By: Latifah Miles, Contributor
For a moment, try to think of 5 African American female celebrities that regularly and confidently rock their natural curls, in whichever form they grow. Ok, have you thought of 5? Can you think of 5 more and then 5 more after that? Every time you try to add 5 more confident curly black celebs onto that list, it will become seemingly impossible. While the natural hair movement in the African American community has gained resurgence over the last decade, somehow black starlets are still encouraged to hide, straighten, and cover up their natural curls. The entire phenomenon of assimilating into a European idea of beauty is certainly not new, especially for Hollywood. The issue is a problem that has several sources.
The hierarchy of curly hair for African American women
The truth is that all curly, kinky, coily heads are not created the same in the scrutinizing eye of the public when you’re in Hollywood. A celebrity that has seemingly good hair has the ability to wear their curls with confidence as well as have support from their fans and the industry. Perfectly loosely spiraled curls are palatable, acceptable, and even adored. Black celebrities like Tracee Ellis Ross and Thandy Newton fall into the realm of acceptable curls that are encouraged and have become a part of their overall style. Their beautifully coifed style is replicated and envied with memes dedicated to their perfectly tousled curls. This is great because we need to see it. However, we need to also see a larger variety of black celebrities with large, influential platforms embracing their curls no matter the texture.
But, what about the other beautiful African American celebs that have diverse, curly hair but are discouraged from showing it off?
With the availability of social media and this new found ability to take a peek into the behind the scenes lives of celebs, countless black celebs that we are used to seeing with long, luscious extensions are showing glimpses of their natural hair. While it is endearing to see curly hair of stars like Angela Simmons and Keke Palmer, in these intimate behind the scenes photos, there is a luring question of why it’s only in these photos that these women can show off their natural locks and for the public, they are pictured with weaves and straight hair. Is this their preference or is it the pressure of Hollywood causing them to feel as though they need to fit a more European standard?
African American celebs, whether they like it or not, are the role models and trendsetters for their own community and many other cultures. They are on a large platform where their choices have a meaningful impact. When black celebs with the hair type that represents an entire community choose not to rock it with pride, it perpetuates the negativity that surrounds naturally curly hair that isn’t like Tracee’s or Corrine’s.
What does the future hold for curly celebs?
Over the last 6 years or so as the natural hair movement in communities of African descent continues on, more and more African American stars are sharing their natural curls in every form. These women are using their platform to wear their curls, proudly. Lupita Nyong'o hit the red carpet with her TWA, Viola Davis showed off her close cut at the SAG awards, and Solange rocked her big chop and showed us all what it meant to be in love with your natural curls. In 2014, Tracee Ellis Ross started a Hair Love campaign where she called for all of her adoring fans to love their own hair as much as they loved hers. The response was phenomenal and truly brought women of color from every corner, with every curly hair type to say why they loved their hair. It was the guidance that the community needed from a curly haired celebrity. Since the beginning of the new coming of the natural hair movement, more and more black celebs of all shades and hair types are showing off their natural curls. What’s even better is that Hollywood as a whole is becoming more accepting of the natural, varying beauty that is women of color with black stars covering major magazines like Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire.
The young, up and coming celebrity women of color are already leading the movement of celebrating our natural beauty. These young Hollywood stars like Amandla Stenberg, Serayah McNeill, Willow Smith, Zendaya, Serena Williams, Esperanza Spalding, and many more are teaching their fans that being black, beautiful, and embracing the hair that makes us special is not just ok, but incredibly empowering.
What are your thoughts about this trend? Do you think Hollywood is becoming more accepting of naturally curly hair among black celebs? Or do you feel as though it is a perpetual issue that will be difficult to end?
Latifah Miles is a freelance writer and blogger at youngfabulousandnatural.com, hailing from Northern NJ. Her work is strongly rooted in empowering everyone to be the best versions of themselves.