While natural hair may not be the mainstream norm (yet), media representation has improved greatly for us wavy, curly and coily-haired girls. Sure, we've seen let downs over the years, from Taylor Swift caving to Vogue and straightening out her curls (which have yet to come back) and Beyonce's all too straight, blonde strands to the outlash against professional women such as Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and MSNBC talk show host Melissa Harris-Perry. But, times are changing and natural hair is gaining momentum in both the grassroots movements as well as with strong, fierce and independent women in the limelight. Think Solange, Janelle Monae, AnnaLynne McCord, Alicia Keys and now, add Zoe Saldana to that list.
The 34-year-old actress makes an au naturale debut on Allure’s June 2013 cover, swapping out her clothes for her birthday suit, her red lipstick for her Chap Stick and her salon straight hair for her natural waves. Usually, Saldana's hair is flat ironed and even when it has texture, the curls aren't natural. For the Allure cover shoot, Saldana's hair was diffused and then straighter sections were touched up with a small curling iron to create an even texture throughout.
However, the cover is stirring controversy not for her decision to showcase her natural curls or even her nudity; but rather, it is Allure’s headline that has piqued the interested and heated debate throughout the country. Next to a fully covered but nude Saldana, reads: “Zoe Saldana: 115 Pounds of Grit and Heartache.”
The issue here: her weight.
Zoe Saldana measures in at 5’7” at which height a weight of 115 pounds is technically considered underweight, according to BMI calculators. Now, taking into consideration the fact that every woman’s body is different and by no means does a slight BMI calculation of underweight (she falls .5 short of a healthy weight) determine the habits or health of any individual, the cover is still causing concern.
Women’s magazines have long been blamed for their usage of Photoshop and underweight or unrealistic models that many believe help to reinforce the low self-esteem issues found amongst young girls. In fact, beauty brand Dove has made millions off of an opposing advertising strategy that appeals to the natural beauty of all, rather than the glorification of slim and straight. Their “Love Yourself” campaign, which has garnered a large following of passionate women who believe that advertising and marketing can make women feel better about themselves rather than worse, proves the power of the visual image – and marketing strategies.
In recent years, magazines claim to have taken steps to reduce the amount of photoshopping or use of underweight as well as underage models. That said, it makes sense that Allure’s cover would raise concern, with the magazine highlighting and promoting a relatively tall and very thin woman, whom of which is technically underweight.But – this situation is different. Zoe Saldana is a real woman who has a real weight and who on this cover is smiling and laughing with a true happiness in her eyes, all with only a gold bangle to her name. She, along with Allure Magazine, is encouraging women both young and old to love themselves just as they are. In Zoe’s case, she just happens to be naturally thin, with wavy hair to boot. In a letter from Allure's Editor in Chief, Linda Wells, she stated that "Allure's intention was to say, this woman is a powerhouse; she plays superheroes and badasses. Nevertheless, the number became the conversation." She goes on to pose the question "Why is a woman's weight so taboo? Why is revealing it so potent and explosive?"
Here’s a question we've been pondering ourselves: would people be as upset if it were an overweight woman instead? I suppose we’ll have to leave that up to a competing magazine to test out. After all, as they say, no press is the only bad press. Get at it, Hearst!
The natural hair community being one that supports the encouragement of loving yourself as you are, what do you think ofAllure’s June 2013 cover?Photo courtesy of Allure Magazine