I recently picked up New African Woman Lifestyle Magazine at Chapters Book store. I was immediately attracted by the bold colours and the gorgeous Natural model, Hollis, on the cover. She is sporting an awesome curly fro and cute headpiece.
According to newsstand.co.uk, New African Woman Magazine is “an excellent publication to be associated with and it helps to reinforce the strong empowerment message of this magazine. There is a huge emphasis on being proud of your heritage and looking and feeling good. The role models of celebrities and musicians featured in New African Woman magazine are strong independent black women who are great inspirational people especially for those younger readers looking for inspiration and guidance.”
In the summer 2011 issue I read an interesting article inside entitled “Stealing Beauty”, written by Khadija Sharife, which speaks on the dangers of what is found in our beauty products.
Very well written, this article starts by describing true beauty and “man’s” desire to define beauty. Beauty, which is “relative to everything yet subject to nothing “, has been turned into a commodity to be had, an item to be purchased. Probably worst of all is the idea that beauty can be simplified and replicated. This puts beauty, which is at most times indefinable especially when considering a sunset on a white sands beach or a clear starry night in the quiet country side, into a box.
The article suggests that “…the masses want all beauty present in just one being, less a thing to appreciate and more a thing to be possessed, for if possessed, it may be recreated.”
Sharife describes how beauty is “racialised”. “When specific races represent super-powers and that race has accorded to itself the right to define and project worth” it is easy, as black people, to dismiss ourselves and our true beauty. We begin to morph “into the blank ingénues beauty editors want us to be.”
These ideas and concepts can easily apply to the subject of Natural hair. Due to those in “power” setting the standards of beauty for the masses our hair has also “morphed” into the blank canvass of sameness, just what the “beauty editors” want us to be.
Black people are not considered to be in this “super-power” category. Therefore black features and beauty are not standards that define beauty to the masses, and unfortunately not even to ourselves.
In hopes of bottling-up beauty technology is used. As Sharife mentions, technology itself is not the culprit for reproducing the sameness which is sought-but it is the creator of this technology “who suggests, commands, demands”. There are obvious costs to this mind-set when it comes to beauty which are often damaging. Chemicals and toxic ingredients are used on our body-the true essence of beauty-in order to “possess” someone else’s standard of beauty that can never fit our own.
Considering our health, the article makes a great point by addressing how our skin, our largest organ, is affected by our minds and our heart, what we ingest and what we put on. Our skin which is water and stain resistant “is also the primary interface integrating various components of the body”. Everything that is applied to the body-on our skin (including scalp) seeps in.
Again, looking at this article from the perspective of promoting natural hair-it seems that there should be no other choice. The products used to break down the natural bonds in our hair are nothing but chemicals. The main ingredients are either “sodium hydroxide or calcium hydroxide, powerful caustics that burn the scalp and possess the ability to melt metal. Sodium hydroxide—NaOH— is simply the chemical name for lye. Calcium hydroxide— Ca(OH)2— while not identical, is a next of kin. The latter has been replacing the former in popular brands.”(1) Whether it is a lye or a no-lye perm-the fact remains that chemicals are still being deposited on our skin for the sole purpose of attempting to attain someone elses standard of beauty. These chemicals are produced for no other reason than to “morph” into the “blank ingénues beauty editors want us to be.” These beauty standards were created by a specific racial “super-power” who had the means to “suggest, command and demand” using technology and chemicals. These perceived means originate from the desire to define the indefinable-natural beauty.
“There are some degrees of beauty that compel more than others, drawing us into an experience similar to a beautiful sunset….This is a distinct, perfect and whole beauty that emerges from its environment; it stands out.” I believe this description of beauty can be applied and should be applied to us all-black beauties and all. The “distinct, perfect and whole beauty”, which is our true beauty, emerges from our true selves, in other words “its environment”.
The article closes with a great question for which I think there is only 1 right answer that we sometimes do not choose to accept or acknowledge. Sharife concludes, “And ask yourself, who is worthy of stealing your beauty and replacing it with a generic imitation of yourself?
To this, both Sharife and I answer “No-one.”
Sharife, Khadija. “Stealing Beauty”. New African Woman Lifestyle Magazine. Summer 2011.
Pg 60-61. Print.