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Identity in Communities and Networks

Instagram Hair Communities Empowering Black Women

Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to discuss the impact of natural hair communities on Instagram on black women’s hair representation and their identity construction. The main argument is that black women’s hair is more represented with the popularity of online hair communities on Instagram. Moreover, it has contributed to the empowerment of black women and the promotion of their hair types. The paper addresses three distinct supporting ideas with the use of scholarly articles and examples that will provide evidence to the main argument. The first idea is about online identity formation within the communities. Those online communities give women of color, a sense of belonging and help them identify to a group, sharing the same history and values about black beauty. Then, the promotion of black women’s hair, will be analysed through those communities on Instagram supporting the ‘transitioning’ process and women wearing their natural hair. This is to demonstrate, that these have contributed in making black women’ hair mainstream. Lastly, there is the aspect of hair product brands using digital media and constructing their own communities on Instagram. They also collaborate with influencers to reach black women who want to go back to natural by providing them with specific products to take care of their hair and also to help them accept their natural hair.

Introduction

Black women have for a long time suffered the racial prejudices and discrimination when it comes to their hair. In the time of slavery in 1500s, hair already had a significant meaning in the black women’ culture where “…hairstyles were used to indicate a person’s marital status, age, religion, ethnic identity, wealth and rank within the community.” (Thompson, 2009, p. 79) This shows that hair has always been their signature and part of their identity. As stated in an article by Brenda Randle; “The first thing that was done to slaves once they were caught was to cut their hair off.” (2015, p. 116) In order to gain control over the slaves and make them more vulnerable, their identity and culture were removed from them.

However, there has been an evolution in the black culture and women are more and more accepting and embracing their hair. The aim of this paper is to demonstrate that curly or afro textured hair communities on Instagram have highly contributed to the empowerment and have increased the representation of black women in the media. Firstly, those online communities have given them a sense of belonging and allowed them to construct their online identity. Then, the promotion of this particular hair type on this platform through the online communities, have made it mainstream and contributed to fight stereotypes associated to them. Finally, this paper will analyse the hair product industry as they also contributed in the empowerment of black women as they succeeded in providing them with the products that will suit their type of hair. They have also constructed several online communities acting as educators and advisors on how to take care of black women’s hair.

Online Identity formation within the Communities

Racial discrimination has highly contributed in forcing black women to hide their natural hair. Moreover, being exposed to white standard of beauty has also influenced them to change and deny their origins. Most of the women having afro or curly hair, remembered the difficulties they faced in their childhood when it comes to their hair. Brenda Randle (2015, p. 115) recalls a memory of her childhood; “I was teased at school constantly because of my tightly coiled, kinky hair; I became obsessed with the thought of one day having the straight appearance “relaxing” my hair would offer.” However, there are now more and more women transitioning to their natural hair state with the help of social media platforms. The online hair communities bring together women having the same hair type or texture and also sharing the same goal that is; keeping their hair in its natural state.

 “Instagram use also directly and indirectly influences the perception of psychological empowerment…” (Riquelme et al., 2018, p. 1117) This have encouraged black women  to embrace their natural hair, become more confident and stop straightening their hair and using aggressive hair products containing chemicals that could  in the long run damage their hair and scalp. Moreover, as stated in the article by Riquelme et al. (2018, p. 1117) “Social media allows people to satisfy their need for interpersonal relationships, their need to belong, and their need to be heard over time.” Therefore, those Instagram pages encourage them to share their personal experiences with their hair thus, building relationships among the members of the communities. Those pages are all about sharing hair tips, care, styling or the products they use among them through tutorials videos or Instagram stories.

An example would be the Instagram page ‘Healthy Hair Journey’ (2020) that gathers women around the world having the same goal; going back to natural. It acts as a guide by providing them with advices on how to care for their natural hair or the steps to the transitioning process. Moreover, it also acts as an online community where women can connect and identify to each other and feel a sense of belonging to the community.

Promoting black women’s hair

Instagram has contributed in making black women’s hair mainstream and the online hair communities contributed in fighting stereotypes associated to them.

