Hair we go again…

Being the First Lady of the most powerful nation on the face of the earth cannot be easy, with the eyes of the world on your every move – but does being the First Black First Lady come with additional pressures?

Illustration by Nicole Fineman for Time (2009)

Like most females that hold positions in public office, Michelle Obama is scrutinised from head to toe – on her choice of attire, whether she should bare her arms or not, which designer she was wearing etc etc – but where the similarity ends with her peers in the political class, is with the attention that her hair has garnered since her husband took office, and it shows no sign of abating if the reaction to the image below is anything to go by.

I am not my hair... no really I am not !!

The image hit my Twitter timeline mid-week and since then has gained momentum and has gone viral – I have seen the image featured on the Twitter and Facebook timelines of friends and followers from America to Africa, Europe to East Asia!!

The image is courtesy of the powers of Photoshop, and it seems that the originator has yet to be identified….

Before and After (well sort of...)

…and the plot thickened when the photo in question came to the attention of blogger Maeling Tapp, author of Natural reported that Tapp’s Twitter followers began sending her messages saying that Obama’s hair looked a lot like her own…and upon further inspection it does seem to be the case.

Tapp states in the Essence piece:

“A lot of people who follow my blog said, ‘I had a feeling that was your hair,… It’s kind of surprising that other people recognize my hair so well.” 

Hair today, gone tomorrow! Mrs O wears the blogger, Maeling Tapp's hair well.

Like Mrs Obama, I can relate to my hair being of extreme interest, especially in the professional and corporate environment.   This photo essay is a case in point – an international current affairs magazine painstakingly documenting the evolution of a First Lady’s hairstyle??!!  This is crazy!

My issue is not whether Mrs. Obama wears her hair curly or straight,  but that, in my opinion, her hair garners so much attention due to the fact that a Black woman in a prominent position is unfortunately still a novelty.

In one sense, you can understand the fascination that people of other ethnicities have with our hair – I am currently working on a project that is addressing this particular issue, and  it has become apparent that our hair is a complete enigma – and that most questions and queries, to which one could take offense, are really asked out of sheer curiosity.

I have worked in the fashion and beauty industry for some of the world’s leading brands, and even here in London, one of  the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, I was often the only Black person, and almost certainly was the only Black woman working in the head offices of these brands.  Even within the beauty industry – which I expected be more enlightened – I was always being asked about my ‘ever-changing’ hairstyles, if my hair could be touched and how is it  that my hair grew so long over night!  

The long and short of it (no pun intended) is that I and women like myself are still all too absent in many sections and areas of society.

We have no presence in countless offices  across the city, thus when we do make an appearance it can take our colleagues and peers a while to adjust to our normal hair and beauty routines…but in most parts adjust they do, and they come to the realisation that we have much more in common than that which makes us different.

Judge, Baroness, Entrepreneur...will you be next?

As more Black women secure positions of leadership, face the media and take their place in mainstream society, I am looking forward to the  focus being on what is in our heads as well as what in on it.

4 comments for “Hair we go again…

  1. March 24, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    Once again, well-observed and well chronicled! I actually had someone ask me about my hair yesterday when I went to the hospital, she commented on how she had noticed how her black colleagues in the NHS frequently changed their hair styles! I referred her to Chris Rock’s film Good Hair! I think Michelle Obama, like a lot of black women are hit with a double whammy. Being black and a woman in power is doubly hard! Margaret Thatcher was told to get ‘serious hair’ and her voice is too screechy. We still have big problems accepting a woman in authority and a black woman?!…..hopefully we can change that. ;-D

    • March 25, 2012 at 2:30 pm

      I am sure that change is a’coming…but it is well for us to be prepared for what we will face…thanks to the like of Mrs O, we can begin that process! I have nothing but love for this woman – she handles everything with grace and dignity.

  2. December 3, 2012 at 8:48 pm

    Tis true am in Italy the land of black women on the cover of vogue and I still had to send a friend flying ibto lindon for the weekend to get my hair products from East Ham also suprised that these products cannot be bought online in europe have to go all the way to america, not so cheap! Where is amazon when you need them?

    • December 4, 2012 at 4:55 pm

      Hi! Thanks for visiting my blog. This is certainly an issue! Let’s see how things develop next year!

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