Turn I Loose: Afro, Locs, and other Styles

Note: This is just my opinion, people are free to wear their hair as they please, of course. All personal choices are valid.

I rarely wear my hair loose. Is that a sign of shame? I was wondering if I hide my hair based on subconscious dislike of it. I wore it straight (flat ironed) for Christmas. I felt overwhelmed and uncomfortable with all that hair. It’s unmanageable to me. I love shrinkage. It is a gift: I can get a reduction in volume, length, and change in texture without a haircut.

Kinky, coily, nappy, cottony, textured, natural 4a-4z hair is soooo awesome!

Natural

I don’t get caught up worrying about what natural or natural hair is supposed to mean. There are people who are anti-heat, anti-straightening, Afro-puffs-only, anti-styling(?), and completely absorbed into natural products (no silicones, parabens, mineral oil, petroleum, etc).

That’s great – for them. Hair rules can be so dogmatic they hurt the people it is supposed to help. Not everyone’s head of hair will respond alike to the same treatment.

Outside of not using a relaxer, lye or no-lye, curly perm, or anything toxic like that, I’m wholeheartedly for the use of anything that temporarily changes my hair. If there was a product that altered my hair texture, straightened it, or loosened the kinky coil for a couple of days, weeks, or months, and I could wash it out – I’d use it. As long as it is not permanent.

Afro

As for hairstyles, I do not like the Afro. It was cool to wear as a nearly bald-headed kid, but even if I could sport a big-ass-Afro (BAA), I would not. It’s too much work. I remember all those years of picking (which was cutting) my hair out, then patting it into shape. I was always worried about it being lopsided, dirty, dusty and dry. Way too much effort.

A tiny Afro is fine. A medium sized one is reasonable, anything longer than a pinky or index finger is a problem. My hair couldn’t stand up anyway – it’s not dense enough. It would require a ton of hair spray – that’s not happening.

I know there are people who love the shrunken Afro, which is different from very short hair picked out. As someone with some of the softest, fragile, thin, and zig-zagged shaped strands around, I could never wear my hair in one. It would get so knotty, I would have to spend hours de-tangling. I don’t see how that helps the hair.

I’ve seen the rough treatment people put their hair through when they pick out their Afro. Picking is cutting, regardless of whether it is damp, wet, or dry. Loose hair is lost hair. I wonder why people believe it helps their hair grow.

Locs

Years ago, I wanted to try locs, but then I realized I dislike them. I’ve rarely seen a head of hair that looks good with locs, regardless of whatever fancy styling, coloring, or name, like Sistalocks, they are given.

There are people who believe this hairstyle helps their hair grow. The truth is, I think locs provide people with an excuse not to touch their hair. That’s not all bad, especially if it’s religiously inspired.

However, broken off locs, thick locs hanging by a few strands, large and growing parts, prove that this style doesn’t work for everyone. I see very few heads of hair that don’t have these balding spots between parts, which is due to traction alopecia. Every extreme twist – in order to look “neat” – pulls out the hair, and those few strands are left holding up a heavier loc of growing and shed hair.

Turn I Loose: Stress Testing

I do want to wear my hair loose: come this Spring, I will see what I can do. I will use bantu knots and two-strand twists to prep my hair. I do not lack for decent leave-in conditioners, so I think I should be able to manage without fear of “The Knots.” Maybe I will be able to wear it out for a week and see what happens.

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Susan Taylor Leaves Essence Magazine

Good luck to Ms. Taylor.

I met her many years ago when I was a kid. Back then, I had this idea I was going to be a writer, journalist, author and whatnot. She was gracious and classy, which unfortunately cannot be said of the other people who work in the field. They helped me decide that working in the media was not for me.

According to the NY Times, December 2007, Susan Taylor is leaving Essence Magazine:

Ms. Taylor, 61, joined Essence in 1970, the year it was first published, as a freelance fashion and beauty editor after founding her own company, Nequai Cosmetics. She became editor in chief in 1981, a post she held until 2000, when she was promoted to publications director.

I suppose it was to be expected: it was going to happen sooner or later. The magazine was started by Clarence O. Smith and Edward Lewis. In 2000, they accepted Time Warner‘s money. The media conglomerate ended up holding 49% of Essence.

Why should he look a gift horse in the mouth?

From interviews I read with Edward Lewis, having Richard D. Parsons (who’s African American) as CEO of the Time Warner – he felt sorta “safe” working with them. The rest of the company was sold to Time Warner in 2005 when the dynamic duo of Essence parted ways. One of the catalysts for their breakup: Bob Johnson’s sale of BET, which made him America’s first black billionaire.

I wasn’t aware of this, but Johnson Publications (Ebony Magazine) was also an investor in Essence. There were some criticisms from other black business owners as to why there wasn’t an effort made to sell it to fellow blacks.

I can tell you right now why that didn’t happen. Barry Gordy was the first to sell-out and I don’t mean that in a derogatory way. Black businesses still thrived and grew. Plenty of black media entrepreneurs learned from his example and followed in his footsteps: Russell Simmons, Andre Young (Dr. Dre), and Shawn Carter (Jay-Z), etc.

Has the magazine changed since it acquired a new owner? Yup. The Puff Daddy with his baby momma issue, which celebrated an unmarried, totally messed up couple told enough people where things were heading.

Essence appears to get much more advertisers now. It has so many white girls in the ad pages, I sometimes wonder if I’m reading Cosmopolitan. Getting with a media giant gets the ad dollars flowing like never before.

Irony, however, is Essence’s main forte.

I’d say that a good percentage of the advertising is devoted to what is considered (by whom?) a black woman’s main problem: her hair. And what is the solution to this hair dilemma? Extremely harsh hair relaxers aka perms.

Essence recently devoted an article to alopecia, which is a very serious problem among black women. This is like a magazine that’s devoted to health, stuffed with ads for smoking, occasionally filling in with an article contemplating the causes of emphysema and lung cancer.

I question if the change of ownership, among other things, going to be at the cost of black female dignity? I mean, just because a brand says it is black-focused doesn’t mean it’s going to be good and mindful of blacks.

There are many magazines out there that are aimed at the black audience, who owns them, and whether their final message benefits their readers is another story.

Lastly, I read that Essence‘s circulation is 1 million readers a month, 29% of them male. Interesting.

Sources

Essence of a break up. (Business News)
Essence Editor Is Leaving Magazine
Ed Lewis defends Essence magazine sale
Time Inc. to Buy Out Essence

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