When actor Isaiah Mustafa of the Old Spice commercial fame spoke to E! News correspondent Guiliana Rancic, many people – from fans to media outlets – were shocked that this seemingly humorous guy seriously stuck his foot in his mouth.
When asked to describe his ideal woman by Rancic, his answer began simply enough with aww-worthy adjectives like kindness, a totally predictable preference for athletic body types and then a randomly insulting requirement: good hair. Following his comments, many Internet outlets began speculating about the source of his feelings toward natural hair. Does he hate himself? Does he hate black women? Is he against women with natural hair?
Here We Go Again
If you have a head full of kinky, coarse hair, chances are you've heard the term “good hair” a time or two and know almost exactly what it really means. The term “good hair” is mostly a comment on texture, volume and appearance as well as social perception and acceptance. In relation to natural hair, it sadly rarely refers to its overall health, nor does it take into consideration the potential damage of the harmful chemicals many women turn to that will get them the ego-boosting look. But is having “good hair” something everyone finds complimentary? In short, no.
Mustafa quickly came to his own defense and shared his thoughts in an interview with Essence.com, where he apologized and acknowledged the total ignorance of his statement. He even responded to the on-going problems of perpetuating the use of such a contentious term, stating, “I see how polarizing the topic of hair can be. I irresponsibly used words that carry a negative stigma. I need to be better than that.”
Kinky Hair? Get Rid of It!
Comments like this have appeared in the media before, and have also been poorly-received by the natural hair community. Earlier this year, Oprah's hairstylist Andre Walker came under fire for his stance on maintaining natural hair: don't.
In his Elle Magazine interview, Walker began by saying, “I always recommend embracing your natural texture,” but ends on a sour not by insisting that, “Kinky hair can have limited styling options; that’s the only hair type that I suggest altering with professional relaxing.”
As far as a quick Internet search can tell, he has yet to completely apologize for his statement. Instead he released a half-hearted explanation on his blog that defends his stance and again erroneously accuses natural hair of being something that is uneasy to manage. Of course, it depends of whose standards of manageable he's referring to.
What is Good Hair?
Luckily, we're all entitled to our own opinions and perhaps Mustafa's apology was sincere. Maybe he took his idea of easy, whimsical humor too far, or perhaps he was betrayed by his honest feelings bubbling up to the surface. Either way, the more these issues come up, the more dialogue we can have about changing the language we use to empower or dismantle our self-esteem.
Are curly hair stereotypes real, and if they are, how can we initiate change?
When asked what good hair meant to him, Mustafa replied, “It can be anything to anyone. Good hair is healthy hair, whatever you perceive that to be." So, tell us, what is good hair to you?