Several women shared their experiences with their hair on an article by Taylor Dior Rumble (2018), one of them stated; “I was so excited to have my hair just like all the women I saw on TV and in magazines.” This shows that a lack of representation can unconsciously impact on the way people perceive themselves and make them want to change their appearances. There is also the aspect of natural hair viewed as ‘unprofessional’. “Black women who choose to wear Eurocentric hair styles may be conforming to this standard of professionalism in an effort to be accepted in the workplace, thereby fulfilling the need to belong.” (Opie and Phillips, 2015, p. 3) Women usually have to adapt to the white beauty standard just to conform to the rules of some companies or educational institutions. In contrast, wearing their natural hair, is viewed as going against the norms. Thus, it was encouraging for black women to come across pages who were actually promoting their hair and fighting those stereotypes.

Social media platforms have highly contributed to normalise kinky, curly or afro hairstyles and communicate that women needs to start embracing their natural hair. “…the technological developments of the twenty-first century have precipitated the creation of new venues to style as well as debate and educate about black hair.” (Gill, 2015, p. 71) Web 2.0 is well- known for its participatory culture and in this case, women are also given the chance to voice out on those online communities, on the difficulties they are facing in society, when it comes to their hair. An example would be; Jay and Trina who are a duo of black Instagram influencer called ‘Curlture’, having over 48,000 followers on Instagram (Charles and Lopez, 2020). They are using their online visibility to reach women who need support to accept their natural hair. They were given the opportunity to express themselves by sharing their pictures or personal experiences with their hair with other women. This has normalised the black women’s hair and educated people on how it is important to love and care for their hair. An example is when Zozibini Tunzi won the title of Miss Universe 2019, her picture was shared all across Instagram and a lot of fan pages were created. This has also contributed in normalising and promoting black women wearing their natural hair and being recognised as beautiful. Another example is Alicia Keys embracing her natural curls and frequently wearing protective hairstyles on her Instagram page. The fact that such influent personalities are also showing their true beauty have increased exposure of black hair types and helped several black women accept their natural hair.

Natural hair movement existing since the 60s and 70s, (Henderson, 2015, p. 23) had also moved on Instagram, gained a huge visibility and has also contributed in making black women’s hair mainstream. Hashtags also contributed in increasing their online visibility with an increasing use of the hashtag Natural hair movement on Instagram. This aspect is important to explore as several hashtags such as #naturalhairjourney or #naturalhaircommunity serves in promoting the black hair culture. “The “TeamNatural” hashtag (#TeamNatural) is ubiquitous on social-media sites like Pinterest, Tumblr, and Instagram.” (Gill, 2015, p. 75)

Moreover, the process of transitioning to your natural hair that is; cutting all damaged hair and starting a new and healthier hair routine, have become popular on Instagram. As stated by Myrtie Rena Williams (2016, p. 5), members who participate in those online communities are generally, “…experiencing their natural hair after “transitioning” from straightened styles and developing alternative ways of perceiving Black textured hair within dominant discourses.” The Instagram pages are providing black women with the solutions and advices on products they need to finally reconcile with their natural hair and effectively get them back. 

The article by Tiffany M. Gill (2015, p. 73), claims that “The natural journey is not salon focused. . . . The focal point of the natural hair community seems to be online message boards and YouTube, rather than beauty shops.”  It is well known that natural hair salon are hard to find in some regions. Nowadays, black women have found the solutions online, following tutorial videos on hair care routine or how to realise particular hairstyles at home for them or their kids. On Instagram, hair videos can be shared through IGTVs and Instagram stories to the public. It is also important to notice the growing online presence of black hair salons for example; braiding salons like ‘Tasha World of Style’ on Instagram. (Miles, 2020) People are then able to locate them easily and watch videos of different hairstyles on their clients before making an appointment. Due to black women’s hair becoming mainstream, hair product industry has seized the opportunity to reach a larger audience through Instagram and the hair communities.

