The Perils of Blackness: Good Hair...Bad Hair...Now 'Nasty' Hair?


Sheryl Underwood Tiana Parker
A firestorm was unleashed when comedian Sheryl Underwood (top) made disparaging remarks about natural hair and a little girl in Tulsa, OK (bottom) changed schools because of her hair

I finally saw the clip of Sheryl Underwood’s comments about black folks' natural hair. I now understand why she was ragged on so much on Twitter and was nearly in tears in her apology on Steve Harvey's radio show. Underwood tried to chalk the situation up to a joke gone wrong but her statements were so incredibly hurtful and psychologically damaging it may take some time for her to get this behind her.

It doesn't help that Steve Harvey, in his attempt to support his friend Underwood, referred to the incident as "the little thing going on about the hair comment." Oh, no, the hair comments are not a little thing or Underwood wouldn't have realized such a backlash. Hair is a very sensitive issue for black people. Underwood could have let it go after after one remark, but no, she continued the black hair beatdown when other women on the panel were trying to move the conversation on.  


Lest we forget, while black folk are busy being angry with Sheryl Underwood, be mindful that Aisha Tyler, another black woman on 'The Talk," sat at that same table and didn’t say a mumbling word. Tyler did look uncomfortable but she didn't do anything to ease the pain, so she doesn't get a pass. 

What’s the message sent about kinky, curly or wavy hair? It’s ugly ---- straighten it! Even white people feel the same way so let's put this issue in perspective. At this juncture, the dots in this controversy could be connected by a discussion on white supremacy and idolization white European beauty but I won't go there. I do ask you to pay more attention to the images and words in the media and in our daily conversations and internet interactions. 

Deborah Brown Community School, a charter school in Tulsa, OK bans ‘faddish’ hairstyles like dreadlocks, mohawks and afros. Consequently, Tiana Parker, a little 7 year-old black girl, was sent home because of her hair which she wore in locs. 


It’s understandable that a school wants its students to look presentable but come on, there was nothing wrong with that child’s hair. Tiana, a straight-A student, according to her father, wore her hair in this manner last year  and it wasn't a problem. The school decided to enforce their policy this school year.

Tiana Parker’s father has been lauded by many for removing her from the school rather than conforming to the school’s dress code policy. That’s all well and good but Deborah Brown Community School is a charter school, as such, can establish its own dress code policy --- even if it is ridiculous.  Why would the parent of a black child subject him or her to a psychologically terroristic environment that blatantly demonstrates disdain for a child's natural beauty? Even with the school's good academic performance reputation, I don't think so.

The most flack I’ve gotten about my hair, in its natural state, has been from other black people. White people usually want to touch it, especially when my hair was in locs. It’s so sad and I wonder if it will ever change since images of black women in natural hairstyles are a rarity even in media by, for and about blacks. Check it out for yourself.

Sheryl Underwood and the governing board and administration of Deborah Brown Community School are all black which makes this black hair drama all the more pathetic. Perhaps one day, EVERYONE, will appreciate their God-given beauty. In the meantime, I strongly encourage Underwood and the folks at Deborah Brown Community School to watch Chris Rock's documentary, Good Hair.



"Dark Girls" is Sad, Powerful and Haunting [VIDEO]

It's 2011, why are black people still dealing with skin color and hair texture issues?

Dark Girls: Preview from Bradinn French on Vimeo.

How many times do black people have to address the issue of dark skin vs. light skin...good hair...bad hair. It's so sad and so unbelievable by people who are not black, regardless of whether black American, Black Hispanic, Caribbean black, etc.

If the truth be told, the problem of self-hatred and skin color envy is so deep and pervasive. If the truth be told, it goes beyond blacks. The desire for blonde hair, blue eyes and light skin is prevalent throughout the  ethnicity spectrum and damages the psyche of many not naturally born with those genetic traits. It's easier and perhaps more damaging to blacks who are farther away from Nordic blonde, but others are suffering also.

This madness will continue until people start really loving their natural selves. It's okay to recognize beauty in others but when you do that while hating yourself, the cycle continues. Some of comments from blacks in this video make me angry and sad --- in that order. We know better, let's do better. And to my dark girl sisters, you are beautiful. Know it. Own it. Be it.


Join the Vogue Africa Movement

Check out this re-post from K. Melanie Unfurled. The photos are awesome! Oh, yeah, K. Mel is a friend, follow her blog! Enjoy, Vanessa!

Vogue Africa Movement


My loyal readers will remember my post two or so years ago about Vogue Italia's "All Black" issue. Well we're taking it a step further. Home to the Motherland.

Vogue Africa.

