The natural hair movement and its impact on students

By Tamica Jean-Charles

When Amara La Negra called out producer, Young Hollywood, for saying she needs to look “more Beyonce” and “less Macy Gray,” supporters from all platforms came to the singer’s side.

La Negra’s interaction with the producer is just one of the seemingly endless streams of negative feedback black women face everyday.

Black women have seen exponential growth in the natural hair movement over the past few years.The movement first surfaced during the Civil Rights movement.

Black Panther members (such as Angela Davis) would sport bold afros to reclaim cultural affirmation among Black Americans. The 80’s and early to mid 90’s took a turn and straightening styles were the trendiest among black women.

As the years have progressed, the movement has been making a comeback with stars like Lupita Nyong’o and Janelle Monae, who continue to let their natural hair shine.

In a study conducted among black female students, 88.2 percent of these women are currently natural. Of that 88.2 percent, 90 percent have been natural for over a year.

Natural hair may seem complex, but there are different ways one can treat it.

First, you can figure out what hair type you are, using the natural hair chart. Curls range from pin straight hair (1A) to the tightest curls (4C).

Natural hair is not limited to the gorgeous fro. Protective styles are typically used to maintain growth, while also allowing self-expression. 78.6 percent of FIU black female students wear protective styles.

These styles range from box braids, crochet, weaves and even wigs. Braids are the most popular among related students. Considering protective styles do not last long, it is common for black women to cycle through styles.

44 percent of students wear two to four, while another 44 percent will wear over five styles in a single year.

“I have been natural for a year and eight months now,” said Tochi Madueke, second year PhD International Relations student, “The key is having enough patience to figure out what works for you and your hair, then rest comes easy.”

Hair care brands have also released a multitude of products (oils, masques and creams) that can be used to treat natural hair. This has allowed black entrepreneurs to create their own concoctions and aid the natural hair movement.

For instance, Carol’s Daughter first started off a mother-daughter project in Brooklyn and is now multi-million dollar brand.

Although advances in the natural hair movement have progressed, black women are still criticized for wearing their hair natural. With a lack of representation in media, rejections from jobs and repercussions from institutions, it is sometimes hard for women to want to change. At FIU, over 65 percent of black women have received negative backlash.

“Whenever I get backlash for my hair, I do my best to inform,” said Victoria Nelson, a junior  marketing major. “Educating [offenders]  on the importance of being comfortable in one’s naturally endowed hair, they soon saw the mistake in their comment.”

“Your hair is nappy,” “your hair looks wild” and “you look unprofessional” are just snippets of the type of slander black women at FIU and all around the world experience. Here at FIU, only 27.6 percent of black women feel completely comfortable with their hair when natural.

Criticism coming from all ends of society have tried to diminish the power of natural hair, as seen in La Negra’s case. Yet the movement still continues to grow.

The 2010’s have prompted major change. More and more women are doing the big chop and letting their natural hair flourish. “The Big Chop” refers to the removal of dead, relaxed hair, leaving natural, unrelaxed to grow.

According to a study conducted by Mintel, relaxer purchases have decreased by 30.8 percent in the past seven years. With a plummet in relaxers, styling and care products sales have skyrocketed. Relaxer sales are expected to descend into the smallest fraction in the industry.

As black women continue to fight for acceptance, undying support continues to bloom. Ann-Sarah Jean, a freshman biochemistry major, expresses her solidarity with the movement.

“Love yourself first,” said Jean, “ I did a lot of looking in the mirror and it finally hit me that in order for people to see your true beauty, you have to see it first.”

 

Tamica Jean-Charles is a Staff Writer for FIU Student Media. Jean-Charles’ column, “Tamica Talk,” expresses culture. lifestyle and fashion. The column does not reflect the views or opinion of FIU Student Media.

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