, Black Hair, Latest News, Standards of Black Beauty‘Cause Your Good Hair Is More Important Than Your Health?

‘Cause Your Good Hair Is More Important Than Your Health?

42-18407415To my knowledge Chris Rock’s movie, Good Hair, doesn’t have a fitness element to it, no. Although I did catch a clip of Raven-Symone (I think?) saying that our hair prevents us from “doing certain things,” I’m not sure if the topic will be in there. I’ve asked a couple of people who have seen private screenings thus far, and no one has unequivocally told me “Yes.”

To me, that’s… funny.

For a number of reasons.

Make no mistake about it, I’ve said on here that I wear relaxed tresses. My own hair is a third of the way down my back, extremely thick, and I usually toss it up in a ponytail. I used to wear sew-ins, because they allowed me to do some insane things to my hair, still look good, and not manage to burn all of my hair off. For me, as well as a number of women, relaxing our hair is a manageability issue.

And, really.. I’ve got to admit: it’s absolutely a manageability issue for me because although I relax regularly, I still have the luxury of being able to rock my ‘fro. Quite frankly, I’m not interested in flat ironing my hair every day. Not in the least.

However, the conversation that this movie is forcing us to have involves the Black standard of female beauty. IS there a premium placed on women with straight hair? Is this a healthy concept for us? By healthy, I don’t mean health-wise, but more so in terms of what it says to us about ourselves? Don’t worry, this isn’t about to turn into a rant of natural vs relaxed.

I can’t help but wonder, though. What is out there that is so powerful, it can convince our girlfriends to spend a whole DAY in the salon to get their hair styled, but it’s too rough to spend a half hour a day walking? Where is the message that tells us we must spend THOUSANDS of dollars each year caring for our hair, sacrificing entire days in beauty salons, and why isn’t the message of being more physically fit getting through? Can someone measure the strength of THAT message for me?

What is it? I mean, if I look at the TV, the same images of women with straight, shiny, silky hair also contain images of women with stick thin figures and single-digit dress sizes. If I look at a magazine ad of a woman with gorgeous straight hair with long curls, she’s more often than not going to be rail thin. I’m not saying that “rail thin” is the way to be by ANY means, but I’m hoping to illustrate a point here. If the small figures are found in the same places we find the images of women with straight hair… why isn’t the message convincing Black women to put forth a gang of effort into losing weight getting through?

Now, I can’t identify or verify these numbers, but check this out:

Unfortunately, 46% of African American men and 57% of African American women are sedentary, with no time scheduled for exercise. – Lottie’s Health N Wellness

No time scheduled for exercise, but all the time in the world for the almighty touch-up?

Listen, I’m not railing against women who DO hit the salon at 6AM waiting to make sure they’re out by 2PM. I’m railing against women who can get up at 6AM for a hair appointment, while loudly complaining about having no time for the gym. A half hour a day walking helped me lose 18lbs in one month. Maybe we overestimate what it takes to actually invest in our personal health. Maybe because we get so few tidbits of advice on how to care for our physical selves, we’ve let commercials and infomercials and trainers with something to sell educate us improperly. Maybe we’ve been led to believe that it requires more than we can afford in time as well as money. Maybe, baby.

I think it’s funny that the movie could very well NOT address fitness in the slightest. Is it because the topic is wholly uncomfortable for at least 79% of us to talk about? Is it too much to think about why we find such comfort in seeing heavier set women in our community? Before someone tries to take offense, don’t take my words as saying there is something offensive to society’s sensibilities by having overweight women around. I’m saying that there’s something that makes it acceptable for us to live an unhealthy lifestyle, but would make us sacrifice a whole day (in some cases, a whole weekend) for different hair.

What is it going to take for us to re-educate and enlighten ourselves? Will it take our men to start openly and loudly shunning overweight women, as opposed to still giving us attention? Is that what it will boil down to, to get us to focus equal-if-not-more attention on our physical health? What are your thoughts?

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By | 2017-06-10T11:26:52+00:00 January 28th, 2014|Beauty, Black Hair, Latest News, Standards of Black Beauty|46 Comments

About the Author:

The proud leader of the #bgg2wlarmy, Erika Nicole Kendall writes food and fitness, body image and beauty, and more here at #bgg2wl. After losing over 150lbs, Kendall became a personal trainer certified in fitness nutrition, women's fitness, and weight loss by the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She is also certified in sports nutrition by Precision Nutrition. She now lives in New York with her husband and children, and is working on her 6th and 7th certifications because she likes having alphabet soup at the end of her name.


  1. Gina October 8, 2009 at 11:46 AM - Reply

    I’ve always said that it is easier route to self esteem. In my city fat broads keep their hair done. Toes and nails as an illusion of them taking care of themselves. Sometimes just to say, “I know I look good.” but they don’t. Who wants to trade up gossip time and the deception for the harder route?

    This is our society. We cover shit with sugar. Masking the truth to feel better about ourselves.

  2. Erika October 8, 2009 at 5:32 PM - Reply

    Gina, wow! Thanks for your thoughts, provocative though they may be.

    I never thought about using these things as a means of drawing attention away from something about which we’re self-conscious. Now that I think about it, I was certainly ALWAYS on top notch with my hair when I was heavier… nowadays, I’m hard pressed to run a flat iron through it!

    Why is it that we’d rather put ourselves at risk and silence our egos with compliments about our hair, nails, clothes instead of tackle the issue head on? I mean, avoidance of this issue results in heart disease, diabetes, strokes, all kinds of obesity-related illness.. why would we do this to ourselves? Covering shit with sugar, as you put it, can only explain away so much, you know?

