The buzz surrounding Chris Rock’s “Good Hair” documentary has Black women all over America discussing their kinks, curls, waves and weaves. The not-so-taboo topic of ‘good hair’ has loudly crept its way through many living rooms, churches and salons. Insert world renowned stylist, Ted Gibson, whose hands have graced the heads of starlets such as Gabrielle Union and Angelina Jolie. With his new gig as the hairstylist on TLC’s “What Not to Wear,” Gibson gave us his ideas on a chocolate world obsessed with hair.
Where do you believe this idea of ‘good and bad’ hair originated?
Ted Gibson: I think it started during the time when African-American women were shipped to this country. They were forced to adapt and fit in to what was happening here. I think it definitely started during slavery. There wasn’t such a thing as good and bad hair in Africa.
What obvious differences have you seen concerning the way that White women view their hair versus Black women?
Ted Gibson: There isn’t necessarily a difference. It’s really about the textures of hair, and not necessarily the color of the skin. I believe that you can be very dark and have straight hair, and be very light and have kinky hair. It’s more about wearing wigs and extensions for Black women versus White women. Black women generally want more hair, whereas White women do not.
Why don’t we understand our texture of hair as African-American women?
Ted Gibson: I watched that whole thing on “Tyra” about good hair and bad hair. They showed the mom who purposely married outside of her race so that she could have a child with so-called ‘good hair.’ That’s really crazy to me. What that also tells me is that even if you’re wearing the right clothes, or the right shade of lipstick, if you don’t feel that your hair looks good, you still don’t feel complete. Hair plays such an integral part in a woman’s philosophy about the way that she feels about herself.
Why is hair such an emotional issue for Black women, specifically?
Ted Gibson: When I was on Oprah’s show she said, ‘My grandmother told me to never cut my hair.’ I think there’s this thing inside a Black woman’s head that if they cut their hair, they may not be as attractive. They may not feel as strong. They may not be well received. Women will sit around and say, ‘Oh, she has good hair.’ Women can be their own worst critics.
Do you think that Black men have played a part in the negative way that Black women view their hair?
Ted Gibson: Absolutely. There is a reason why women wear weaves. There’s this whole movement in wearing your hair natural, but the natural hair must be blown out. There are guys who want a woman to have long hair, and not all Black women can have long hair. So, they wear weaves. I think men universally love long hair because guys are attracted to younger women, and when you have longer hair, you look more youthful.
Would that explain why almost every successful actress in Hollywood, except for Halle Berry, has long, flowing tresses?
Ted Gibson: Yes. When you think about the history of women in film and television, Halle Berry has really been one of the only women to be able to wear short hair. Consider Gabrielle Union, Kerry Washington and Diahann Carroll. None of those women have short hair. If they cut it off, it always go back to being long.
Why aren’t there more natural heads in Hollywood?
Ted Gibson: I think it’s because it’s intimidating. It’s different than someone with straight hair. Generally, guys are attracted to women with straight hair more so than women with curly hair. Curly haired girls are like the girl next door. Girls that have straight hair are the girls that will have sex on the first date (he laughs).
Do you have any crazy ‘shop stories’ that you can share?
Ted Gibson: I had a very famous client who grew up in Brooklyn and I was doing her hair for a fashion story. I took one of the smallest barrel curling irons out of my bag, and I didn’t check the dial to see how hot it was. I started off in the front of her head and her hair came off on the curling iron. She said, ‘Honey, I’m from Brooklyn and this happens all the time. It’s no big deal.’ Of course, I felt terrible.
As a seasoned stylist, what’s been the one thing that has remained consistent about women and hair?
Ted Gibson: Since I’ve been doing “What Not to Wear,” a new kind of thought has come to me. It goes past any socio-economic background, ethnicity or age. A woman, regardless of where she’s from, wants to feel good about her hair.
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