Hair Product Brands, Communities and Black Women Empowerment

The beginning of hair products for black women’s hair had started with Madam C.J. Walker who became the first female self-made millionaire after creating her black hair care products. (Gayles and Yu, 2019) Hair Product brands have now moved online for the delight of all women who want their natural hair back. Most hair product brands known within the black community such as; Shea Moisture, Auntie Jackie’s or Carol’s Daughter have realised the importance for them to have an online presence nowadays as drugstores and supermarkets usually don’t provide black women with a large variety of products for their hair types. Those brands have contributed to the empowerment of women not only by providing them with products which suit their hair types but also with tips on how to style and care for their hair. Thus, helping them to be more self-confident and teaching them to accept their natural hair. This has also created a sense of community where the brands and the customers build a strong relationship and where black women can feel that they now have enough support and encouragement to wear their natural hair. Therefore, a shift in demand for chemical relaxers to hair care products has been observed as more and more women are now transitioning to natural. “A shift away from chemical relaxers in favor of natural hair has sparked a wave of innovation in the industry and created renewed opportunity for black entrepreneurs.” (2019)

The effectiveness of influencer marketing is one of the reason of their online presence. Brands will invite influencers having curly or afro hair to try their hair products in order to propose them to their community or review them on their Instagram pages. “Online, they can access a national, if not global, community.” (Gill, 2015) The products will also use the most popular online communities such; ‘Team natural’ to gain more popularity. Those Instagram pages also share influencers’ videos or even their followers’ videos or pictures where they are using natural hair products thus, giving visibility to both the brand and the influencers. An example would be; the Instagram Influencer ‘heycurlie’ well-known for testing curly hair products such as Creme of Nature and reviewing them within her online community. (Romance, 2020) However, some influencers also decide to launch their own hair products for example, Ada Royas, an Afro-Latina and a beauty influencer, has launched her hair care brand ‘Botanika Beauty’ for women who want to embrace their curly hair. (Royas, 2020) All these, have also contributed in normalizing black women’s hair. The aspect of community can be identified through the brands’ Instagram page as if people are attached to the brands, they will usually follow and engage with them through likes, comments and when tagging them on their posts. Due to that; the natural hair product industry will surely continue to grow and help a lot of women around the world.

Conclusion

To conclude, Instagram online hair communities have highly impacted on the black beauty culture. They have provided women of color with the power and confidence to finally embrace their natural hair after all those years of being judged and imposed with a particular beauty standard. The online communities have also contributed in making their hair types mainstream and have educated people with a new perception that black women’s hair types are actually beautiful and must be accepted by society. Hair products brands have in fact taken advantage of this change in mentality but have also acted as a guide for those women. This industry is expected to continue growing and be successful mostly due to people discovering their products through the digital media.

Reference list

Charles, T. & Lopez, J. [@curltureuk]. (2020). Instagram. https://www.instagram.com/curltureuk/?hl=fr

Everett, S. (2018). Empowering black women to embrace their natural hair. BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/video_and_audio/headlines/44521629/empowering-black-women-to-embrace-their-natural-hair

Gayles, C. & Yu, A. (2019). Meet the money makers of the natural hair movement. CNN Business. https://money.cnn.com/video/luxury/2015/08/26/hair-natural-industry.cnnmoney

Gill, T. M. (2015). #Teamnatural: Black Hair and the Politics of Community in Digital Media. Journal of Contemporary African Art, 37, 70-79. https://muse-jhu-edu.dbgw.lis.curtin.edu.au/article/605641

Healthy Hair Journey. (2020). Instagram. https://www.instagram.com/healthy_hair_journey/?hl=fr

Henderson, A. (2015). Redefining the Identity of Black Women: “Natural” Hair and the Natural Hair Movement. Master’s thesis, George Washington University]. ProQuest. https://search-proquest-com.dbgw.lis.curtin.edu.au/docview/1654788306/?pq-origsite=primo

Miles. T. [@tasha_worldofstyles]. (2020). Instagram. https://www.instagram.com/tasha_worldofstyles/?hl=fr

