An Open Letter to Essence: The natural hair band wagon does not need a champion
It was with much trepidation that I chose to watch the natural hair chat yesterday. I have previously read questionable articles in your publication, the most memorable of which was a hairdresser advising why natural hair does not need hair conditioner. Nonetheless like a hapless moth to the candle flame, I chose to give Essence a second chance and have an open mind convincing myself that perhaps it would be different this time.
Alas, it was not to be. It seems that I was duped and went down in a fiery blaze bombarded with brand name hair products, oh and of course the compulsory mention of frizz. Dejected, I decided to do some research (I am a scientist after all!).
According to your media kit you claim to have nearly 8 million readers (a staggering figure which means pretty much every black household reads your magazine*). Additionally your aim is to be the spirit of the black woman of every colour, my oh my what a lofty ambition!
Your natural hair chat was truly lacking in spirit. The few serious questions that made it to visibility status were either not answered or worse still given misguided advice. In one breath we had advice that we should embrace natural hair no matter what our spouses think and yet the same person has chemically treated hair because their stylist would not have it any other way. Pot Kettle Black.
However, as critical as this letter is, I do still commend you for the only redeeming quality that I could think of which is giving natural hair a spotlight, dim as it may be. Here are some helpful pointers as to the needs of the natural hair community.
1. Hair products are not magical solutions to poor hair care methods. There are many cheap, mid range and expensive products that work in the same capacity. We do not have to spend our hard earned cash on $30 products when a $2 will do the same (Read the first five ingredients people, many will have identical lists!). I understand that Essence relies on advertising dollars, I simply do not think this is a reason to skimp on on information, how about a best buy article feature with products under $5, $10,$20 and over $30. Surely this would cover all bases.Oprah can do it and so can you!
2. Frizz is very low on the priority list to the vast majority of the natural hair community. For a large number of us, our fuzz halos will not be tamed by a spray of any kind. We have already learned to use water or butters or gels and head wraps to smooth our hair. Seriously this is not new or pertinent information.
3. A large number of naturals are interested in growing longer hair. Perhaps one of your writers could get on the web and start tracking down many of our long haired icons and interview them. Essence could be part of destroying the myth that black hair does not grow long!
4. I seriously mean no offence by this statement. Naturally Curly is NOT the go to place for natural hair information (for my white curly readers, this IS the place for you). I have nothing against the forum it is one (if not the only) of the most inclusive forums on the web hence its appeal to me. However, all that said, the black hair section of the forum with quintessential type 4 hair is very underpopulated compared to forums such as longhaircareforum, nappturality and black hair media. Please do not misinform the public and if you are going to cite the last one on the list then surely cite the leading 3! I actually will not pay to join any forum (plus some have policies that would make your eyes water) but I will happily read every thread that is freely available and gleam off what I can.
Conclusively, I am a scientist in the UK and 90% of the readers of this blog are from USA. I therefore believe I am indeed qualified to tell you off for failing to give me (us) good information. I guess I had hoped that you would have your finger on the pulse but now I realise that perhaps you require some guidance to get it there.
I will therefore say, please take my hand and let me help you off the natural hair band wagon, it will roll on with you, don't worry about it. As you alight, let me direct you to the many dynamic and regularly updated resources for natural hair
Ultimate Hair Inspirations
1. BGLHonline.com - Hands down this is the ultimate site for inspirational black hair.This site has the greatest collection of women with the most gorgeous hair. There is some diversity in hair type with a strong leaning to type 4 hair. Short, long, elegant, sassy, funky from all around the world.....you will find it here.
2. CurlyNikki.com - A good resource for hair styles through readers contributions. I do think that there is a strong leaning to type 3 or spiral type hair. The forum is supposed to be picking up too.
1. Me - Yes I said it me - The Natural Haven. I am unfortunately the lone trumpeter. This is a unique resource discussing all aspects of hair care and products from a scientific perspective.
2.This is not a regularly updated site but it is quite a nice hair science site that could help people understand hair better - L'oreal
Fotki is the home of Mwedzi, Loolalooh, Sera252, Maestradiva, Kemi21, F2X............to name just a few. There are so many inspirations that I cannot name them all. I do tend to lean to type 4 hair but I know there are many 3s too like Jenteel and Richeau (EmpressRi).
If video footage is your pleasure then run on down to youtube where typing in natural hair will bring up a ridiculous number of results! Some of my favourites Mwedzi, Sera2544, Cynthiarf, Kimmaytube, Rustic beauty, Curly Chronicles, Beautiful Brwn Baby Dol
In the spirit of today's post, I defy you not to find these people with google!
Where oh where have you been Essence? There are blogs everywhere discussing products including simple cheap and natural alternatives (yes back on the cheap story!). I suggest that you start with my very long list here and bear in mind mine is not even nearly a complete list.
*40 million African Americans in USA divided by the average of 3 per household equals just over 10 million households - Staggering statistic!