"I am not my hair, I am not this skin, I am not your expectations" - India Arie

When I was in middle school, a boy I had a crush on said that I was cute, but that he didn’t date girls with “my kind of hair.” I was not sure what was wrong with “my kind of hair,” but presumably he meant the short kind. Although I never really understood what he meant, that comment really stuck with me, because I’ve hated my hair for as long as I can remember. I’ve always wished it were just a little bit longer. A tad bit fuller. And much, much thicker.

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Although I was late to the natural hair movement, when I discovered it in 2013, I thought I had found the golden grail. After reading countless hair blogs and watching hundreds of YouTube videos, I concluded that sulfates, chemical relaxers, and heat were the cause of my short, damaged, and thin hair. All I needed to do was co-wash my tresses, use protective styles, and take some hair vitamins, and I too could have thick curly hair. All of my hair problems would be solved.

And so my natural hair journey began, but for quite the wrong reasons. I stopped getting relaxers, and within months my hair started shedding like crazy. According to my extensive online research, the place where your natural hair meets your relaxed hair is called the “point of demarcation” and it is very fragile. Intense deep conditioning is encouraged, but some women just experience more shedding than others. I was one of those women that experienced intense shedding. So after a month of my hair falling out in handfuls, a new beautician pushed me to cut my hair. Recognizing my anxiety, she tried to leave some of my relaxed hair at the top, so I didn’t feel quite as bad. After a few weeks of looking a bit crazy, one my besties sat me down with some scissors, and said, “Sweetie, that hair at the top has to go. Trust me, it will look better.” Full of fear, I finally gave in, and let her cut the last bit of relaxed hair off the top of my head. I felt a mix of emotions. I was relieved but nervous. Over the next few days, she taught me how to finger coil my new teeny weeny afro (TWA), showed me her favorite products, and introduced me to edge control. I was determined to do this right. So I changed my diet, starting working out, drinking water, cutting chemicals out of my diet and my beauty products, all to add in my hair growth (and body goals). Healthy hair comes from healthy habits, I kept reading. So being the over-achiever I am, I adopted all of the healthy habits I could.

Anytime I got depressed about my less than an inch of hair, I would just google natural hair styles, and day dream of how my hair would look in a year or two. According to all the hair blogs, you could count on about ½ inch of hair growth every month. So I expected to have a head full of bouncy moisturized curls within a year. And I just knew that within 2 years, I would be slaying my IG with all of the natural girl hair styles. All of my friends had long luscious hair after so effortlessly going natural, so I knew it was possible. I told myself that if I could just put up with my TWA for a year or so, I would have a lifetime of healthy curly hair.

But after a year, something terrible happened. My hair was growing so slow. I was definitely not getting ½ inch per month. My hair was not getting thicker and my curls were not popping like the girls in the blogs. I tried two strand twists, braid outs, and wash-and-gos and they all looked a hot mess. I felt like the natural hair movement had failed me. My hair did not have the curl all the naturals had on my IG feed. I was furious. I had done everything right. I had not put heat on my hair in over a year. I easily spent thousands of dollars on all of the latest hair care products. I was indeed a hair product junkie. And I was eating clean. I lost 30 pounds! But my hair? My God, my hair, just would not act right.

I hit a low point when I found myself single after my husband and I separated. Having short hair and a husband was one thing. But having short hair and being single was something entirely different. I’m sure that some guys prefer short hair, but my experience has always been that guys prefer longer hair—they may not care if hair is straight or curly, but they secretly want women to have hair, lots of it, and ideally not the kind you have to buy. My hair an area of real insecurity.


Dealing with all of this anxiety and self-doubt, I met a very blunt, borderline-rude executive type, and after a few drinks, he looked at me and said, “I don’t usually like girls with natural hair. You would look so much prettier with a weave.” I wish I could say I cursed him out or that threw my drink on him or that I gave him a lecture on black beauty and respectability politics. But I did neither. I shrunk in my seat, laughed it off, and said, “Oh yeah, I was thinking about getting a weave.”

A few weeks later, I was driving an hour away to get my first full weave. Although I didn’t want to make decisions about my hair based on what I thought would attract a man, I still heard the voice of that middle school boy in my head. I justified my actions by telling myself that I was getting a protective style that would help my natural hair grow so that after a few months, my big beautiful curls would be hiding underneath. But a few months turned into an over a year, and I still had nothing to show for the thousands of dollars I spent on the best weaves, closures, and wigs that money could buy.

