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Black Hair Talk: Tyra Banks and Her Real Hair

9 September 2009 9 Comments

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!

tyrabanks

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.

9 Comments »

  • KelleBelle said:

    Great post Thembi!

    I too am one of those weave wearers with thick semi-long natural (really natural – no perm since ’91) hair underneath. I completely co-sign your statement “using hair weaves as a crutch to go above and beyond ‘acceptable,’ and into ‘glamorous.'”

    I know my hair is acceptable, and I deflect inquiries from friends and hair stylists regarding why in the hell I wear weaves…but it comes down to wanting to be more than acceptable. Glam glam glam!

    I can’t stand her show so thanks for watching it for me.

    Also, I can’t believe she pulled that wet style – I’ve done that ish before: wearing your hair wet and flat makes it appear smoother and longer. B please.

  • Joy said:

    Somebody finally got it right. Thank you, Thank you. Thank you! Tyra revealing “swinging” hair only means that people who can swing should be proud of what’s theirs. Trust, my hair will not grow long enough to swing, and because it’s so tightly coiled, it only juts out of the scalp. No swing for me. But I think I’m still beautiful, but clearly Tyra’s not interested in telling America. So she can keep swinging to make “us” acceptable to America. Wow, America the beautiful.

  • Chris said:

    I’m a black man from Northern Virginia and I really enjoy your blog. I think you’re on the money. Tyra tries as hard as she can to keep it real but ultimately her show is geared toward “mainstream” women. Her focus has to be self acceptance in the form of wearing less make-up, don’t focus too much on weight and some of the other generic tools your average woman goes overboard with. Oprah tried to provide “real” black content when she helped Iyanla Vanzant and it just didn’t fly. Keep up the good work with your blog.

    Chris

  • Jackie said:

    I wonder if Tyra thought she was actually making a powerful statement by revealing the straightened, processed hair underneath her weave. What an epic fail.

  • chrystal in the hollyweird said:

    I have a problem with Tyra announcing to the world she is showing her natural hair. Natural hair to a black person is an afro. The curly, kinky stuff that grows from the scalp. I didn’t see the show but I can only imagine what Tyra didn’t do for the state of black hair or black hair care in America. I work for a company that creates hair products for all people. The formulators who are normally white do not know anything about black hair and never question it. A man that has 17 years experience in the field making products (shampoos, conditioner, lotions, scrubs, etc) told me he thought black hair was drier because of the relaxers we use. I stood infront of him with my big Kinky afro and announce that my hair is dry right now and I haven’t used a relaxer. Biology is the answer. Blacks don’t produce as much oils to condition there scalps.

    It seems Tyra wasted a big opportunity to discuss black hair and why our natural afro is not socialbly acceptable even among blacks. I know that I will be forced into changing my afro in a pursuit to find a decent job in corporate America. I am being laid off by the end of the year. I assume it is not hip any more to discuss current black issues like black hair to a mostly white audience. I find it is whites and hispanics that have the most questions about black hair and how we feel about it.

    Please remember while filiming in the Hollywierd, TYRA put on a fat suit to view life as a “fat woman”. The whole experience was so tramatic that she broke down and cried while shooting. She them made the claim that it was mostly black people that gave her weird looks. Never mind how unrealistic the whole makeover was but she was traumatized that be as blacks didn’t treat her well in her disquise.

    OPPORTUNITY LOST…….

  • Regina said:

    Not a Tyra fan and was definitely not impressed when I heard all the buzz about her big natural hair show.
    I knew there would be NO BUZZ CUTS, NO SHORT HAIR, and definitely AFROS (big or small). I didn’t expect much from Tyra and judging by the clip and your post I am not surprised!

  • MissG said:

    Tyra Banks is one of the earliest women (black or white) to openly admit to wearing a weave, even back in the day when you would read hair magazines on “how to” get someone’s look. She honestly would say “get a weave and then……” For that and her earnest desire to live honestly she must be commended. But often I feel like she’s working her issues out on her show, and hey, that’s not a crime, it’s her show, she’s entitled. Like her issues with being called fat, or the rampant speculation about her breasts being implants. I feel she just wanted to prove to the masses that she’s not bald and actually has hair. For me, it’s that simple. The popular assumption about people who consistently wear weaves is that they’re bald and have very short, very unattractive hair and so they’re compensating by rocking these long, flowing,weaves. So, she’s successfully addressed and killed another long standing rumor, on television, for the world to see.

  • Muhammad Morgan said:

    Tyra is a great tv show host and i love watching her TV show, i learn a lot from her show`;.

  • LED Torch  said:

    tyra banks really have great genes, i wish i have a wife like her’-“

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