Let’s look at the word Afro. Even if you don’t know what it is, you know that it has something to do with Africa. And that things which have to do with Africa usually have to do with being Black. As in, Black people.
Allure missed this distinction. So when the magazine decided to do a beauty story on retro '70s hairstyles and included an Afro, it did not decide to show a Black woman in the style. Instead they got a very straight haired white woman and gave a step-by-step on how to turn her tresses into something that they decided approximated an Afro. In reality, she looked as if she had kinda frizzy, super tousled hair that was made to stand up on her head instead of lay down flat. But in the same way that some say tomato, some stay tomahto, some say Afro, some say de-contextualized cultural appropriation.
Adding insult to kinky-hair injury, on the contributor’s page in the magazine, the model said that this was “confident hair” and “ballsy.” No, model lady — and no, Allure magazine which wrote that it is not hair for an “introvert” — Afro-textured hair is not for the ballsy woman necessarily. It is for the Black woman who does not use a straightener.
Does anyone on the Allure staff recognize the vast amounts of racial privilege you are flaunting when you say that it takes bravery to wear your hair in a way that doesn’t approximate whiteness? It implies if you want to be normal, you want to be straight-haired.
Of course there has been pushback since the issue was released. And of course a lot of it came from Black Twitter, the gift that keeps on giving. One woman said the magazine was operating at “peak Caucasity,” which pretty nicely sums up the horrors of what happened. A few other things the women at Allure should know before they plan their next beauty story is that an Afro is more than just a “fearless” retro throwback, as they call it. The look is anchored in history and it is also a celebrated present-day celebration of Black beauty. In addition, there are plenty of Black models who would be happy to be featured in the pages of a popular magazine, so maybe they can cast a few the next time they want to talk about Black hairstyles.
As the mag continues to celebrate what they insist on calling bold, they can at least make sure that they’re practicing what the rest of us would call basic common sense.
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(Photo: Allure Magazine, August 2015)