The Media and Natural Hair

By Jenna Brooks

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Until recently, the perfect vision of beauty in the media has usually been portrayed as someone who is white, or at least someone who has white hair, with nothing curlier than a bit of a beach wave. In television, movies, magazines, and even the mall (think Victoria’s Secret), there is hardly any representation of hair on the more textured, kinky, or natural side of the scale for mixed and African American women. 

There seems to have previously been an emphasis in the media on how natural hair for African American women was something that needed to be calmed down, to apply heat to and straighten, and even photoshop — all to match the whiter, more European beauty standards. In a study done by Andrews University, it was shown that this largely negative representation of ethnic women’s natural hair, had largely negative effects on the women’s self-esteem and increased their own feelings on internalized racism and oppression for their natural beauty.  


The main problem with how these hair types are represented in the media, is that they are in fact, underrepresented. Unfortunately, most large companies who have campaigns to promote their products mainly promote people with white features and hair. Additionally, when they include people of other diversities, they frequently choose people who have less “wild”, “kinky”, or “textured” hair. There seems to (still) be a stigma in the media that having different types of hair, is something that needs to be changed or eliminated, that having naturally different or more ethnic hair is something that is almost looked down upon and something that needs to be sorted out. Campaigns for beauty brands and hair care products also usually do not include those with more textured hair, oftentimes because they do not understand or make products for these types of hair.

While it may seem like something many do not notice, it matters to African American or mixed women who can’t find anyone who looks like them when trying to purchase a hair product, or even when they’re going shopping at the mall. There needs to be a push to increase representation, as there are millions of underrepresented African American and mixed women who are out there, wanting to see themselves viewed positively for a change, and able to see someone who looks like them the next time they try to find a product for their hair type.

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