An increasing number of celebrities have been showing off their natural hair on Instagram and Twitter. Nicki Minaj, Gabrielle Union, Sanaa Lathan, KeKe Palmer, singers and reality stars have been posting pictures of themselves without hair weaves at a surprising rate.
As Black celebrities began to rise to prominence in the entertainment industry, they have always straightened their hair with relaxers and add hair weaves to attain a Eurocentric style. Lauryn Hill protested the look in 1998 in her hit two-time Grammy winning single Doo Wop (That Thing). “Look at where you be in, hair weaves like Europeans · Fake nails done by Koreans, come again,” she rapped.
In 2009, Tyra Banks challenged the notion that Black women could be beautiful without synthetic hair added when she announced National Real Hair Day. As part of a promotion to usher in the new season of her daytime talk show Tyra, she shared a picture of herself sans makeup with her dripping wet without extensions to inspire her fans to change the standard notions of beauty. While the attempt was sincere, she disappointed some fans showing off chemically relaxed hair.
A year later, Oscar-nominated actress Viola Davis took it a step further. She boldly arrived on the red carpet at the 2010 Academy Awards with cropped chemical-free afro. The conversation was divided– Black Twitter expressed both appreciation and denounced the stance. Some felt it was inappropriate to attend the awards without a weave or her hair straightened.
That same criticism would later be expressed in hip-hop. In 2012, rapper Nicki Minaj was criticized when she called women of color with natural hair “nappy headed hoes” in not one but two songs. In the single Stupid Ho, she rapped “Them nappy headed hoes but my kitchen good” and referenced it again on Did It On ‘Em, from her first album: “These little nappy headed hoes need a perminator.”
Flash forward to 2014. An increasing number of Black women have been showing off their natural hair with pride around the country. And celebrities have followed suit. Many who are known for wearing flowing tresses as means to market themselves to be more commercial, are also showing off their real hair in social media with their followers. It was quite a surprise when Minaj, herself would her natural hair straightened without the colorful wigs she was known for last year.
Stars you’d least expect did the same, as if Minaj gave them permission to be themselves. Almost announcing Black women can be sexy, glamorous and considered just as beautiful without a hair weave. Reality stars who captivate their show’s audience not only with their eyebrow-raising antics but with the glamorous image their fans aspire to have jumped on board. Love & Hip-Hop stars Tahiry, and Karlie Redd, Real Housewives of Atlanta’s Porsha Williams, Basketball Wives star Draya Michele, Toya Wright and Simmons sisters Angela and Vanessa of Run’s House.
Hollywood actresses have also dared to go bare: Sanaa Lathan, Taraji P. Henson, KeKe Palmer and singers Keri Hilson and Brandy.
Union has been wearing her own hair in stylish looks and explained that she has done it as a means of protective styling. “I took my weave out and got creative with my natural hair.,” she shared in an interview. “I wear weaves for my job to protect my own hair from heat and product buildup. I don’t leave weaves in longer than six weeks, and I use quality hair. I haven’t had a relaxer in over ten years! Natural hair is great and weaves can give you plenty of easy options.”
Perhaps these women are trying to dispel the notion their own hair oftentimes is the same length as the weaves they wear. On Instagram there are hundreds of memes that suggest Black women have to wear hair weaves because they cannot achieve the hair length naturally.
Or they are merely sharing with their fans that protective styling is one way to grow your hair natural to keep it healthy and strong while still meeting the expectations in show business of wearing long European-inspired hair.