More importantly, after a few installs I realized I didn’t even like weaves, because I actually didn’t want bone straight Eurocentric hair. I wanted curly, kinky, textured hair and I wanted to be able to work out without worrying about looking crazy. That’s when I discovered crochet braids, and I have been addicted ever since. They are healthier for my hair, I can still workout, and they are cheaper than a weave and faster to install.

The only problem is that they don’t help me deal with the emotional and psychological baggage I have with my God-given hair. I still haven’t accepted who I truly am, because I still hated the stuff that grew out of my head. I have realized that I have fine hair that will just never be thick and full. It will never look like the girls on IG. Yes, it will grow, but it will always be thin. My TWA is not a phase. It’s my chosen hairstyle. My hair is short, and I am still beautiful. And I am learning to love the texture, length, and type of hair that grows out of my head. And I can only hope that the natural hair movement will be less about achieving someone else’s look or length, and more about accepting ourselves as we are. Naturally beautifully.

by Kanisha Parks

If you’re not too familiar with the term #InstaBaddie, aka Instagram Baddie, bka plain ‘ol baddie—let me spare you the Google search.

An Urban dictionary definition of “Instagram baddie” will yield, “another word for an Instagram whore” while the phrase “shes a baddie” suggests, “a girl [who’s] got good qualities, and is everything a guy wants.”

Since when can you tell a girl has “good qualities” from a picture, though?

Nonetheless, you could ask 100 other people and probably get 100 different definitions, but most people would probably agree: she’s gorgeous, has amazing brows, and gets a ton of likes.  While baddie is by no means a new term, YouTube tutorials that teach you how to look like one are definitely on the rise. I found at least 100 makeup tutorials for this very subject before I got tired of counting.

You might be thinking, “Well, what’s the difference between this and any other makeup tutorial?” I asked myself the same question, wondering how I could articulate my discomfort with the subject matter.

The answer is simple: other tutorials, though often inspired by celebrity makeup looks, aren’t usually geared towards teaching women and girls how to appeal to a type. An #InstaBaddie in truth is nothing more than an ideal that has been created through this social medium. And as ideals go, they aren’t really real. So what does a woman or a girl really gain from attempting to attain this ideal?
Furthermore, what effect do these videos have on viewers? Here are a few comments I pulled from one particular tutorial:

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Now it takes contacts to be a baddie these days, I really can't get with the wave. I just like enhancing what I have and not changing unless I really have a problem (like my sparse brows) . . . but I hope this isn't gonna be a real trend in makeup, but just a pop up IG trend. I'm already pressured to fill my brows in lol I don't want to be pressured to use contacts to feel like a "baddie" lol especially on my chocolate skin.

I get your struggle... As I open my explore page, I see all of these super tan girls with perfect bodies, boobs, long hair with lots of baby hairs, thick eyebrows, lots of makeup... I know that I shouldn't change, but nowadays only that type of girls is considered "flawless", "goals", etc... Man I really hate those ig models, their only purpose is to make girls different than them insecure.  Comments like, 'holy, you're so hot. i need to figure out how to make myself look that good!!! :)' are super common.

Comments like these were difficult to read as it dawned on me how negative many of the responses were—heavy with insecurities and hints of self-loathing. Even though YouTubers can’t control the response that any of their videos receive, they can decide whether or not to support certain trends at all. Many YouTubers hop on bandwagon tutorials like these because it’s easy to take someone else’s idea and put your own spin on it instead of coming up with original content. But is it worth it?
A recent LipStick Alley thread also questioned these tutorials, some of the comments reading:
Dafuq even makes an instagram baddie? I keep seeing everyone do this and I'm mfn tied. Even my faves are doing it.

I'm starting to notice these girls all look the same. Poppin highlights, nude/coral lip, lashes, leggings, and a slouch cap.

Everyone is looking the same! No matter the race or color. Everyone is looking like Kylie Jenner clones or whatever white hipster trying to look ethnic started this trend.

YouTube "gurus" are truly running out of ideas. It is so bad now that I watch doll tutorials. I'm 28, with no kids and I watch doll tutorials. That's how bad it has gotten.

OMG I was just saying the same thing there were like about four different gurus who did this video on my timeline this week #followers

It is very sheepy (i'm 20) and I try so hard to be myself and be as "original" as I can, I guess in this generation... which is impossible, because nothing is original. But at least I don't consciously just follow anything I see.

