Are black women now exploring their identity through cutting off their hair?

Defining blackness through hair has always been a form of expressing the culture, the individuality and a way of creating a safe space for people to embrace the way their hair kinks and curls.

Hair has been a political statement to emphasize the strength, power and solidarity of black men and women; whether it is through wearing weave and sleeking baby hairs in spirals or wearing a big afro that reflects the history of civil rights through the Black Panther movement.

In the last ten years, the shift of attitudes towards black women and hair has evolved as women of colour are spending £5.7 billion ($7.5 billion) annually on beauty products, with companies such as L’Oreal investing their money into brands such as Carol’s Daughter to push sales and marketing.

The natural hair movement has led women to create platforms advocating their love of natural hair by filming tutorials educating each other to rock their fro’s, hosting events around cities bringing women together and even having brand endorsements with companies such as L’Oreal, Dove or even Shea Moisture.

However, this obsession with hair has ultimately turned unhealthy with women becoming dependent on their hair to feel confident and accepted.

What was once a community which celebrates the versatility of women collectively has now become a competition to see who has the biggest curls, the longest hair or the brightest colours.

Women are now rebelling by cutting their hair to remove the idea of having to fit the standards of natural hair.

Artefact spoke to three brave and unique women who recently shaved their hair with the intentions of letting go of the beauty standard that has now been created amongst black women.


Antoinette Wentworth-Smith

Antoinette, after the big chop [Nia Pettitt]

Meet Antoinette. After years of experimenting with wigs, hair dyes and even relaxing, she realised by cutting her hair off she’d soon discover her freedom of true beauty was always within her.

How has cutting your hair changed your life?

I just feel free. When I was having it cut whilst she was shaving it, I was freaking out questioning what I was doing but when it was over I just felt free.

Some people say there is a moment of vulnerability when a woman cuts her hair, do you think this is true?

Actually, I felt empowered because I did it and everyone loved it except my Dad, so I definitely made the right choice and I was really happy with it. I actually felt quite strong.

What other aspects of yourself did you focus on when you cut your hair?

When I cut it I noticed I could see everything but I just kind of feel like everything has opened up and my thoughts are clear. I feel like I can do anything. It’s like an injection, it’s a scary thing but once you do it you wonder what you were actually scared of.


Keza Mbodje

“I finally understood that beauty comes from within.” [Keza Mbodje]

Keza, a Senegalese student of the African Leadership University who is currently exploring Mauritius, cut her hair due to the high maintenance that came with it.

Her love for being a care-free black girl was hindered when every time she would go swimming, she would need to re-straighten her hair – causing it to break.

Who cut your hair?

I went to a barber-shop in Senegal – where my brothers usually go and told the barber that I wanted to cut all my hair. He didn’t think I was being serious and started laughing. After a few minutes of trying to convince him, I sat on the chair and next thing I know, I had no hair.

What other aspects of yourself did you focus on when you cut your hair?

I finally understood that beauty comes from within and that society’s standards are not my standards. I now focus on my individuality, confidence and strength which all contribute to my identity. I’m creating my own definition of beauty and I have no doubt that I possess other unique characteristics that are yet to be discovered.

“I’m creating my own definition of beauty and I have no doubt that I possess other unique characteristics that are yet to be discovered.”[Keza Mbodje]

The process of cutting hair can be the most empowering moment for a woman – so when Phalinda had her hair cut in a barbers surrounded by men, she discovered her bravery and strength.

“I went to the barbers but he refused at first because he thought I was joking so he made me sit down until I was certain and then he did it.

“I can’t lie, it was daunting being around so much masculine energy. When I was going there I saw someone I knew so I went home and came back later.

“He said I should be very proud of myself and I shouldn’t feel that it would take away my beauty. I didn’t expect him to say that because we didn’t have a conversation before so maybe he could read my body language.”


Taffy Msipa

Taffy, after her big chop. [Nia Pettitt]

Another inspiring woman who cut her hair was Taffy. Having grown up in a traditional Zimbabwean community, hair had always been associated with beauty. So when she decided to remove all the relaxed hair; she herself became relaxed.

How has cutting your hair changed your life?

It’s changed how I see myself and I how I feel about myself in such a positive way, there is no hair to or hairstyle to hide behind.

Why did you cut your hair?

I wanted change, I wanted to challenge myself and I wanted to learn how I would feel with a naked head and a naked face. I also wanted to have healthier hair and I wanted a better relationship with myself. When I say a better relationship with myself, I don’t mean ‘finding myself’. I mean I wanted to measure my worth and cutting my hair did just that. I’ve realized you don’t need hair to feel good about yourself.

“I love my braids they are so versatile and fun. I always relate my braids to Island vibes and sun and happiness.” [Nia Pettitt]

If you could have any hairstyle, what would it be?

Braids! I love my braids – they are so versatile and fun. I always relate my braids to Island vibes and sun and happiness so when I’m not actually traveling to any sunny destinations, I have braids for the vibe and on the plus side, my baby curls are protected at the same time!

If you could say anything to our readers about cutting their hair what would it be?

Don’t overthink it. Just go with it and make sure you surround yourself with positive people to encourage you and keep you going once you do it.

 

 


Featured image by Taffy Msipa