Opie, T. R., and Phillips, K. W. (2015). Hair penalties: The negative influence of Afrocentric hair on ratings of Black women’s dominance and professionalism. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 1-14. https://doaj.org/article/f56df32cece74b85ae2d2203cad50da2

Randle, B. (2015). I am not my hair: African American Women and Their Struggles with Embracing Natural Hair. Race, Gender & Class, 22(1/2), 114-121. https://search-proquest-com.dbgw.lis.curtin.edu.au/docview/1757045026?rfr_id=info%3Axri%2Fsid%3Aprimo-

Riquelme, H. E., Rios, R. & Al-Thufery, N. (2018). Instagram: its influence to Psychologically empower women. Information, Technology & People, 31(6), 1114-1134. https://search-proquest-com.dbgw.lis.curtin.edu.au/docview/2116030079/fulltextPDF/4BFB4AD299554B59PQ/1?accountid=10382

Romance, C. [@heycurlie]. (2020). Instagram. https://www.instagram.com/heycurlie/?hl=fr

Royas, A. [@botanika_beauty]. (2020). Instagram. https://www.instagram.com/botanika_beauty/?hl=fr

Rumble, T. (2018). My hair is a symbol of pride: Six stories about black women’s hair. BBC News. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/resources/idt-sh/my_hair_is_a_symbol_of_pride

Thompson, C. (2009). Black Women and Identity: What’s Hair Got to do with it? Michigan Feminist Studies, (22), 78-90. https://search-proquest-com.dbgw.lis.curtin.edu.au/docview/220865790/fulltext/6CC3CF2BB86042ADPQ/1?accountid=10382

Williams, R. M. (2016). Transition: Development of the online Natural Hair Community And Black Women’s Emerging Identity Politics [Master’s thesis, University of California Davis]. ProQuest. https://search-proquest-com.dbgw.lis.curtin.edu.au/docview/1833195702?pq-origsite=primo

32 replies on “Instagram Hair Communities Empowering Black Women”

That’s an amazing article Ludivine, choosing Instagram to reach your customers is the wisest choice a brand could make to reach potentials customers. I’m glad you highlighted the importance of Influencer marketing as it is becoming a ‘trend’ to hire influencers to market products. I can only recommend you to put forward some of the negative impacts of hiring an influencer to market your products. It’s always good to analyse the pros and the cons of a concept, it will definitely help while setting up a marketing/budget plan.
Hope it helps and good luck!

Hello Jamie-lee,
Thank you for your comment and recommendation! Influencer marketing is indeed constantly growing. Thus, brands are seizing the new opportunities that this strategy offers, to reach a larger audience. I agree with you on the fact that it is important for companies to also consider the negative aspects associated to it for examples, in terms of high risks; the mistakes the influencers make can also impact your brand image.
However, my point focuses more on the influencers communicating with their followers to provide them with advice when it comes to their hair thus contributing to their empowerment. Moreover, their popularity will also contribute in making black women’s hair mainstream. What do you think?

Regards,
Ludivine Valere

I absolutely agree! I think we owe a lot to Instagram when it comes to empowering black women. One never really thinks about it but It’s one of the platforms that offered a lot of visibility to the black community and I must admit that it did have a great impact on myself. I too used to feel like I didn’t belong simply because while growing up I only used to see people with straight, soft hair that looked nothing like mine! Even at school, nobody kept their natural hair because it did not “fit the norm.” Sad but true. I think today, being able to see other black women with hair similar as mine has changed the way I see myself considerably. I am no longer afraid of my natural hair and I embrace it to the fullest! It’s also true that Instagram has made it easier for us because of the variety of products that are now available! So many products that you never saw on TV are now being promoted on Instagram. It’s much easier to get products for my hair now and I love it! No more hurting and damaging my hair! I guess I should say “Thanks Insta?” haha. Really interesting post, I’m sharing this with my friends!

Hi Pauline
Thank you for sharing your personal experience with your hair! This really shows that representation matters. The content that those pages share on Instagram have educated people on the fact that those hair types are beautiful and that women of color must not feel inferior when it comes to their hair. You also mentioned the product industry and that directly applies to my point. I would like to know if you actually belong to one of those hair communities on Instagram and if yes, could you also share some examples?
Thank you.

