The Vagenda

Wigging Out: On Weaves, Naomi Campbell, and Vertical Barnets

If not then this is where the Fail comes in – humiliating people for personal gain since 1896. 
And yet miraculously, she looked smoking hot and amazing with all the other smoking hot, amazing supermodels in the Olympic Closing Ceremony last week (not to mention Prince Harry, eh?)
Welcome to the world of hair weaves – yet another ingenious smoke-and-mirrors cloaking device used by women in the crusade to live up to unattainable standards of beauty. 
At work one day, I was sitting in the cupboard-cum-Staff Room having a well-deserved cuppa, when a colleague turned to me and said:
“That’s not your hair, is it?”
I’m going to let you all in on one of the world’s best kept secrets, dearest Vagenda readers. If anyone asks, it wasn’t me who spilt the beans, okay? And if you were to squeal on me I would, like, so totally deny EVERYTHING.
Pure African hair is unique. Incredibly delicate, despite its wild façade, with each individual strand the shape of a tiiiiiny helix. It doesn’t flow at all – instead it grows into a vertical, spongy mass. And I’m deadly serious when I say ‘vertical’ – I am talking Bart Simpson here. Sideshow Bob if you’re lucky. No exceptions.
Anything else is exclusively down to a mixed heritage somewhere along the family tree, chemical straightening, or a weave. See Beyoncé, Rihanna et al. for more details.
This message will self-destruct in te- BOOMMM.
If this surprises anyone, it’s because we’re REALLY GOOD AT HIDING IT!
The photos of Naomi’s traction alopecia – which basically means hair being ripped out so much it virtually stops growing – are nothing new, sadly. I once sat next to a lady in the hairdressers who was having a weave installed over a *colossal* bald patch in the middle of her head, like a fluffy Christmas wreath.
With examples like that, all this weaving business seems a bit on the ridiculous side, eh? I’ll freely admit there’s something a bit curious about wearing someone’s hair like an absurd hat. But despite being absolutely stunning, Naomi Campbell sporting her natural locks would be at stark odds with the normalised image of female beauty that has trickled into all our minds. Chances are she possibly wouldn’t even be considered beautiful anymore. The normalised image of female beauty expects long, flowing, shiny hair, and of course not everyone has that. As a result, black women absolutely hating their own natural hair is a common affliction.
Should she have to put herself through this? Of course she shouldn’t. Does she have a choice? Possibly not, if she wants to remain ‘Naomi Campbell, supermodel extraordinaire’. The fashion world is, by definition, especially strict with beauty standards. Poor Naomi has paid the price to be accepted. Let’s face it: even in the real world, vertical hair would stick out like a sore thumb and seem comically ridiculous to most. 
Narrow definitions of beauty impact negatively on most women, regardless of their ethnicity. Some of us use wax strips to pretend hair doesn’t grow out of our legs; others take a trip to the hairdresser to pretend straight hair grows out of our heads. Just as my weave puts my hair under stress, so someone else shoves their St Tropez-stained bed sheets in the wash. Thus, the natural balance of the universe is restored.
Perhaps one day John Frieda and friends will start a new trend of Anti-Gravity Chic and thereby challenge what it means to have beautiful hair. Until that fateful day, some of us may feel the need to go out and buy a packet of hair for ourselves. Ah, the way Cheryl Cole swishes her hair in those adverts – I want me summa that.
- WG

7 thoughts on “Wigging Out: On Weaves, Naomi Campbell, and Vertical Barnets

  1. Personally, I love a natural ‘fro. A lot of boys seem to be wearing this way lately & I’d love to see more girls doing this. I’m not knocking your choice – I’m white & I put my hair through hell in my 20s. Backcombing, crimping, dyeing etc. But what people don’t realise is how beautiful untreated black hair feels (don’t worry, I haven’t been going up to random people in the street asking to touch their hair. It was mutual & consensual…)

  2. Really pleased to see this here as a black woman who loves the Vagenda. Well done WG for articulating this issue well and sensitively to boot!

  3. I hope I’m not taking over this blog but something struck me last night after I had logged off. You say you want hair like Cheryl Cole. Really? The woman who was convicted of an attack on a black woman? C’mon WG, you sound like you could pick a better role model than that…

  4. It’s great that you’ve acknowledged this common practice amongst black women.
    Whenever I see a fro’ on a sister it warms my cockles, because it’s becoming somewhat of a rarity these days. :(
    Here’s to rocking your own beauty ladies !!!