CULTURE EVENTS

The Politics of Hair and Hair Envy

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“When my hair is not done, I don’t feel right,” said DJ Lissa Monet from the stage where the panelists spoke from.  It was a very poignant statement that reflects the feelings of a lot of women when it comes to hair.  Particularly black women.  Whether relaxed or natural, we all seem to have an issue with not feeling quite right when we think our hair isn’t in check.

Presented by London Ivy Products, “The Politics of Hair: Hair Envy” invoked insightful and thought-provoking conversation about the issues surrounding hair in the ‘natural, curly, coily and afro-textured’ community.  It took place Sunday May 31, 2015 at Revival located in the heart of Toronto. Five panelists were given the stage to have a discussion that was moderated by Monique London, Owner of London Ivy Products.  The panel included Natural Hair Vloggers, Chary Jay and Samantha Gomez, DJ Lissa Monet, Sophia Murphy of Roots to Curls, and Spoken Word artist, Author and Speaker, Dwayne Morgan.

Chary Jay is a successful YouTube Natural Hair Vlogger.   She was one of the featured panelists.
Chary Jay is a successful YouTube Natural Hair Vlogger. She was one of the featured panelists.

This event’s theme was slated as ‘Hair Envy’.  The term unwraps the thoughts many women have with respect to how we look at another woman’s hair.  Why do we as women have such strong envy when it comes to other women and their hair? Panelist Chary Jay, who has been natural for just four years shared her thoughts on the concept of hair envy saying, ” I think of hair envy as seeing someone else who is natural and wanting their hair more than you like or want your own.”  She went on to say that she thinks a lot of people are getting their hair envy from YouTube or Instagram.  She stressed the importance of knowing and learning your own hair and to stop neglecting yourself because you are so concerned about others you see in social media.  Figure out your own hair and make it amazing.  Many of us have what’s termed ‘hair crushes.’ Celebrity names like Kelis and Janelle Monae came up along with dozens of YouTube stars who often have hair textures adored by thousands and can seem unattainable.

Social media is now breeding the obsession for length.  Everywhere we turn there is someone on Instagram pulling their strands to show before and after pics of how long their curls have gotten.  It can make women with shorter hair feel bad for not having such great length.  There seems to be a lack of celebration when it comes to the women who choose to keep it short or perhaps their hair just doesn’t grow that long.  Lissa Monet said, ” I think what needs to be addressed is that everybody’s hair is different, everybody’s DNA is different…and although our hair is rolled up into one category as black hair, it’s still individual hair and it really depends on what works for the individual.”  The key is learning to embrace and love your own hair and its unique texture.

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Not everyone goes natural because of any particular ‘movement’ or to be a radical militant woman fighting the powers that be.  “Hair is a form of self-expression,” said Dwayne Morgan.  Although it certainly expresses who we are as a people with this texture that differs from many other races, the way we style it, can certainly be a part of our personal expression of style or personality.  Chary Jay said she went natural because she was bored and wanted a style change.  For Sophia Murphy it was, “…just being tired of going to the salon all the time. Because my hair is very coarse and thick, they always had to use the strongest relaxer and my scalp is sensitive so after awhile, I’m burning but the relaxer’s not complete. I just got tired of the whole process.”  While others talked about feeling the need to embrace their natural selves.  Samantha Gomez, who is known on social media as I’mSamanthaGomez, talked about styling her own hair using the ‘wash and go’ technique.  She isn’t concerned about having so much fuss over her hair and likes the ease of being able to just wash and let her hair ‘air dry’.  This also opened up a big discussion over what really is a wash and go?  As Monique London stated while moderating the panel, “As long as your putting products into the hair for styling, it’s not really a wash and go. It’s a wash, style and go.”

DJ Lissa Monet, was the only woman on the panel who admits to wearing weaves on a regular basis.  She boldly admit to the challenges as a woman in embracing her own hair, which she said is currently in a ‘tex-lax’ state (some refer to this as texturized).  That’s the technique used by some stylists to relax your hair without it going completely bone straight.  It’s embraced by many women who want to go natural or have the natural look, but still want the ability to have a looser and less coarse texture to work with.  It’s not as harsh as the complete relaxer, but it still involves manipulating the hair with chemicals.  Being the only person who wasn’t rocking natural, I thought it was wonderful to have her there because not all women of colour choose to leave their hair natural.   It’s important to embrace and never bash or degrade others for their decisions.  It’s a choice to wear wigs, weaves or relax the hair.  The real trouble lies inside an individual who actually hates her natural hair and sees it as a bad thing. The issue stems partly from the historical aspect of black beauty not being embraced by mainstream society. Dwayne Morgan brought out some very important points when he spoke of the importance we should place also on teaching young men and boys to also embrace the beauty of all the various textures of our hair.  He also referenced the fact that he has raised his daughter to embrace every aspect of her beauty and self-worth as a young Black girl.

Events like these are important in keeping the conversation going on the issues of natural hair.  It may seem trivial to those who don’t live it, but natural big curly, coily. afro textured  hair is not always embraced in every environment.  Certain work environments frown on it and a person can be judged because of it.  Sadly some look at it as a trend, but the reality is, this is the natural state of a person’s hair and really isn’t about a trend, but rather about self-acceptance and embracing another side of beauty.

For more information on London Ivy Products visit the website at: londonivyproducts.com

My with Monique London, the founder of London Ivy Products and Host/Creator of the Politics of  Hair Series.
Myself with Monique London, the founder of London Ivy Products and Host/Creator of the Politics of Hair Series.
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