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An Open Letter to Essence Magazine: The Natural Hair Issue

Posted in Inspiration, misc by dendoo on October 8, 2010

Dear Essence,

I read your magazine before and it was okay but it always left me wanting more.  For your November issue, which is being described on the internet as the Natural Hair issue, I have only seen the cover but already I feel if your magazine were a meal I would still need to be fed after eating.

The cover features actress Kerry Washington who is talented and gorgeous.  I really find no fault with her; I find fault with the idea of using a non “natural” haired woman who is wearing what seems to be a weave or some sort of wig on the cover of the natural hair issue.

If the issue is approaching “natural hair” from the angle Tyra did on her tv show -meaning your natural hair WITHOUT weaves than okay, I can somewhat understand.  A lot of women have an issue with dealing with their relaxed hair let alone what some people angrily call napps (I say napps with love).  So I could understand, just a bit, if that was the angle you guys were going for.

However, the term “natural hair” makes me think of a woman like me:  hair that is not chemically treated to straighten it into a texture that I was not born with.   Nice thick nappies, kinks, curls, that hard hair or soft even but whatever the texture, hair that is in its raw state and is NATURAL.  So yes some naturals do have the texture Ms. Washington is sporting for the cover and more power to them but I don’t think that is her real hair.  Not at all.

If Essence is a magazine for women it would have been refreshing to see real, everyday natural haired women representing what the tagline reads “Curl it, Twist it, Lock it, Rock it”.  How beautiful it would have been to see some real women of different ages, shades, and sizes gracing the cover of the magazine truly showcasing natural hair.

I have been highlighted on the community  (Black Girl with Long Hair) and it’s great to see other naturals showing off their healthy hair and style.  It is proof that naturals can be just as divalicious as the woman who was chosen to grace the cover.  I know it’s all about numbers and picking Kerry Washington was probably given a lot of thought.  It might be too risky to throw some real women on the cover of a magazine in hopes that it might sell, but grab your balls and remember that Essence is Essence!  Break a mold for once!

Lastly, a lot of naturals are frustrated with this magazine and it’s approach to the natural hair movement.  I’ve read blogs whose authors have one eyebrow raised at this very cover I am writing about, blogs criticizing your natural hair chat that was online, and there are many (myself included) who feel as if Essence is using the natural trend to sell some units.  Well I know you have to make money but I really hope you’re not approaching this as a gimmick, as a thing to make a quick buck.

I would like to read this issue but I won’t be able to because of where I live at the moment.  However, I really hope what is inside this issue makes up for its introduction.  Never judge a book by it’s cover so they say…and I have so yeah I could be forced to swallow a big helping of “shut up” but I’m telling you from the mind of a natural that it just doesn’t feel right.  It would have been amazing if naturals could have been celebrated properly.

One last thing, if the idea of using naturals of every age, shade and sized had been done you could have had a curvy girl on the cover next right next to the topic “Curvy Girls….”

This is the cover of mixed messages.  Where’s my map?  I’m lost.



5 Responses

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  1. naturalhairflair said, on October 9, 2010 at 12:12 am

    i totally agree! i will definitely be browsing through the magazine in the store before i purchase it. and i will personally come back and tell you what was in it. because like you stated this would have been a perfect time to show off REAL natural hair and not curled relaxed or weave hair!
    great article

  2. Daree said, on October 9, 2010 at 12:43 am

    Usually the November issue is about men, guess they switched it up with the October cover instead. My subscription is still intact so if I like the article (I’m a bit behind with my 20+ mag subscriptions!), I’ll write a post about it myself.

    • dendoo said, on October 9, 2010 at 2:59 am

      I will def be checking the internets to see what ppl thought bout it.

  3. tanya said, on January 2, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    I no longer subscribe to Essence and I missed this issue on the newsstand but it looks to me that the main point of the issue was “Race in America”. I know Ms Washington has a strong stance on issues related to race and democracy (she is also a very vocal supporter of President Obama)so it looks to me that she was chosen as the cover model for that reason and not to be representative of the natural community. Again, I am assuming this from her mention on the right side of the cover along with Al Sharpton et al. I know I’m late to the party but that’s my two cents.

  4. opionionatedkei said, on January 5, 2011 at 10:26 pm

    Well said and I totally agree! Many women do not wear their hair natural for fear of not looking or feeling “pretty” b/c their hair is not “good” enough to wear chemical free. Then you look @ this cover, and again, it is discouraging b/c most women will look @ the cover, know they will never look that amazing, and think they should have just keep rockin a perm. I think about my own decision to go natural and how it took me five years to actually begin the process. I should have done it YEARS ago, but the fear held me back. It’s been over a year and a half and I’ve never loved my hair as much as I do now. But when I was trying to get the courage up to go natural, reading this article would have NOT helped…

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