In September, Beyoncé became the third black woman to be featured on the cover of Vogue‘s biggest yearly issue. Before her was Halle Berry in 2010 and Naomi Campbell in 1989, so she’s definitely in good company. But, despite this achievement and step in the right direction on Vogue‘s part, many focused on one, seemingly irrelevant detail: Beyoncé’s hair.
In a particular article entitled “Beyoncé and the Politics of Stringy Hair,” The Atlantic stated, “The world’s most powerful celebrity is gracing the cover of Vogue with her hair looking distinctly un-pretty.”
The writer continued:
While this piece probably meant to highlight Beyonce’s “un-done” look as a relatable game-changer for women who feel that they must have perfect hair all the time, it didn’t exactly come off that way. Instead, the piece controversially read like it was policing Beyoncé’s hair — and many WOC were quick to point out why it was so problematic.
— Byeisha Curry (@JasmynBeKnowing) August 13, 2015
To address this matter, The Cut spoke with hairstylist Kim Kimble, who worked with Beyoncé on the Vogue cover and also collaborates with Halle Berry, Mary J. Blige, Rihanna, and Brandy. They mentioned The Atlantic article debate, and this is what Kimble had to say:
According to Kimble, Beyoncé’s hair was not meant to serve as a political statement. If anything, it represents freedom of expression – which seems to be an issue when it comes to women of color and their hair in a world that, for the most part, values white beauty standards.
— Ashley Weatherford (@sincerelyash) December 15, 2015
Unfortunately, Beyoncé is only one of many women of color who have had to deal with this type of unnecessary criticism. Back in February, Fashion Police host Giuliana Rancic criticized Zendaya’s locs by saying that she looked as though she “smells like patchouli oil.” Thankfully, Zendaya stepped in to address this example of casual racism, reminding people that no one should judge people based on how they wear their hair.
This form of racism extends far beyond celebrity news. Before April of this year, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was targeting black women and searching their hair. After many complaints, they announced that their security officers would (finally) be re-trained to avoid this discriminatory practice. Just last month, a biracial elementary school student was kicked off her cheerleading squad because she refused to damage her naturally curly hair with a hair straightener.
While the Beyoncé “stringy hair” comment and Kim Kimble’s subsequent reply may be just one isolated incident for The Atlantic, it sends an important message: Instead of commenting on a woman of color’s hair, we should be focusing on her accomplishments.
[Images via Twitter]