I found Tatyana’s admission of burden due to her ‘good hair’ very interesting. I used to believe that women who had what we like to call a ‘good grade of hair’ had it easy. I also like to think that my perspective wasn’t my fault, that it was how I was brought up in a sense. From a child’s perspective there is separation, we notice the differences among one another and we draw inferences from our parents and surroundings in ways that they would never know that they are portraying.
I have Caribbean heritage, like Tatyana, and where I am from, the term ‘good hair’ was used all the time. My hair was ‘good’ to some extent, it wasn’t as ‘good’ as some of my cousins and friends but there were a few people that were on my side of the line which meant I was not alone.
The problem is everyone on my side of the line, wanted a perm because if we couldn’t get Tatyana curls, we would much rather settle for straight hair. That feels shameful now but a few years ago that was the cold hard truth. We have since then learned to love our hair and many of us can identify the error of our ways as we change our standards and how we view ourselves and our own natural hair.
According to Ali the label of good hair was as much a burden for her as it was for us who did not have it. She felt more like an outsider rather than accepted as most of us would believe. At this point I should mention that she has an Indo-Trinidadian father and a Panamanian mom so she is what we like to call mixed in some circles.
Her mix gives her the hair she has and she expressed her thoughts about it in an interview with Vlad TV, here is what she had to say:
It’s funny, when I was younger, it was something that set me apart and not necessarily in a good way, from other girls that I knew. Not that I was made fun but it felt like I was made to seem different. It’s interesting, the thing you think is a flaw.
When Chris Rock did Good Hair, I was like ‘Oh my gosh, he should have interviewed me.’ Because I feel like there’s one side of the story, which he told really, really well. But then there’s the other side of the story. It’s boys and girls sometimes. You know you have like a group of cousins playing and you separate the children that way, you’re doing as much damage to the chid you’re calling out for having “good hair” as you are–because you’re creating this separation that’s not true.
I grew up wanting to be able to twist my hair and wear my hair like my mom did and my aunts did. Because I wanted to be like them, I didn’t want to be different.
[Just that term “good hair”] is crazy.
Caribbean people do it even worse. They’ll say crazy things like, ‘Oh yeah, she’s so dark but she has good hair.’
If I saw Tatyana, I would probably call her out on the irony and say ‘It’s funny you say that, because as a child I used to wish I had hair like yours.” I wished it every day at 5pm when The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air would be on, and I would watch it instead of doing my homework. I also thought if I had her hair I would be pretty like she was and have a million boyfriends, but that’s a whole other post.
Many of us thought Tatyana was gorgeous overall; she had the whole package hair included. The point is you never know a person’s struggle and hearing her talk about it opens up the conversation about separation that we create among ourselves using terms like ‘good’ and ‘bad’.
In our own community, we still hear 4C naturals (again a separation label) complain about not being recognized as much as other naturals who are in the 3 category.
We hear stories about pictures getting more likes because the girl has cute loose ringlets and a woman with zig zag curls getting less likes, and the story goes on and on. I would like to think that we are beyond that. Actually, I do think we are beyond that – I think we now see that all grades of hair are good.
Natural hair gives us a form of uniqueness that a relaxer could never give; we all look different, and with everyone playing with colors and scissors, you will never see the same head in a room full of natural hair.
Personally, I no longer want Tatyana’s hair – I want my own hair. I no longer emulate her because of what she has that I do not have. I was a kid, and to some extent, a little jealousy is expected with very little self awareness at that time.
These days we are about celebration of all beauty, specifically when it comes to hair, and being able to hear a woman’s story from all sides, enjoy it and move on. Standards of beauty are changing – it is no longer what People or Vogue agazine said it was years ago – it is now what we say it is, – it is all good, and it is all different.
What did you think about Tatyana’s hair story?