Robyn Carolyn Price, journalist and cultural critic interviewed Ursula Stephen, a professional celebrity hair stylists who has styled Rihanna’s hair since 2007 and has been to South Africa several times. Among other things discussed, Ursula was asked about how she felt about the fact that a lot of black women were choosing to embrace their natural hair texture and dumping the relaxers and also her experience with South African women of color and their hair practices. Robyn posted the interview on her blog on 15/02/2013. Here are a few snippets of the interview.
Robyn: What are your thoughts on the increasing number of women of color who are choosing to wear their hair in more natural styles? Bloggers like Taryn Guy,Chescaleigh, Urban Bush Babes, Curly Nikki and Hey Fran Hey, have become Internet celebrities and gained huge followings, essentially by sharing their natural hair journey and styling tips.
Ursula: I think the movement that’s happening right now is really great. Women are gaining a certain sense of self confidence. For a long time, if you wore your hair natural, people didn’t associate you with being pretty, stylish or sexy. And now, with so many different styling options and different products available, it just makes it so much the better for the natural girl to really show her beautiful self.
I’m a hairstylist and I’m down for whatever — weaves, braids, bald heads, short hair, etc. I appreciate styles for what they are. I think everything is beautiful. Every image. Every picture. Every person. But the fact is that so many women are losing themselves behind weaves and extensions. So I’m happy that women can feel and be beautiful with natural hair because they were losing that sense of themselves for a long time. That’s why they were losing their edges and hair because they were becoming essentially dependent on these extensions. They forgot about their own natural hair and how beautiful and how healthy it could be.
At the end of the day, a healthy head of hair is the foundation for a great hairstyle. So they sacrifice their own hair because they want to wear these expensive weaves and braids… but then the weaves and braids start looking crazy because they don’t have any hair. It was like a bad cycle that we were going through. I think this movement is helping women to get back to who they are and really appreciate themselves. Women are learning that weaves and braids are just accessories to be worn for a certain amount of time, and to be taken out for a certain amount of time.
Robyn: We talked earlier about women of color in the States starting to embracing their natural hair. Tell me a bit about the women you recently worked with in South Africa? Do they have a similar relationship to their hair as the women of color in the States?
Ursula: Oh no. We are miles ahead of them here in the States. They really don’t have knowledge of their own hair types. They really don’t get it. And I don’t want to get too political about it, but just from going back and forth from the States to South Africa, they are really into other people and other cultures there. You know, apartheid really just finished over there. It seems like it was a long time ago, but for them that are living in it, it’s still now. So I think that plays into it. (crying) I’m sorry. I think that plays a lot in their views on their hair type. So they don’t have the knowledge. They’re doing relaxers really wrong. They don’t condition it. Not that they want to mimic white people necessarily, but they just think that they want to get their hair to be straight like theirs… so they don’t take the time to understand their own.
I speak to all the girls and talk to them because I do classes over there. So I ask them what they think is wrong? And they say that they do not condition their hair. They just relax and that is it. It’s never been taught to them. They don’t know. And so they have just really dry, dry hair. They’ve just given up on it and it’s just there. And it’s so different than the states because in the states your hair is a part of your beauty. So it is a totally different world. It hurt me because, I’m in a class trying to teach or in a workshop, and I’m like “oh my God… I can’t believe you guys are doing itthat wrong.” They have no knowledge of their hair type or how to care for it. Nothing. (crying)
Read the rest of the interview here.
Eish. Is it really that bad?