It's so corny. I even see gurus as young as 9th graders doing this tutorial. I wish there were more gurus doing original make up that wasn't focused on looking good on IG but also in real life.
These days, we are becoming more and more aware of the distortion that the media constantly presents. If you include applying makeup, the time spent taking the actual picture, and editing, a single selfie can take hours of planning, preparation, and subsequent photo-shopping. It’s something we’ve come to expect from mass media, but seeing your favorite YouTuber (who’s “just like you”) show you how to be a baddie? Are we not taking things just a little too far?

Please don’t misunderstand my concerns as “hating” or “throwing shade.” All of the women in said tutorials are absolutely beautiful and beat to capacity, so no, this isn’t about looks. It’s about perception, and the responsibility that content creators have to themselves and others. We can and should do better.

As women who create content that is consumed by other women and girls, it’s important to recognize that someone else is watching, listening, and interpreting our decisions. As the next generation of young women grows up, they deserve to have positive influences that don’t teach them how to look like everybody else but to embrace their differences and realize that what you see isn’t always what’s real. One day I’ll have a daughter of my own and I’d be horrified at the thought of her learning how to be “what every guy wants.”

What if instead of 100+ videos on “how to be a baddie,” there were 100+ of “how to be your beautiful (black) self?”

Now that’s a video worth watching.

by Tiffani Greenaway of MyMommyVents.com

The woman known for throwing shade is a few shades lighter herself.

Possibly shamed so much by the public dragging she got from 14-year old Disney star Skai Jackson, Azealia Banks seems to be taking on a whole new identity altogether.

The originator of your favorite Twitter beefs confirmed that she's been bleaching her beautiful brown skin with Whitenicious, a controversial lightening cream.



While Banks doesn't seem to care what you think about her, it's clear in tweets from her banned account that she feels lighter skin could help her music career and her romantic life (or a better attitude, maybe?).


All jokes aside, I wish Azealia could see her skin the way we do--as a gift. It's important that we teach our little brown girls to embrace the skin they're in, so that they can celebrate their beauty in the face of society's outdated standards.

Love her or hate her, Azealia Banks is an example of why we need to love ourselves.

What say you?


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Tiffani Greenway is the wife and mom behind MyMommyVents, a New York city parenting blog. Her tips have been seen on Yahoo Parenting, Mommy Noire, and Fit Pregnancy. Find more of Tiffani's work at mymommyvents.com.
IG @nappyese 

by Dr. Aziza Glass of Azizaglass.com

There is something about a melanin infused woman who walks into a room and has the nerve to have hair that defies gravity. This woman can’t become a wallflower even if she tried. This is #BlackGirlMagic in action.

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Black women are fascinating. Regardless of the numerous derogatory comments we hear and receive, “the proof is in the pudding.” Women (and men) spend money and voluntarily endure pain to grasp a couple more straws in their efforts to resemble us. This fascination can significantly increase when Black women rock their natural curls…and sometimes it results in an invasion of personal space. During these moments I have to ask myself the following question, “Do I want to make a personal investment into creating an educational moment for someone else?”

The concept of this question provides me with the opportunity to gain something from the encounter. Besides a temporary regain of control, I can force the aggressor to become aware of his actions. Like flipping a house, I can flip the moment from someone treating me like a living exhibit to a one-on-one round table discussion. Without it, the uncomfortable and rude moment will come and go with the assailant fulfilling the goal of copping a feel, while I am left with the feeling of being violated. By answering “Yes” to this question, I can quickly create a platform where correcting the person can lead to the prevention of future attacks on the next Black woman the assailant meets. After all, the number one (defensive) response when confronted is, “I didn’t know it was a big deal” or “No one ever told me that.” Theoretically, it sounds like the correct thing to do. However, let’s break down what that actually entails:

1. MY patience
2. MY time
3. MY energy
4. MY intellect
5. A receptive mind from the person I am addressing

As you can see from the list, it’s a big effort on MY part. Now imagine that I am having to make a big effort on my part…every day. It gets exhausting. I am all for talking out problems, because that’s the number one way of ending ignorance. But when it is constantly on my shoulders to do the educating, it gets old. Additionally, with all the investment on MY part, there is no way of tracking if the return on my investment (ROI) is satisfactory. Unlike the daily data that one can track when investing in stocks, I can’t determine if my personal investment has any value. Ideally, my ROI would be satisfactory if I have changed the thinking of an individual in a positive way. Since I don’t have a way of determining the long term effects of my investment, I have to rely on faith.