All I can say is that it's about time! I can just image how beautiful the editorials would be. Take a look at the mock covers below. I’m salivating as I type..

Mock covers commissioned by Paris based makeup artist and photographer Mario Epanya.

Epanya comments, “ women in Western magazines didn’t correspond to African beauty. Women in Western magazines frequently had light skin, fine features, and long hair. Today I think black women want to re-appropriate their image and don’t want others to dictate what is beautiful and what isn’t. Beauty is diverse and today we aspire to more diversity of choice. So when I got the idea to create the covers, I said, why not?”

As you may or may not know, the international Vogue catalog includes Vogue Nippon, Vogue India, Vogue Australia, but no Vogue AFRICA.

How do we get the movement started? I WANT VOGUE AFRICA! Who’s with me??

Join the Movement!
Follow Mario Epanya on TWITTER and join the Vogue Africa FACEBOOK group.

Rest In Peace, Naomi Sims

Before Beverly Johnson, Naomi Campbell, Tyra Banks and Iman, there was Naomi Sims. No, she didn't just make cosmetics, wigs and hairpieces, Ms. Sims has been credited as the first black supermodel. That is why her transition from this world without the appropriate acknowledgement by the news and fashion industry, is appalling. Ms. Sims succumbed to breast cancer at 61.

As a teenager during the black pride era, I recall seeing her beautiful brown face on the cover of many magazines and in advertisements. She was elegant and seemed to glide down the runway.

The pioneering Ms. Sims, who would become an entrepreneur and author, paved the way for ethnic models. Initially, she suffered much rejection because of her dark skin but she persevered and became the toast of the fashion industry.

Thank you, Ms. Sims. You blazed a trail that many take for granted today but I thank you for giving little black girls and black women a reason to walk tall and proud. Ashe'.

Fashion’s New “It” Girl: Ataui Deng


Meet Ataui Deng. You've seen her in several fashion magazines and ads. You've probably thought she looks a lot like Alek Wek. Well, it's reported that she's the niece of Alek Wek although I find it strange that I've not found a photo on the internet with the two of them together.

Be that as it may, this young woman from the Sudan has taken the fashion industry by storm. Her long legs and luxurious dark skin photograph well in the creations of some of the fashion industry's top designers. Deng continues the legacy of beautiful African supermodels started by trailblazing Somalian beauty, Iman.




© 2008, on the black hand side,

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Tyra Banks Dresses as Michelle Obama

OK, this wasn't intended to be a Michelle Obama double play blog post but fashion icon and business woman Tyra Banks dresses as Michelle Obama in a fashion spread for Harper's Bazaar magazine. It's an interesting twist and shows just how much the Obamas have impacted international culture.

While we fully expect Mrs. Obama to be the next First Lady; if she's not, she's proven that she definitely has style and flair.

Trinidadian Trailblazer: Janelle "Penny" Commissiong

1977...The Apple personal computer first goes on sale...STAR WARS premieres...Everyone gets SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER...the TV mini-series ROOTS mesmerizes the USA...and...

"Miss Universe Crown is Won by Black woman"

That was the headline in newspapers around the world on July 17, 1977. And indeed it was true, for Janelle Penny Commissiong of Trinidad and Tobago had become the first black winner in the 26-year history of the pageant.

On the night of Saturday, July 16, 1977, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, the memories of Evelyn Miot (Miss Haiti 1962 and first black woman to make the semifinals); Anne-Marie Braafheid (Miss Curaçao and 1st runner-up in 1968); and Gerthie David (Miss Haiti and 1st runner-up in 1975) seemed to inspire Janelle.

During each phase of the competition, she moved closer and closer to doing what no woman of color had done claim the title of the most beautiful woman in the Universe.

"I felt like a ray of sunshine was around me" is how Janelle described the feeling that night.

When Janelle was announced as the new Miss Universe, Trinidad and Tobago went wild. It was another Carnaval in the streets, and Trinidadian television aired repeats of the pageant for days. The 24 year-old Caribbean beauty, daughter of a Trinidadian father and a Venezuelan mother declared that she "believed her election would contribute to erasing racial barriers." Proud of her victory, she noted, "Beauty belongs to all people; it has no racial or geographic boundaries."

On the way to winning the title of Miss Universe, Janelle became only the second Miss Universe to win the Miss Photogenic Award as well.

Janelle Commissiong was born in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad to a Trinidadian father and Venezuelan mother. She migrated with her family to New York at the age of 13. After graduating high school Janelle attended the Fashion Institute of Technology before returning to Trinidad in 1976.

She traveled the World as a goodwill ambassador afterwards, and decided to take a cash prize instead of a contract with Paramount Pictures (one of her Miss Universe prizes).