    Interesting thoughts!

  3. Tracy October 8, 2009 at 9:43 PM - Reply

    I’m heavy now and I don’t want to run a flat iron through my hair! LOL! However, I do agree with Gina, as “harsh” as her words may be. Back in the day when I got relaxers, I was certain to keep my hair right, nails done, toes done, etc. It’s one thing to be “fat,” but you DAMN SURE didn’t want to be labeled fat and SLOPPY. Hence, that’s why bigger chicks tend to be dressed to the nines at times, with their hair fried, dyed and laid to the side. Bump that. Call me what you want. I’m not worried about my hair (too much). I need to get this weight off.

  4. Erika October 9, 2009 at 9:16 AM - Reply

    Hey, Tracy! Gina certainly did go in, didn’t she? LOL!

    I used to say that all the time! In fact, I STILL say “As long as I’m not sloppy, no one will notice.” As if that changed the health issues that I was facing, or make them go away.

    Are our people still afraid to go to the doctor’s office? Is this why? Being afraid to be told what we don’t want to hear? I guess it’s easier to skirt the issue when you’re not paying someone to tell you the very thing you’re trying to avoid.

    I LOVE your last sentence, though – “Call me what you want. I’m not worried about my hair… I need to get this weight off.” Beautiful!

  5. MochaTrina@Me So Hongry October 23, 2009 at 3:17 PM - Reply

    In regards to getting my hair done and not working out for several days after, my Mother put it to me this way:

    “Either you’re going to be fat and cute, or you’re going to workout and be not so cute some of the time.”

    I chose choice #2, working out and being not to cute some of the time. Life is about choices, and my choices have led to a 39 pound weight loss. I am hoping tomorrow’s weigh in yields my 40 pound goal. I really enjoyed this post and found you thanks to Ro @ Ro is getting fit on blogger.

  6. Erika October 23, 2009 at 3:23 PM - Reply

    MochaTrina, thanks for stopping by! I’ll have to thank Ro for sending you over. 🙂

    Good luck on your weigh in! I LOVE squeaking in that extra pound, LOL.

    I wish I could show you what my hair looks like right now. I have two giant pixie braids along the side of my head. Funny, yes. Cute, in a childlike kinda way. What kinda grown woman is trying to make you say, “Awww!?” Not me! LOL

    However, when I look in the mirror, I’m reminded that no one is focusing on my hair. There’s too much other appealing stuff to look at, if they’re lookin’ at all. 😉

  7. Karen November 2, 2009 at 11:46 PM - Reply

    OMG this is so true. I am totally guilty of this. I’ve been waiting a month to get hair braided so the I can start back working out. I sweat really, really bad in my head and hair is soaking wet after working out. I recently cut my hair short and Its impossible to dry and flat iron my hair everyday. So i either go to work looking like a wet dog, or i skip the workout so I can look presentable at work. I think our hair affects our fitness more than we like to admit. One of my guys friends even pointed out that I was about to waste my $60 and I shouldnt gotten my hair done if I was going to workout.

  8. luvincola January 2, 2010 at 5:14 PM - Reply

    I think that we as a culture place a high value on our hair, because it is one of the only things we believe we have control over. When it comes to our weight, or healthy living, we tend to believe, this is just the way I am, or is runs in my family. Getting a hairstyle takes less effort and discipline, than engaging in a healthy lifestyle. The salon, does something to me and for me, I just have to get there, and sit in the chair.(Not actively engaged. Healthy living means I have to be engaged in the process. Many of us just don’t want to be responsible for our own health, especially if it can happen, without doing anything.

  9. SJ Cooper January 7, 2010 at 12:15 AM - Reply

    I have had so many excuses for not losing weight. I always try to keep my hair wrapped when I did excercise. Now I am attempting to transition. I dont want this to be an excuse not to excersise, but I know that I sweat ALOT in my hair. What suggestions do you have for a woman who wants to excersise but needs to maintain a respectable look for work? What you said was so true, and in your face…Thanks for the honesty! Help me out…Braids and weaves are so expensive these days!

    • Lisette April 30, 2012 at 1:25 PM - Reply

      What do you mean by respectable look for work? Is there a formal or informal code regarding hairstyles at your place of employment? I’m not trying to be funny, but “respectable look” is such a loaded phrase.

      I wear my hair in a buzz cut (think military ), hardly what you’d expect of a 41-year old high school English teacher and an adjunct instructor at a Southern Baptist university (some of the most conservative people ever). I still look very feminine when I choose to look that way. My hair is always well-groomed, so to me it always looks appropriate for work.

  10. Lexis B. March 14, 2010 at 12:12 AM - Reply

    About hair ideas, you might want to try slicking down your hair with a gentle gel, and wearing your hair in a chignon some days. I also think if you find the right products and use a LOW setting, you can flat iron your hair after a work out to carfully straighten the roots and just bend the ends. The right protective products will cost more, and this will take more time, but you should be able to do this a couple of times a week without damaging your hair. I have a sew-in weave, and while it is expensive, it is basically indestructible. I actually use dog cleansing cloths to clean between the rows as my hair is totally cornrowed underneath, and I don’t have a weave cap or anything. The initial cost of the hair isn’t cheap, but if you invest in good hair, you can use it several times. If you really take care of it (which I don’t), it can look quite fly, and you can style it daily after exercising.

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