As I sat in my hairdresser’s chair the other day, I picked up the magazine that was on the counter – a back-issue of Hype Hair and began to flip through it. I realize now that I should have counted advertisements, meaning I should have counted how many advertisements for Remi hair that I saw in the half of the magazine that I flipped through. Its frequency was almost literally every other page. For those of you who don’t know, Remi is a supplier of hair extensions. The reason this sparked in my mind is because, a month or so ago, I posted this selfie on my Facebook page sans make-up or anything, on a whim and sense of feeling pretty. In the comments, someone asked me if I had Remi hair. Honestly? I had to look that up. When I figured out what it was, I alternated between laughing out loud and feeling a little insulted. For the record, though, I have never once had hair extensions, weave, or anything of the like. Every inch of that was my own hair (six to eight of which came off the other day). But what I also realized is that is not the first time I have been asked that. I have been asked if not only my hair is real but are my nails real? I like to grow out my nails a little bit, always have. They grow quickly and my cuticles have a curve to them that makes my natural nail growth graceful (at least, I think it does).
So, in my mind, this prompts a question. What is the expectation of beauty in a black woman that seems to predicate an assumption of falseness? False hair, false nails, false eyelashes, intense make-up, etc. Why must any part of me, or any of us, be false? Let’s be honest, the advertising would not be so intense and frequent if it were it not successful. What is it about current social expectations of beauty that would prompt people to look at me and ask if I am all ‘real’? I mean, the same thought is prompted when someone asks, “Is she a real blonde?” or “Are those her real breasts?” By the way, I am 5’2 and a D-cup; I’m pretty sure that latter question has been lobbed in my (in)direction a time or two. Next confession: I relax my hair. It’s easier to manage and care for this way. So, no, while this may not be my hair’s natural state, it is still my hair. All of it, every inch, every grey, every (sometimes broken and split) end.
I know that this an old debate but yet the question remains. Why is falseness assumed (or worse, expected) in certain standards of beauty, for both men and women?