Black Hair Talk: Tyra Banks and Her Real Hair
I was as intrigued as the rest of you when Tyra Banks announced that the season premiere of her talk show would involve her taking off the wigs and weaves and showing us her real hair. Something about the description convinced us that, much like the classic gag of someone’s wig being snatched off, we’d get to see Tyra bald-headed, peasy, or otherwise looking a little bit off of the beaten path style-wise. What were we thinking? Instead, of course, Tyra’s hair without the weave was pretty much what many women get weaves to look like – full, straight, healthy shoulder length tresses that have been cared for by the best stylists using the best products for decades. You got us there, girl!
I’ll admit that I’m not a huge fan of The Tyra Banks Show itself but I do enjoy Tyra on America’s Next Top Model and just as a personality in general – she tries to “keep it real.” So the idea behind yesterday’s big reveal (aside from driving ratings) was Tyra’s desire to send American women a message – you don’t need weaves and hairpieces, they’re just options, so to encourage you to be real with the world, I’m going to rock my “real hair” all season. And yes, the text on her website puts “real hair” in quotation marks and throughout the show the phrase “natural hair,” was used numerous times. This treatment of weave removal was used for two other guests whose presence on the show befuddled me even more. Tyra presented us with a black woman with a crippling penchant for Beyonce-style weaves who had thick shoulder length hair after the reveal. “Swing that hair girl, swing it!” was the phrase of reassurance from Tyra after the weave was finally gone. Another guest was a young Britney Spears-ish blonde overdoing everything in life, from her huge extensions to her blue eyeshadow, who hated her look after the reveal. Finally, a young biracial girl who’s always been afraid to wear her hair curly reluctantly let go of the flatiron. Oscar, the resident hair stylist, exclaimed “Girl, I sell bags and bags of hair like yours every week!” while Tyra ordered the girl’s white boyfriend to come to the stage and touch her new curls. Am I the only one who sees something wrong with all of this?
I know it’s a talk show meant for mainstream America and not for black women, but the presentation of this topic went past ignoring the black female attitude towards wearing fake hair straight into creating a rather damaging perception. Tyra Banks, and every single guest on the show, had been using hair weaves as a crutch to go above and beyond “acceptable,” and into “glamorous.” Of course it’s not a good thing to use any beauty product as a crutch and no woman should be in tears as her hair weave is removed – that’s the extreme. But so many black women wear fake hair just to be “acceptable,” and we do it every day. The same goes for chemical straightening, a process that the stylist and Tyra referred to as “natural” numerous times during the segment. Hunh? All Tyra did with this show was reinforce the fact that if your hair looks a certain “acceptable” way you don’t NEED a weave. It remains to be seen what those of us who have that wild stuff should be doing, let alone those of us who struggle to have healthy hair or attain enough length to “swing it girl!” like the audience chanted for each guest to do after the tracks were pulled out – each guest did, and more importantly each guest could. If I knew nothing about weaves, after watching this show I would be convinced that women who wear them are straight trippin’ because they probably have a thick head of their own hair underneath. Sorry Tyra, its just not true, and showing us your hair didn’t get black women any closer to self-acceptance.
Oh and Tyra, about that mixed girl and her man, don’t be encouraging white people to run their fingers through curly or nappy hair. You know that makes it go back! Come on now.
What did you think? If you missed it, check out this clip from the show as well as others from the website.