The Politics of Natural Hair – Part I

The candidate with the best hair always wins” ~ Article in the Huffington Post

A Photoshopped image of Michelle Obama with and without natural hair.

What if a presidential candidate or his/her spouse had natural hair? According to a recent article in the Huffington Post, that candidate would stay as is—a candidate.

Written by my former Columbia University classmate and political commentator, Keli Goff (good job Keli!), the article stresses the importance of appearances and its impact on political aspirations. Candidates’ weight and facial hair are discussed, but the topic of natural hair caught my attention. According to the Huff, not only is the public particular about candidates having the “right” hairdo (helmet hair comes to mind), but they are also anti afros of the Angela Davis kind.

Angela Davis and her signature afro

While authenticity is deemed as trumping all other factors, it is “the candidate with the best hair who wins.” Christine Jahnke, a media trainer who has advised both First Lady Michelle Obama and Senator Al Franken, says, “The wise candidate recognizes that appearances do count — from hair to hemline to heel height.”

The issue of whether or not female candidates and politicians’ spouses can sport curly manes is often debated and spreads into the current job race. Across many hair blogs, women are weighing in on discussions about hair appropriateness for work. Some women have decided to tuck away their curls or straighten their hair for job interviews. Other professionals like Ursula Burns, chairman and CEO of Xerox, have risen through the corporate ranks, proudly sporting an afro. Ah, but it is a shortly cropped ‘fro like Burns’ hair that is deemed as more “attractive,” according to Michael Goldman, a political consultant. It’s short enough to be discreet, without fueling assumptions about race and politics.

Xerox CEO and Chairman Ursula Burns

In the U.S., the number of women who have big chopped or transitioned into wearing their natural hair has increased steadily over the last three years, as evident by the increase in YouTube videos, blogs, and media coverage of African Americans’ natural hair. As much as the natural hair movement appears to be spreading among every day women, it still hasn’t found acceptance in politics.

Nevertheless, let us curlies and non curlies keep hope alive and work towards changing perceptions of the norm, regardless of political views. Remember, it was not too long ago that the idea of having an African American president once seemed far-fetched as well, but we are finally here. Perhaps one day as your favorite show is interrupted by a message from the White House, it will be followed by the image of an afro.

Read the article in the Huffington Post, written by Keli Goff.

Read The Politics of Black Hair: Part II

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