Regards,
Ludivine Valere

what do you think of women using wicks and wigs? do you think they like their natural hairs?

Hi Cedric,
Thank you for your comment. You raised an interesting point here!
I think that black women wearing wigs could be interpreted as a desire to hide their natural hair. However, those women could simply love to have the freedom to change their hairstyles or looks regularly. I also think that it can also act as a protective style. Thus, my answer is that it depends on the way the person sees herself and if she feels comfortable and is confident enough to embrace both the natural hair and the wigs. What do you think?

Ludivine Valere

Hi Ludivine
Great paper! I agree with your perspectives about how online communities is a place where not only people can express or satisfy their need to belong but as well as the culture and strong bonds created behind. Additionally, as you have mentioned, media does a great job for setting the trends and identity empowerment.
While promoting the normalization of certain features, black women’s natural hair in this case, there is another facade to it whereby aside from breaking stereotypes, it also reinforces another kind of stereotype about the image whereby such types of hair is associated to a specific culture or ethnic.
I would also like add that in my opinion, at some point individuals are likely to face or feel like an outsider or being the ‘Other’ for possessing different characteristics as compared to the majority as it is in human nature to be wary of the unknown but with time, we learn to grow, accept and appreciate these differences.

On an ending note, I would like to invite you to read my paper and share your views or critics about contradictory nature of identity here (http://networkconference.netstudies.org/2020Curtin/2020/05/11/who-are-you-the-identity-paradox-in-virtual-environments/)
Looking forward to your response !

Hi Jessica
Thank you for your nice comment and analysis! You have well understood what I wanted to communicate about breaking stereotypes and normalizing black women’s hair. I totally agree with you on the fact that being different can make people feel rejected or inferior compared to others. Do you think that this is the main reason why people want to hide their true-self online?
I will be reading your paper next. It seems really interesting!

I would say people do not fully exposed their self in real life as well for fear of rejection like you’ve mentioned in your paper and much more. In fact, I see the self as a really complex concept to examine. For instance, if you explore the famous Japanese saying about people having 3 faces where the first is shown to the world, the second to people close to us such as friends and family while the third one being the truest reflection of who you are is overall brilliant but still leaves room for deeper meanings.
Thank you, I appreciate that! 🙂

Thank you for sharing this proverb Jessica! I find it really inspiring and I totally agree with it! And yes, the aspect of self is really complex but I must say that you tackled it very well in your paper.
Thanks again for your time.

Hola ,

Thank you for your very informative essay Ludivine.I personally think you nail your topic,it is fascinating how Instagram has that “influential power”on people lives.This makes me happy that now we can all be expressive and share our thoughts ,which reach a wide audience.Also i would like to highlight that the concept of ‘naturalism’is what make women more beautiful and this can be point out through your amazing essay .#embracenaturalism.
I was always curious,by any chance do you know any brand that sell natural hair product?
Cheers,
Steffi

Thank you for your comment Steffi!
I agree that now we have more support and encouragement through Instagram to embrace naturalism! This can also be reflected in your topic on curvy women. Even if women will come across some negative comments on social media, we can still notice the change in mentality where the majority of people will defend those women. This really shows that naturalism is being normalized and more acceptable.
I came across natural hair product brands that are also available in Mauritius such as; Shea Moisture and Flora & Curl.

Best regards,
Ludivine

Hi Ludivine,
Really nice paper and very interesting topic. I strongly agree with the fact that social platforms has contributed to develop the mindset of people about black women hair types. People nowadays are more open and doesn’t judge. Due to the freedom which Instagram allows, a lor of people are now able to voice out and fight for who they really are, and the impacts online has more power as people are able to argue and share their beautiful message. Moreover the products as well are playing a great role and helping black women to gain confidence. Really nice analysis. Good job

Thank you for your comment Morgane! I agree with you on that aspect of having more power and being able to voice out through Instagram. However, It takes a lot of courage to show our real self to people online as we could come across hurtful comments which can then affect our mental health. Thus, participating in online communities which will respect your cultural values and that promote self-love and self-esteem could help to overcome the negative comments. What do you think?

