In The Matter of Kinky Hair

“Nappy,” “kinky,” and “coarse” are some of the terms used to describe the tightly-coiled texture of...

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“Nappy,” “kinky,” and “coarse” are some of the terms used to describe the tightly-coiled texture of three-fourths of the indigenous African population and of most Black people living in Africa and America today. In North America, these were considered negative terms (sometimes fighting words), because the hair being described was not favored and the terms used to describe it were not considered complimentary.



Well I am truly happy that awareness and appreciation of a large segment of our population’s natural tresses has and continues to gain ground. Since our ancestors were kidnapped to these shores, Kinky-haired people were made to feel ashamed of their hair’s natural texture. But over the last 40 years or so, we have awakened to the appreciation of our natural beauty. Everywhere you look, Black women are blogging, vlogging and meeting-up to discuss natural hair. With social media, it seems that every week another large corporation is releasing products targeted to this market.

As a veteran and pioneer in the natural hair business I now find that although products for kinky, read curly hair are being marketed in the mainstream, those of us with kinky hair continue to be marginalized. Hair products designed for us don’t even have our picture on them.

bell hooks quotes a Roger Wilkin’s essay in “Picturing Us” edited by Deb Willis in which Wilkins discusses what he called our naive hopes after segregation and before integration:

“The greatest power turned out to be what it had always been: the power to define reality where blacks are concerned and to manage perceptions and therefore arrange politics and culture to reinforce those definitions.”


I guess this is what I see going on with the packaging and imaging associated with products designed allegedly for kinky hair. As lovely as I find kinky hair, the natural-hair influencers, hair-product companies and the like still continue to place the kinky-haired woman low on the totem pole by managing our perceptions of what is beautiful.

Over the years, most of the clients at Khamit Kinks (my salon) have been those with tightly-coiled hair. I too have had natural, kinky hair all of my life giving me not only personal experience but 30 years of professional experience in caring for this texture, learning the best way to comb, enhance and treat it.


I know what our ancestors knew: one way to help kinky hair thrive is to leave it alone, by placing it in styles that do not require daily manipulation. Daily grooming – combing and brushing – leads to loss of strands when your hair is tightly coiled. It’s far better to find a style that doesn’t require daily grooming, such as braids, twists, Locs or a roller-set. Under my care and the hands of my staff, and many other natural hair-care providers, those with naturally kinky hair are able to grow-out the chemical straighteners and cultivate thick, healthy, kinky heads of hair.

Kinky or tightly-coiled hair has its own kind of beauty. It’s an aesthetic many still don’t appreciate and lots of assumptions are made about it. Many think kinky hair is hard and rough; they’re shocked when they touch it and find that it’s soft, fluffy, spongy and magnetic. People unfamiliar with it are often drawn to touch it. Some have the good manners to ask; others forget themselves or feel entitled to just “Reach and touch somebody’s hair…”

Please know that I am aware there are African people with naturally-straight and curly hair that come from places such as Ethiopia, The Sudan and Mauritania. Then there are the black people of Melanesia, a sub-region of Oceania, whose hair is not only straight or curly, but also naturally blond. My focus here though is KINKY.

So let me ask you. Are you kinky? The kinky-haired girl may have been forgotten by many, but natural hair-care salons are here for you. We love your texture and don’t believe it needs to be altered; it is as beautiful in its own right as any other.

So, kinky girl, stand proud! Celebrate and love your kinky hair. Seek counsel on enhancing your texture. You need not feel left out of the conversation. Fear not, we will have our day when our natural hair is truly celebrated.

Related:


Dear White People, Keep Your Thoughts About My Hair To Yourself
Once It Left Off-Black, I Never Went Back: Loving My Gray Hair


Anu Prestonia is the owner of Khamit Kinks Natural Hair Care Salon located in Brooklyn, NY and is also the owner of Anu Essentials a natural hair & body care product line.

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