So the next question becomes, “Where do I draw the line?” Meaning, do I create a quota for myself? Do I pick an arbitrary number so that when I get annoyed with someone making a stupid comment or invading my personal space I don’t have to feel guilty about being angry and annoyed in that moment because I “helped out” ten lost souls for the month? Or do I continue until I get burned out? It’s a balancing act and one that is dynamic and fluid. So far, I haven’t found a golden formula for this algorithm of life, but it is one that needs solving.

What do you think?

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In 2008, Dr. Aziza Glass transitioned from relaxed to natural hair and began the journey of self-discovery. Literally. Since then, she has become a fierce naturalista and proud HBCU (PVAMU) and Ivy League (Cornell) alumna. Dr. G is currently a veterinarian, entrepreneur, and TV personality.

by Kirleen Neely PhD, LPC-S of http://www.richardsoncounseling.com/ 

In recent years natural hair moms have begun to unapologetically enter PTA meetings, playgrounds, and mommy groups rocking their curls. Many of them made a conscious decision to “go natural” as a way to teach their daughters self-acceptance and also help them learn how to navigate their kinky coils.

One significant off spring of their choice to “go natural” is for the first time in decades many little Black girls have grown up knowing that wearing their hair natural is an option. They have gone to weddings where the bride strolls down the aisle with kinky curls, had teachers who proudly rock a fierce twist out, and seen their moms do the big chop. Undoubtedly, in the last decade little girls have been exposed to a higher percentage of diverse hair images than in years prior.

However, despite the revolution many moms are still dealing with their daughters feeling like their natural hair is ugly. Moms continue to field the age old questions about “why can’t my hair be straight and long?”. The questions seem to reach crescendo level as girls enter junior high and the pressure to fit in becomes more important. The perception that natural hair is difficult, complicated, and not attractive is still part of their mindset.

Moms are now asking, “Was going natural to help my daughter embrace her hair a waste of time?” Working as a psychotherapist for fifteen plus years and being the author of a natural hair children’s book has given me the opportunity to hear their frustration and disappointment firsthand.

The seemingly obvious reason that “going natural” didn’t have the impact that moms thought it would is because for every diverse beauty image a child sees, they have probably seen thousands more that are monolithic and Eurocentric in appearance. Exposure to diverse images is very important component, but may not be enough.

In my opinion one missing factor is the lack of connection between the positive images of natural hair and the historical message. Mom’s expose their girls to positive natural hair images and expect them to make the connection of self-acceptance solely based on the image. Kids are intelligent and may need to understand the WHY behind the image.

One of the major reasons the message does not get discussed is the complicated nature of the message. After all, how do you explain to a child the painful truth behind today’s dominate beauty standard for Black hair and it’s close ties to slavery and the ugly separation of Black people based on hair texture and skin color.

I do believe there is a child friendly, age appropriate, way to discuss these difficult subjects. I further think that negating the rich complicated history from the narrative does our children a disservice. Of course, what you tell a five year old will be different than what you tell a 15 year old, but the inclusion of the WHY behind the message is important. I am hopeful that once girls understand the history behind positive natural hair images they will be more invested in keeping the natural hair movement alive.

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Dr. Neely is a licensed professional counselor and has worked in the mental health field for over twenty years. She holds a PhD in counselor education and supervision from St. Mary’s University, in San Antonio, Texas. She has served as the chief executive officer of Richardson Counseling Services since 2001. The center provides counseling services with a focus on self-esteem empowerment. In 2010 Dr. Neely conducted an extensive qualitative research study exploring how dominate beauty standards impact African American women’s perceptions about their hair and hair loss. The study’s findings lead her to publish a natural hair children’s book titled “Straight Talk”. The book empowers children to love their natural hair and gives them a natural hair history lesson at the same time. Dr. Neely frequently appears as a guest expert on radio, television, and at conferences. Some of her recent appearance include, The National Black Child Development Conference, Sirius XM’s The Maggie Linton show, and Natural Hair Texas conference. Dr. Neely is supported by her husband and two beautiful daughters. She can be contacted at www.richardsoncounseling.com