I think that you point out a very good point here. Self-esteem is very important and this is a factor which you are the only one who have the control over it. It is only when we believe that we are good and worthy that people will then view us positively. Being part of a community will obviously help to boost up you self-love and your self-esteem. Showing that you matter is very important, people have to share their positive views to make others respect them. Black women should be confident and be proud of who they are, and this will surely help to overcome the nasty comments. Always be proud of who you are.

Cheers.

Hello!
I LOVE your topic! I think that online platforms can definitely do a lot of damage but in this case, giving exposure to the beauties of black hair is definitely a positive! The curly and afro hair community have definitely helped empower black women but they have also helped empower a lot of non black parents who have black children (whether that be through adoption of having a mix raced child). Many non black parents do not know how to do their childrens hair as they have had no experience with it, causing their childrens hair to be damaged. I think these Instagram pages can help these parents learn how to do their childrens hair so that both the parent and child are happy. I found this article that you may be interested in about white parents learning how to do black hair https://www.femestella.com/salon-how-to-do-black-childrens-hair/ .

I also thought that you might be interested in my article as I also talk about a similar theme of empowerment to minorities online. My paper is about how online communities can help queer youth with their queer identity. Let me know if you enjoy it:)

http://networkconference.netstudies.org/2020Curtin/2020/05/11/the-importance-of-online-communities-in-queer-identity-building/

Hi Sofia
I really appreciate your feedback and I’m glad you enjoyed reading my paper. You made a very good point here! I totally agree with you on the fact that non-black parents may have difficulties managing and styling their children’s hair. It is also important that the parents teach their children to accept and love their natural hair as they might feel insecure about having different hair types. Therefore, searching for online tutorials could help them achieve different hairstyles and at the same time care for their kids’ hair.
Thank you for sharing the article. It was really interesting and I learnt a lot from it! I like the fact that the salon’s aim is not to make money out of this but mainly to build the kids’ self-esteem and to help the parents.
I also love your topic and will surely have a look at it!

Hello again Ludivine,
I’m back to your paper because I wanted to know your thoughts on cultural appropriation. Whilst these accounts were created to empower black women and their hair, their popularity has gone mainstream and has caused many non black people to style their hair in similar ways. Many of these non black people do not understand the history and significance of black hair, thus causing it to be cultural appropriation and a serious ethical issue. How do you think these accounts should carry on in the future in order to inform their followers of cultural appropriation?

Hi Sofia
Thank you for your interest!
I totally agree with you! I think it is important to educate people about this for them to understand the difference between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation for e.g. the pages could start by sharing the importance of hair for black women (their identity, the meanings and history) and voice out about the discrimination they usually face because of their hair. I think that acknowledgement and learning their history and culture are the most important. What do you think?

I agree. I think the first step is to educate yourself on the history and culture of black hair and why it is so culturally significant to black people. I think that a huge issue is that many people are ignorant to how insensitive it is to appropriate a culture that is not yours and use something that is culturally significant just for aesthetic purposes. Many people do not understand the hardships that black people go through with their hair (media have constantly insulted black hair, say it is unprofessional, not allowed at work, school etc) and for a non black person to be praised for wearing the exact same hairstyle that black people wear (except they get ridiculed and oppressed because of their hair) is very ignorant and harmful. Social media has taught me a lot about the history of black hair and the significance it has to their culture and therefore other people should be able to educate themselves on this topic. There is always room for improvement so even people like me, who have been educated, can still further educate themselves and research further.

Hello once again Ludivine,
It was a thought provoking paper as expected. It showed the evolution from black women trying to hide their real identity by abiding to Eurocentric hair styles guideline, to feeling a sense of pride by rocking their natural curls. However, something I have noticed is that the hair community rejects white people who try to style their hair like black women. Do you think it relates to it as cultural appropriation in some way or the other?

