Culture

She Will: Black Women Speak

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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.”

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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

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Photographer: Elizabeth Wirija

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.”

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Kaci Gregory is a recent graduate from Muhlenberg College with a double major in Media & Communications and French & Francophone studies. Because of her interest in women's studies, diversity and her passion for cosmetics and fashion, she founded the blog "She's Debonnaire." Her objective is to facilitate dialogue among women on issues related to gender, race, culture, and sexuality and how they impact perceptions of beauty.

4 Comments

  1. Jasmine

    January 17, 2018 at 9:04 pm

    I definitely agree with black women feeling insecure about wearing their natural hair in a professional setting. As a matter of fact, I was actually going through these thoughts today of feeling unprofessional because I had a little new growth showing from my locs. It’s not that many black women where I work, and the black women that are they do not wear their natural hair. I find it empowering to read words of encouragement of being proud to be unapologetically who we are as black women. It’s sad that we have been systematically taught to believe European standards are considered only acceptable for everything and majority of organizations, institutions, and businesses.

  2. Oscar

    January 19, 2018 at 2:12 am

    So well written!
    I totally agree, many black women are redefining beauty standards and I’m happy that they’re creating awareness to afroamerican heritage.

    That’s why all black hair-style denote courage and self-confidence, and even if some other people may be insecure or jealous about that, the black community should remain proud and keep doing what they’r doing!

    But seriously, how could you hold bias towards these women?? That is true natural beauty 🔝

  3. Anonymous

    January 29, 2018 at 3:50 am

    It is changing, albeit slowly. When the old ways of thinking die of with the people thinking them new thoughts will usher in.

  4. Anonymous

    January 30, 2018 at 3:44 am

    Wonderful post and very well-educated! You picked really gorgeous pictures to feature in the article and drew my attention to this issue. It is wonderful to see these strong women using their voices to change this stigma for the better.

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