Celebrating Beauty from the Inside Out

Written by on September 17, 2011 in Adorable Moments - No comments
india.arie

Throughout history it seems that women’s hair has garnered an unusual amount of attention. As many cultures place religions significance to a women’s “crown and glory” it is no wonder that we are fixated on hair. In America, billions are spent on hair care products and services, every year.

Virtually every woman I know is dissatisfied with her locks, be it the color, texture, length, fullness, or style. A most common ailment among girls and ladies of all ages is a “bad hair day.” My good friend Denise and I have a sisterhood based on our common affliction: frizzy, unruly hair. We’ve tried a host of shampoos, conditioners, balms, and serums over the years. Denise says her bathroom cabinets are packed with curlers and irons of all shapes, sizes, and configurations. We have both turned to what one might consider the most dramatic (and expensive option) to attack the “problem” head-on—the Brazilian straightening process. As I prepared for my first installation of this chemical treatment, I knew that there would be a substantial time and monetary commitment, but the rather frightful elements of the process were unknown to me. I came to understand this is not a ritual for the faint of heart. As we approached the most extreme part of the procedure, I was escorted to the lower level of my hair salon—a sort of beauty bunker that I was unaware existed. My stylist went on to don a gas mask that looked capable of handling an attack of a bio terrorist. Having known one stylist who was sent to the emergency room with an asthma attack caused by the toxic potions, I can only speculate on the long-term consequences of this practice. Yet, day-after-day, women all over America and many other parts of the world, saddle up for this visual expression of the adage, “You must suffer to be beautiful.”

As a Caucasian woman, my “hair story” is tied to my Western and Northern European ancestry. But, I fall faint when I hear the tales of women from other cultures, particularly African Americans. I have heard first person accounts of trials and tribulations, but I only grasped the gravity of the situation after watching the comedian Chris Rock’s documentary “Good Hair.” His was a serious, but outrageously funny, expose of the life-time struggles of African American women and their locks. The movie went into great details about all facets of their circumstances from straighteners to extensions and weaves. To this day, I chuckle when I think of an expression I learned from the interviewees: “Creamy Crack,” the euphemism for the potions of hair straighteners.

Yet a few years ago, I heard a song that took our hair obsession to task: india.arie’s fantastic “I am not my Hair.” The tune is catchy and the words are humorous, but filled with common sense. I post the lyrics below, along with a video clip of her performance with the rapper Akon, who details the travails of a black man’s locks. She sends the message that we all should hear and own: “I am not my hair, I am not my skin…..I am the soul that lives within.”

[Akon]

See, I can kinda recall
Little ways back small tryin’ to bawl
Always been black and my hair I tried it all
I even went flat, had a gumdee curly top and all that crap, now
Tryin’ to be appreciated
Nappy headed brothers never had no ladies
Then I hit by the barber shop real quick
Had em give me little twist and it drove them crazy
And then I couldn’t get no job
No corporate wouldn’t hire no dreadlocks
Then I thought about my dogs on the block
Kinda understand why they chose a stealin’ rock
Was it the hair that got me this far?
All these girls these cribs these cars
Hate to say it but it seem so flawed
Cause success didn’t come ‘till I cut it all off

[india.arie]

Little girl with the press and curl
Age eight I got a Jheri curl
Thirteen then I got a relaxer
I was a source of so much laughter
Fifteen when it all broke off
Eighteen and then I went all natural
February two thousand and two I
Went and did what I had to do
Cause it was time to change my life
To become the woman that I am inside
Ninety-seven dreadlocks were all gone
Looked in the mirror for the first time and saw that
Hey….

[Chorus]

I am not my hair
I am not this skin
I am not your ex-pec-tations no no
I am not my hair
I am not this skin
I am the soul that lives within

[india.arie]

Good hair means curls and waves
Bad hair means you look like a slave
At the turn of the century
It’s time to redefine who we be
You can shave it off like a South African beauty
Or get in on lock like Bob Marley
You can rock it straight like Oprah Winfrey
If its not what’s on your head
It’s what’s underneath and say
Hey…

[Chorus]

[Akon]

Who cares if you don’t like that
With nothin’ to lose post it with a wave cap
When the cops tryin’ to harass
Cause I got waves
Bue he’s sayin nothin’ like that
Not in my days
Now you gotta change all feeelings
Based on one another by their appearances
Yes, india, I feel you girl
Now go on and tell the rest the world

[india.arie]

Does the way I wear I wear my hair make me a better person?
Does the way I wear my hair make me a better friend?
Does the way I wear my hair determine my integrity?
I am expressing my creativity….

Breast cancer and chemotherapy
Took away her crown and glory
She promised God if she was to survive
She would enjoy everyday of her life
On national television
Her diamond eyes are sparkling
Bald head like a full moon shining
Singing out to the whole wide world like

[Chorus 2]

About the Author

Life-Cycle Celebrant Sarah Ritchie respects all faiths. She has received diplomas from the Celebrant Foundation & Institute, USA, where she now serves as a faculty member. Sarah wants to lead the way in creating a ceremony that reflects you, your love, and all the things that you hold most dear in the world. She lives in New York City, but brings along a hospitality that she attributes to her home, Oklahoma. In addition to this work that she adores, she devotes herself to a variety of charities on issues relating to education, children, health, and the arts.

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