Hi Farheen
I really appreciate that you have deeply analysed the topic! First of all, I think that it is important to make the difference between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation. Cultural appropriation is when one culture (the dominant) inappropriately adopts traditions, practices etc. from another culture without acknowledgement. An example is Kim Kardashian renaming the cornrows an African hairstyle, the boxer braid. Here’s a link to a video if you want to learn more about this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J4QKBcydqMY
This shows why the black community usually feel offended when white people adopt their hairstyles. For them, their hair is part of their identity and history and not just a trend from the pop culture. Moreover, they suffered and still suffer from discrimination when it comes to their hair and now they are seeing that it suddenly looks fashion or ‘cool’ on white people. However, cultural appreciation is all about sharing, learning from other cultures, being inspired by a particular culture different from your own. Thus, I think everyone is free to style their hair or dress as they want, while being aware the true origin of the cultural elements. What do you think?

Hi Ludivine,

sorry for the late reply
and thank you for replying to my question
I just checked out the video and it was really informative

I like how you said “being inspired”, this is the way to go in my opinion as well
with all due respect and acknowledgement to a certain cultural element, it won’t be wrong to appropriate it

regards,
Farheen

Hello Ludivine,
I think your topic is really interesting. Some years back natural curly, kinky, or afro hair was considered as ‘ugly’ and young girls and even boys were bullied because of their natural hair style. And they wanted to have straight hair ‘normal’ hair which was synonym of. Some of them used to iron their hair everyday which is bad for the proper growth of our hair and it damages the roots. But thanks to the influencers curly hair has become trendy and even people with natural straight hair are choosing to curl their hair to resemble those who were once viewed as ugly. Promoting natural curly, afro, or kinky hair has been a real success as many women around the globe and even me are more comfortable and we are also more informed about how to treat our different our hair type. Black beauty culture is a proud community who had to struggle a lot before the online trends and now as you said celebrities are also proud to show their real hair for example beyonce who had always straight hair in her music videos but now she always have curly hair. Influencers played a very important role in normalizing the black beauty culture and I think it has helped a lot of young girls and boys to feel less insecure about their natural hair. But do you think that women can go to a professional job interview for a high post in a very reputed and sophisticated firm with her natural curly hair without being judged? I am not saying everywhere but I think there are still some injustice done to them indirectly.

Hello Ourmila
Thank you for your comment and analysis. I definitely agree with you! You mentioned a good example here. Celebrities like Beyoncé had indeed taught black women and women in general about self-confidence and self-acceptance. And seeing her wearing her natural hair, definitely contributed in changing the perception of black women’s hair for example in her music video; Formation which reflects that aspect of confidence and self-worth.
When it comes to job interviews, I also think that there is still a lot of discrimination when it comes to black women’s hair (often portrayed as unprofessional). Black women are taking risks when wearing their natural hair for job interviews and even at school. They are often asked to straighten their hair to conform to the ideal beauty standards. Here’s an interesting article about this issue that might interest you; https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-36279845
I personally think that they should be free to wear their natural hair. Unfortunately, there are still high risks of being judged and reprimanded just because of their hair. However, I think that social media platforms also give them the opportunity to voice out about the discrimination they face and can contribute to a positive change in the perception of their hair types and hairstyles. What do you think?
Thank you again for your interest.

Hi,

That was a very instructive paper about the issues faced by the black community in regards to today’s beauty standards. I agree that social media has contributed a lot in helping women embracing their natural hair.
As someone with curly hair myself, I can relate to several points made, such as being teased during my childhood and wanting to look like the girls with straight hair on TV. I became obsessed with straightening my hair at an early age. The first time I chemically relaxed my hair was when I was only 9 years old. And it didn’t stop until I was 21. My hair was so damaged that I had very little left on my head. That was when I started the process of transitioning to my natural hair.
In my experience, social media has been an important tool in my journey to self-acceptance. Seeing natural hair being finally acknowledged as beautiful and not something to be ashamed of has helped me in embracing this part of me that I am today, very proud of.
I find your essay not only instructive, but extremely relatable as I have personally encountered these issues myself.

