Archive for the ‘beauty’ Category

All that Good Hair

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

Thanks to those of you who’ve been sending not so gentle hints nudging me to weigh in on the buzz surrounding  “Good Hair” Chris Rock’s take on black women’s hair drama. The film opened this past weekend in select theatres around the country. Rock was inspired to do the film after his young daughter Lola asked him one day “Daddy, why don’t I have good hair?” Now that’s one of those questions that sends a thinking parent out into the streets wanting to know who in crapola put that kind of thinking into a little brown girl’s head.

Black women and their hair. Whew! What can I say? There was the flap a few months back about Tyra Bank’s “real hair” episode.  And then there was all the the hoopla over singer Solange’s decision to shave her tresses (both the real and the fake tresses) for a close crop natural look. (”What got into that girl to cut off all that good hair?”) And then Rock’s appearance on Oprah a couple of weeks back and the schmoozing that went on around black hair. And let’s not forget that Michelle Obama’s hair, and that of her daughters, are a regular topic of consternation for conservatives and one black women feel the constant need to come to the defense of the Obama women and rationalize to the ignorant masses.

I try to stay away from talking about black women and their hair.  But it’s not possible always to keep silent about our hair if you’re black and female. I try to steer away from the topic because there’s no way to talk about it and not offend if you’re someone like me who’s been natural almost all her life and think natural hair is a no brainer. I’ve never had a perm. Never crossed my mind.

good hairNow we all know that black women are serious about our hair. The beauty supply and distribution business knows it too. Black hair care is a nine billion dollar industry. We buy relaxers,wigs, weaves, detachable ponytails, hair color, hot curlers, ceramic flat irons, shea butter, pressing combs, etc.

With all the beauty supplies in the hood and all the black women flocking to buy hair products, who profits the most from the sale? Certainly not black women.

Just look around the neighborhood. I refuse to go into the Korean owned hair supply store in my neighborhood, and it’s not because I have anything against Koreans. The building’s outside looks like it’s owned by people who  don’t care much for their customers and know that their customers don’t mind as long as they get to come in for their fix.  The building looks like an armored tank with beauty posters plastered all over it. I can’t for the life of me figure out how people work in a building all day where no natural light filters in. Nor I can figure why folks would  go into a store where you can’t get a peep at what’s going on outside.

Madame C. J. Walker must be turning over in her grave. After suffering back in the 20s and 30s from hair loss, she experimented with various concoctions and made her first million dollars in the 40s selling hair growth products to black women and teaching them how to care for their hair.

That said, instead of posting just another blogpiece pissin’ and moanin’ about “woe is us wimmins” and complaining yet again about how capitalism (free enterprise) exploits my people (and our beloved naps) I thought do the empowering thing and close by sharing the names of a couple black hair companies I believe in and support. While I’m at it also offer some of my favorite natural hair care websites that offer great tips on caring for black hair.


Whipped Pudding
Burnt Sugar Pomade
Juices and Berry Mist

I love the fact that when I buy from Oyin I’m supporting wife and husband, Jamyla and Pierre Bennu, and their natural hair product business in Baltimore. Jamyla is the mixtress and Pierre the creative media mind behind Oyinhandmade. The two are quirky, fun, but, oh, so serious about making quality products for natural hair.  It takes a couple of weeks for their products to arrive in the mail. That’s because they make the products fresh and by hand there in their studio. What I also love about Oyin (which is Yoruba for “honey”)  is that almost all of the hair products can be used on both the hair and the body.

Qhemet Biologics: Love it! Love it! 

Alma & Olive Oil Heavy Cream…hmmmmm….

While I get a kick sometimes out of mixing my own hair care potions (shea butter, coconut oil, and aloe vera gel) I rely mostly on others for my hair care fixes.

