From a young age, children are taught to use their "inside voice." This is to make sure they understand the distinction between the voice meant for loud, public places versus the one reserved for a smaller, more private setting. Well, last night at the American Music Awards, Rihanna used her "inside hair" even though she was in a public, televised, everyone-can-see-you place. Stepping up on stage both to perform and to accept her icon award, the singer had her hair in an “upscale” doobie. What made it upscale was that instead of more than a dozen rust-brown Bobby pins stuck at half-inch intervals around her swept around hairdo, she cut down on the number of clips and added a few with sparkle.
Yet Black women weren’t fooled—one diamond clip does not turn a doobie (hair wrapped around ones head at night in order to create bouncy hair in the morning) into a hairstyle. It is, social media screamed as soon as Rihanna stepped onto stage, the style before the style, not the finished look.
Had Rihanna commented on the backlash she would have likely kept her remarks to something close to: pshaw, shorthand for, "I am Rihanna. I do what I want. And I look good while doing it."
And she would have been right. A few years ago when singers were going waist-length long, she went pixie short, and then waist long the next day if she felt like it. When celebs were going Beyoncé blonde, she went Raggedy Ann Red. In other words, she does her own thing.
However, there was one woman who didn't see Rihanna's doobie as a nod to her individuality; she saw it as a rip-off. Female MC Patwa was once signed to Def Jam, but alleges she lost her deal when she refused to change her look that was "too hood." She also says she met Rihanna once at a Roc Nation event and Rihanna complimented her on the hairstyle that made Def Jam execs so nervous: a doobie affixed with sparkle. Patwa’s former manager says she used jeweled pins because she was a queen and this was her “ghetto crown,” adding that "...by no means did we invent the doobie wrap or name. However, prior to the AMA's no one had attempted to wear the doobie as a hairstyle in public. No one!!!!!! I just find it very insulting that something we brought to those people was too "ghetto". But now Rihanna can accept awards while proudly displaying it."
Again, RiRi had no comment, keeping quiet about allegations that she stole her look. But again, we can imagine that she would not say that she wore it to assert her "ghetto royalty," but instead to show off her rock star flair and to remind us that like her clothes, her hair has always been one more way for her to assert her confidence and her determination to set trends instead of bow to them. And, of course, to give us plenty to talk about the next day.
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(Photo: Jason Merritt/Getty Images)