My heritage is an inextricable part of who I am, and my hair is a physical extension of the pride I have for my roots- Aliya Will
For centuries, European standards have been the primary measure for how we evaluate attractiveness and acquire social acceptance. However, black women have created their own spaces to redefine society’s concept of beauty. One of the many ways they do this, is through social media. Some of the most popular hashtags are:
#melaninpoppin #melaningoddess #blackgirlmagic and #blackqueen
Someone who knows these hashtags very well, is Instagram celebrity Aliya Will (@aliya.will). Not only is she a Jamaican stunner, but Aliya’s popularity is greatly attributed to her afrocentric appearance- with her dreadlocks being her most notable feature. When I asked Aliya about how it feels to have such a large social media presence, she said
“it’s definitely weird, and I feel like it happened all of a sudden. However, with a larger audience I do feel some responsibility to use it to educate and empower. I’m also lucky to be able to connect with so many black women- women who look like me.”
Last year, during Black History month, Aliya modeled in an article for Nylon Magazine. This article is titled, Exploring The Twisted Politics Of Dreadlocks, and it was featured in Nylon’s running spotlight series, UNAPOLOGETIC.
Speaking as an African-American woman myself, I can attest that its a struggle for black women, when it comes to the way we style our hair.
In a recent study by the Perception Institute-which included more than 4,000 interviews, the “majority of people, regardless of race or gender, held some bias towards women of color based on their hair.” In addition, the group that had the greatest bias, were Caucasian women. They rated black women who wore their hair natural, “as less beautiful, less sexy and attractive, and less professional than those with smooth hair.”
The social stigma that goes along with how black women style their hair is nothing new. In fact, the “perception of self and opportunities in the workplace, have had a distinct impact on how black women present themselves.”
In response to this issue, Aliya said
“I think the perception of good hair in America is permeated with Eurocentrism, and fosters negative perceptions of self in the young black community. It’s imperative to spread the idea that natural hair is beautiful and professional. Also, at the end of the day, black women should feel they can wear their hair however they please, without feeling pressured to do so.”