Now for my favorite natural hair care sites where you can find smart women writing about their hair journeys and offering lots of hair care tips, hair and beauty product reviews, hair care discussions, and fun stories on “a funny thing happened on my way de-frying my brain”:





Going Natural

If you want to suggest other natural hair care sites, speak up.
If you have thoughts about Rock’s “Good Hair,” share them.
If you take issue with anything I’ve said here about black, speak now.

“If You Knew” says Nina

Friday, July 24th, 2009

I could write about Nina Simone all day long and never get tired. I could write about Nina, and other women like her, Dinah, Billie, Sarah, Carmen, Betty, Abbey and risk losing most of my sanctified readers. Yes, I love Mahalia. But when I was looking around for role models in those early years as a woman in ministry I looked to women like Nina and Dinah as my role models. I preferred stories about women who were not saints. As I said in a previous post about women singers:

Reading stories of women living out of their suitcases night after night, singing under sometimes impossible circumstances, expected by their audiences to bring down the house every time they sang despite whatever was going on in their personal lives, the sexism they faced in the music industry, the betrayal of managers and record companies who cheated them, living with the label of being “difficult” women when they spoke up and spoke out, the multiple marriages they had but never really finding true love, the solace many of them found in the after-hour meals with their band, all of this sounds familiar to me.

After living out of my suitcase for the last couple of weeks speaking here and there, trying to remember my lines and hoping, with God’s help, to live up to my part of the bargain and give audiences what they came looking for and needed desperately to hear, I stumbled on this video this morning of Nina sitting at the piano in a dark supper club under a lone light singing, sweating, and giving her audience what they came for without giving them more of herself than she could afford to spare. What I admire most about Nina is that she learned how to use her aura to her advantage. Her striking black African looks, her unconventional physicality, which were supposed to be her undoing, became  her greatest assets. She made her audiences look at her, really look at a woman who looked like her, something they weren’t accustomed to doing without turning away, and notice the beauty. I like when women performers who don’t look like what women performers are supposed to look come out and make liars and bigots and idiots of their audiences– with talent that leaves audiences crying for more.  Isn’t that what made the Susan Boyle video a Youtube hit?

I’m a sweat-er too. Always have been. Even before “the change”. LOL. So when Nina pauses in the middle of singing “If You Knew” to wipe her forehead with her hands–and looks around the set with an expression that says “why the freak doesn’t someone bring me a towel?” and continues on with the song as though the gesture and expression were part of the song — I smile knowingly. “Pay attention,” Nina says in the video.  There’s something to be learned for you who aspire to be public speakers, orators, poets, preachers, teachers who stand everyday before a class full of students. A lesson in confidence, experience, and self-possession. Sweat and keep singing. Make the sweat work for you. Sing so that they remember the song and appreciate all the passion you put into delivering it.


Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

When you’ve spent the last two years branding your blog as a blog for thinking women of faith, a blog especially for and about black women in church who rarely get any respect in the marketplace of ideas, a blog where women who preach, teach, worship and wonder about God can think out loud about the comforts and contradictions of the faith, today’s video here on the blog may strike some as odd and out of place.

But when you are also a  middle-aged, silver-hair,  black woman blogger like myself surrounded in blogosphere by bloggers decades younger than you who think anyone over forty-five is irrelevant, then you’ll understand why today’s video touched my heart.

I caught myself crying as I watched Susan Boyles, a frumpy, middle-aged, British woman turn an audience’s assumptions about her into the ignorance that they were. My heart hurt for all the Susan Boyles of the world who don’t look the part for the job and are snickered at for daring to show up for the audition. But my heart also burst with pride for all the Susan Boyles of the world who ignore the assumptions of others and follow their dreams anyway.

Susan Boyle - Singer - Britains Got Talent 2009
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It’s Not Too Late To Reinvent Yourself

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

Sister President Johnetta

If you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you know that I’m always looking for ways to spotlight African American women in their 50s, 60s, and beyond.  We are invisible to the media.  I (still) miss having seasoned women in my life and am determined to find black women role models and mentors who stare back at the camera with faces that say “I’m still here, and I still got lots more to say.”

