been in the making for a while so it was a big deal to take action and get it started!  I’ve been thinking of ways to keep writing regularly, how to get into the habit of storing experiences to write about.

I messaged my 4 friends, who inspired the blog, to share it with them and acknowledge their roles in my journey so far.  The feedback and support has been great and I hope they’ll be dropping in to comment and challenge and provoke, hint, hint!

As well as these women, there have been others who have inspired this journey and I want to share a few with you.  Like many women, particularly Black women, the emergence of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has been incredible.  I have been following her work for many years and was really excited when Half of a Yellow Sun premièred earlier this year, on my birthday (!) in Croydon.  I managed to get tickets and went along with a gaggle of girls who helped me chase down Chimamanda at the end for a fan photo (for which I am forever grateful, ladies!).

I admit to being a bit starstruck.  She is absolutely my idol at the moment.  A talented, forthright, intelligent, articulate, compassionate woman who is just getting into her stride.  Every time I read an article, interview or see her on in discussion, I am struck by how poised and humble she is yet fiercely African, a feminist and stunning, all on her own terms.  Check her out in action here with Zadie Smith.

Chimamanda

We need more role models like her for our daughters, sisters, mothers, sons and fathers.

I recently finished Americanah and loved it (obviously!).  I particularly loved Ifemelu’s character, as stubborn, left-field young woman who writes.  I loved her blog about race identity and politics as a ‘non-American’ Black.  Honest and funny, challenging and unapologetic.  I have to say, this is what I will model my own blog on.  Some of the topics raised in that blog I’m sure will find a way into my own posts as so many resonated with me.

Other sources of inspiration are maybe obvious; Michelle Obama.  Now I know she causes much upset amongst American feminists because of her seemingly passive ‘mom-in-chief’ role.  I don’t know about that.  I think this is a woman who is managing to walk a very difficult path as the 1st Black First Lady.  The American right have tried to discredit her, calling her unpatriotic; accusing her of cosying up to celebrity;  being an ‘angry Black woman (I’ll talk about this perception at some point, I guarantee it!).

Hers is a complex path with numerous pitfalls to avoid.  She does it with poise and grace, keeping her family grounded in what must be a cyclone of madness.  When she is on a stage, people listen.  When someone tries to do her down, she calls out that rudeness.  Infuriatingly, if you put her name into a Google search ‘Michelle Obama is a man’ is the 3rd most searched for category!

Michelle

Let’s take a minute to remember just how powerful this women is, in her own right.  Whilst the fictional character of Claire Huxable is the African American ‘Mom’ everyone wanted to have, let’s show some appreciation for Mrs Obama who REAL and will continue to inspire generations of women, of all hues.

I have a saying with a couple of good friends of mine ‘WWMD?’ which means, What Would Michelle Do?’  I have this pinned on my fridge, by the way.

Last but not least, Lupita.  What can I say?  Well actually lots but I’m not going to because again, the Lupita effect will be the topic of another blog.    These woman are helping to redefine how we are perceived and how we perceive ourselves.  I love the fact that Lupita has just landed her 1st Vogue cover and that her short natural hair, dark skinned African features are part of the fashion and beauty landscape.

Lupita

I can look at these women and see a reflection of myself that I do not see in other high profile Black women .  Not because they are not role models (I’m not here to do anyone a disservice) but they’re not my role models.  So this blog in part, also celebrates these women and the joy they have brought to many lives including my own!

Are you on a similar journey? What or who inspires you?