Natural look weaves into media

From Lisa Gaye Hamilton on ABC’s drama, The Practice, to R&B stars like India.Arie, black women in highly visible entertainment positions are sporting naturally inspired hairstyles and they’re gaining popularity.

“A long time ago African-American beauty was the Diahann Carroll look with straight hair, always in place,” said James Hawkins, Associate Dean of the School of Journalism and Graphic Communication.

“That has given way. Producers are no longer putting out the black version of the blue-eyed blonde as much as they used to.”

Though western beauty standards still influence black women’s choices in hairstyles, Hawkins said, “in the long run, people will not keep thinking that is the only way to be considered attractive.”

It has been a long run for black women to accept their hair in its natural state, call it beautiful and have the entertainment industry agree.

But it’s not only for style, said Valencia Jones, president of the Florida chapter of the American Hairbraiders and Natural Haircare Association and co-owner of Mandisa Ngozi Art and Braiding Gallery in Tallahassee.

“Some people are trying to make a statement, but natural hairstyles are ideal for people with busy schedules like entertainers because they are low maintenance,” said Jones, who has worked with Erykah Badu and George Clinton.

“Some styles can last as long as three months and will still be healthy under hot lights in a photo shoot.”

“Hair in its natural state is safer, healthier and builds your self-esteem.”

Women who are really comfortable with themselves can wear their hair natural and not care if it’s accepted or not,” Jones said.

“Seeing more black women with natural hair in the media is not just a fad. It’s much deeper than that.”

She said seeing more women with natural hair on television makes others more accepting. The Mandisa Ngozi salon has clients from Atlanta to Miami, many of whom are professional women between 30 and 40, who don’t have a problem sporting an Afro or locs.

“It’s not about politics; it’s about style and individuality,” said Jocelyn Amador, editor in chief of Sophisticate’s Black Hairstyles and Care Guide, the best-selling hair and beauty publication for black.

“The affects of natural hair are wonderful because it provides versatility.”

Think Alicia Keys’ cornrows, Jill Scott’s twisted Afro, Vanessa Williams’ locs.

“And now there is color on natural hair, not just texture,” Amador said. “It all depends on individuals presenting their own flair to the look.”

Amador added there still is and always will be a strong market for permed styles, but it’s not the only option for African Americans.

“Everyone is always looking for something new, and change is a good thing.”