In honor of women who are not afraid to reinvent themselves when the old way of being runs its course or no longer fits, I salute scholar, educator, anthropologist, public thinker, feminist activist, Dr. Johnetta B. Cole.

After years of serving as president of Spelman (1987-1997) and Bennett Colleges (2002-2007) and being an ardent advocate for women’s education, in March of this year Dr. Johnnetta Cole was appointed the new director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C.

The last time I saw Dr. Johnetta was in 2007 there at her last Baccalaureate service as president of Bennett College where she’d served admirably. She’d invited me to come out and speak at her last Bennett Baccaluareate ceremony. She was looking forward to retirement, slowing down, and enjoying the new romantic relationship she was in.  Evidently this phenomenal woman changed her mind. Just like she was supposed to be retiring when she’d stepped down years earlier as Spelman College’s famed Sister President. (She’d invited me to serve as Spelman’s Baccalaureate speaker her last year there as well). I could boast about being a speaker on both of these historic occasions, or I could peer closer and make out some sacred invitation being extended to me by God. The invitation to observe a woman on the brink of reinventing herself. I watched a woman stepping down from revered posts she has held and performed in admirably, freeing herself to move on to discover and create new challenges for herself. I’m pretty sure Dr. Johnetta didn’t know at the time what the future held for her, but she was old enough and confident enough to know when it’s time to call it quits and let your future  figure itself out within you.

Did I mention that Johnetta Cole is in her 70s? Google her and you’ll find her exact age.  (God, I hope my friend doesn’t mind my calling attention to her age?) But that’s the beauty of her story. In fact, that’s the whole point of this blogpost. A woman changing her mind, discovering new parts of herself, reinventing herself long past the age of lactation and lust (of the achy, breaky sort, that is). Reinventing herself and finding new things to do with her life after 60, the age when a woman is all but invisible and is expected to dodder and stay put in one place.  Women are, as we all know, judged by the body they are in. The younger, firmer, leaner her body, the more visible a woman is. The older, grayer, and thicker her body, the more invisible she becomes to everyone around her. Thankfully, there are some women who refuse to go gently into the night.

Of all the ‘rights women have sought, none is more difficult, or more vital, than the right to change and not have to do the same thing forever. This is not to say that some of what we have been doing will not still be worth doing at 50, 60, and beyond. But there’s something about women who find the courage to change course, begin anew, revinvent themselves that’s always fascinated me. Especially women whom life has counted out.

With ageing comes losses, there is no denying that truth. Loss of loved ones. Loss of vigor. Loss of health. Loss of certain activities. Loss of employment. But ageing is not all about loss. Ageing brings with it also new discoveries.  The kinds of discoveries that are only possible because other preoccupations are no longer there. New interests. New passions. New hobbies. New sides of yourself. New meaning for your life. New invitations. The truth is that we are a great deal more than our bodies, have always been more than our bodies, but it can take us most of a lifetime to learn that.

With the exterior losses that come with aging should come the good sense to let your interior life have more say about what you do and who you are.

I salute Dr. Johnetta B. Cole here on the blog today. She is a role model for many women like myself in the throes of middle age and still  contemplating all that it means to grow up and grow older.  Dr. Johnetta shows us how to stay visible, vibrant, and vital to the discussion. What use is there in growing older and having more answers to life’s questions, if no one’s beating a path to your door in search for the answers you hold?

“Our moral obligation is not, as society might lead us to believe, to ski at sixty and jog at seventy and bike at eighty,” writes Joan Chittister in The Gift of Years: Growing Older Gracefully. “No, our moral obligation is to stay as well as we can, to remain active, to avoid abusing our bodies, to do the things that interest us and to enrich the lives of those around us. Our spiritual obligation is to age well– so that others who meet us have the courage, the spiritual depth, to do the same.”