Hi Aurore
Thank you for your comment and for sharing your personal experience. You mentioned that you started relaxing your hair when you were only 9 years old and indeed, a lot of women can relate to that. The desire to change the nature of their hair usually starts from an early age. Thus, we can deduce that representation (on TV, Music videos, in advertising etc.) definitely matters. I think that the media have the power to shape our perception on which is generally considered beautiful and which is not. Have you heard of the idea of ‘good hair’ versus ‘bad hair’? Good hair being straight, wavy or loose curls (manageable hair) and ‘bad hair’ being ‘kinky’ or ‘nappy’ hair. Now we can notice that some people are contributing on social media platforms, in changing that perception for e.g. through the hashtag; #allhairisgoodhair. As you said, social media platforms such as; Instagram and YouTube have helped a lot of women in their journey to self-acceptance. They can now easily learn how to manage their hair and also follow the transitioning steps through advices available on social media.
Thank you for your participation. I’m glad that you liked it!

Hi Ludivine,

I have read your paper and I like it. You have strong arguments and references that back up your paper really well. Instagram has become one of the social media platforms that black women used to represent themselves and I think that by displaying themselves with their natural hair have helped other women to gain more self confidence in themselves. When I was still an adolescent, I used to think that straight hair was the key to have friends and to be socially acceptable, but when I grew up, I started to think that how long can I hide my natural hair? The rain and humidity were my enemies at that time. In HSC classes, I was so tired of straightening them that I went to school with my curly hair and it was then that I realized that your natural hair is your identity and that’s what makes you unique in your own way. Your paper gave me new captions to put in my instagram posts from now on 😂🤗.

If you have some time to spare, feel free to read my paper even though that identity coincides a little bit with your paper.

http://networkconference.netstudies.org/2020Curtin/2020/05/11/online-personae-and-inauthenticity-are-parallels-on-social-networking-platforms/

Best regards,
Alexia.

Hi Alexia,
Thank you for your comment and for taking the time to read my paper. You mentioned that you also had that phase (which I noticed, often comes during childhood and adolescence) where you were straightening your natural hair to feel accepted in society. Some girls who commented on my paper can also relate to this and they mentioned that social media platforms like Instagram have contributed in representing and normalizing their hair types. I totally agree with you that hair is attached to identity and I think that starting to deny or reject that identity can become difficult in the longer term. Did online platforms or communities on Instagram also help you in your natural hair journey? I’m glad that my paper inspired you for your captions! Maybe it would help other young women to accept their natural hair.
I will surely check out your paper!

Regards,
Ludivine

Hi Ludivine!

Very interesting paper! (my favorite one so far 😉 )
I totally agree with you; digital platforms such as Instagram are empowering women to embrace their natural hair thanks to the support that they receive from the online communities. On the other hand, there is still a lot of work to do to change the mentality of society about “black women’s hair”. However, the representation of black beauty online is a great start. I like to think that the confidence that the women who are part of the black community have, to embrace their natural hair and feel good in their own skin can act as a powerful weapon against the prejudice that they experience.

Hi Alice!
Thank you for your nice comment! I’m glad you liked it! I agree with you that there is still a lot of work to do to change the mentality of society. I think it that the negative perceptions of black women’s hair have been deeply-rooted in society for a long time now, thus, making it more difficult to normalize their natural hair. However, as you said, women starting embracing their natural hair and increasing representation of their hair types online, definitely help in fighting those prejudices.

Hi Ludivie,

This paper was a great read, it’s often so easy to focus on the negatives and this paper reminded me of how far we have come from no representation to this. Diving deeper into this however, I would like to know your thoughts on texturism and what can be done to combat it? Whilst yes there is representation as a 4C natural I find that my hair type isn’t as widely celebrated as a type 3 natural. An example of this is Shea Moisture Australia’s instagram feed predominantly showing images of naturals with a type 3 to 4a texture and if it is 4C it’s only longer hair shown not short hair unless it’s a child or the individual is male. What are your thoughts/ experiences regarding this?

Thank You,
Tatenda

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