Some embrace it, some style for it, some hate it and some hide from it, but is curly hair really a tell-tale sign of personality and job performance? In the movie, "The Princess Diaries," Anne Hathaway’s curls are straightened to give her a polished look representable of a princess. In real life, her hair hasn’t really been curly since. In the hit TV show, "90210," AnnaLynne McCord’s character, Naomi Campbell, is known for her devious and conniving nature as well as the curls. Even in a recent ELLE interview, model-turned-designer Erin Wasson explains, “I've always been told that [straight hair] is more polished, and a more polished version of yourself is a better version of yourself. That it's more professional.” From the acting world to the fashion world, hair speaks volumes – and the more volume it has, it seems, the worse things it says.
However, acting, modeling and designing are all creative professions and once the shoot is over and the runway music has stopped, you can saunter back to your old habits and routines and get back to being you, the girl with the curls. But what about in the political world where acting and fashion have huge roles but a creative background isn’t required. Is Sarah Palin’s hair curly underneath all that hairspray? What would Condoleezza Rice look like with an afro (we already know what Mrs. Obama would like thanks to some doctored photos)? What about Hilary Clinton? Michelle Bachmann? Jan Brewer? Nancy Pelosi?
Is it possible that each of these women have naturally straight, albeit stiff, hair? No way, but with the media cyclone that engulfed Rebekah Brooks, ex-CEO of Newscorp, for wearing her in its natural state in court, it is no wonder that these women avoid the issue and stick with scripted cuts, colors and coifs.
“I've always been told that [straight hair] is more polished, and a more polished version of yourself is a better version of yourself. That it's more professional.”
But not all women in politics succumb to the straight hair pressure. Melissa Harris-Perry, political commentator for MSNBC, is famous for her quick wit, sharp demeanor and her twists. And while Harris-Perry focuses on growing her hair out, a big reveal might not be too far off. In an interview with CurlyNikki she says, “I plan to continue to wear it in twists for another two years until I get it at a length and volume that I can manage and probably do the big reveal at that point.” But she is quick to add, “It's been a real consideration for me to figure out how to make that transition to natural hair, while at the same time needing to maintain the consistency of being on television.”
In her show commenting on the state of affairs after Gabby Douglas won the gold medal and Twitter lit up not with congratulations, but with hair concerns for the Olympic athlete, Harris-Perry admitted that she spends eight hours having her hair twisted, but that in the end, it isn’t about what is on your head, but what is in it.
While the message is comforting, the reality seems starkly different. On the heels of Mitt Romney’s 47 percent comment in which he stated, “Had I been born of Mexican parents, I'd have a better shot of winning this,” one wonders just how far the WASP stereotypical complexity into race relations and class warfare really goes. Had any of these female politicians had curly hair, would they be where they are now? What if we held race withstanding?
Let’s look as curly-headed Florida congresswoman Debbie Wasserman who has faced ridiculous remarks about her natural style and from one of the biggest news organizations in the country. In an interview with Fox News anchor Monica Crowley, Debbie Wasserman disagreed with the anchor who later dismissed her comments, calling Wasserman, “She of the angry perm.” No further comments about Wasserman’s political stance were made, and despite the positive press Wasserman received from the event, including a New York times opinion piece praising her for staying true to her curly roots, her name has hardly been mentioned outside of Florida since.
In her defense, she has pulled some pretty hefty strings down in Florida for women’s rights, VA rights and workers’ rights, and if Sarah Palin was an out-of-no-where choice for a Vice Presidential candidate, Wasserman has a good chance of taking up office.
Overall, women in politics have it rough and are criticized for their hairstyle choices, their clothing choices and even on how much makeup they do or do not wear. But, aren’t we all? Hair politics aren’t going to decide this election, but appearance and style certainly help voters cast their ballots for particular candidates. We are a visual species and for better or worse, what you look like and how you present yourself matters, your hair notwithstanding.
What experiences or misunderstandings have you had in a professional environment because of your curls?