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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.



Radical Self Love for the Black Girl

Posted in Inspiration by dendoo on May 4, 2010

There’s a movement going on in this universe called RADICAL SELF LOVE.

Before anyone thinks I am hating on the movement or the creator please understand: I totally believe in Radical Self Love.  If I weren’t addicted to squares (I have a tattoo of a square) I’d probably tattoo it on my wrist.  So don’t start thinking “My word!  She’s against the movement.”  It’s nothing like that.  And I know that RSL is about being in love with yourself but I’m approaching this from a different angle which I hope will be apparent as you continue reading.

So what is it like?

It’s like this:  Radical Self Love already was, already had been, and will always be so snap out of your stupid bubbles and just accept the realness that is you, your awesomness and the life that will change dramatically once you do. I’m mad that more women are not accepting this movement but I’m even more upset that it has to be a movement to begin with because YOU are radical, YOU are yourself and YOU deserve your love.

Where is this anger coming from?

It’s coming from this: I was out last week running some errands and I had on a typical “me” outfit plus my afro.  The afro is what I think started this entire conversation.  This young woman about my age start laughing when I went into the store.  So I look at her like “and what” and keep browsing.  So she comes up to me and asks “You ain’t scared aye?” (don’t forget we’re island people so we have our own talks) and I’m asking her scared of what “scared of what everyone thinks of you”.  I tell her plainly and bluntly no.  I ask her why should I be scared.  She lists some stupid reasons and then I laugh.  I tell her if anything I’m scared to become like her.

She looks shocked and I smile a secret smile.  So she asks “What’s so wrong about me?”

Nothing is wrong about her but what fun is it to be just like everyone else?  What is so fun about fitting in because it’s what’s expected?  This opens up a discussion.  In the end she admits there are things she wants to do, wants to be but she feels she can’t be.  Okay, you know me.  Even if the dream will never come true I still need to have the dream.  So I share this with her and she tells me “But that’s what white folks do.  You white aye?” (yep white people I’m sorry but us black people do say that sometimes.)

So I shake my head vigorously.  NO.  LIFE IS NOT JUST FOR WHITE PEOPLE.

Then I realized I’m getting mad…and I am getting mad because this woman does not have her own foundation of radical self love.  True, it didn’t come to me like that but I knew at that moment there wasn’t enough trust in herself, knowledge about herself and about her worth in her and that’s why she was making such crazazy statements.

Look, I don’t have anything against people but I know about the black way of life so it’s something I can talk about in-depth.  I know we (black people) constantly say “That’s for white folks to do”.  Well at least in my country that’s what a lot of black people say.

Saving money for retirement, buying a condo, traveling the world, eating caviar, hiking, holding a dinner party…LIVING is for white people.  When I realized what this woman is telling me along with what I’ve heard countless times I suddenly got it: we’re clouding our horizons.  We can’t ever expect to get on with the movement.  Then I realized we can NEVER accept radical self love because we put ourselves in a bubble of “blackness” and we can’t get out.

me accepting my crazazy hair…

So I am saying today that anything she can do we can do too.  I’m not even going to say we can do better because first we have to believe that we can even do it.  To me, RSL (I’m tired of writing it all out) is about accepting who you are and then taking that person and pushing it past your boundaries.  But if you can’t even accept who you are and where you belong in this world then how can you push past anything? The most you can do is push your trolley past the little old lady in the Supermarket!

The movement was created to be in love with yourself and not have to be dependent on a man for the love you are so worthy of as Valentine’s day moved closer but to me it was more about saying “I don’t need a man to make me happy”.  It was about discovering every inner truth, every desire, every fear, and every worry that was you.  So maybe you think this girl does have her own RSL thing going on…cause she comfortable being a part of the pack, right?


I think the fact that she asked if I’m not scared, the fact that she admitted some dreams that she wants to have but doesn’t even have the courage to hold onto, and the fact that she hasn’t discovered who she is outside of the pack (IMO) all point to her not being down with Radical Self Love.

And I told her.  I TOLD HER!  Well I didn’t say she needs to learn about RSL but I did say

You can’t be afraid to be who you want to be even if it means you’re never popular and people make fun of you.  You can’t be afraid to have your wants and desires.  That my dear is radical.

You can’t be afraid to be in tune with your energies, your harmonies, your you.  That my dear is self.

You can’t be afraid to have an open heart and open mind for everything that comes along.  You don’t have to accept everything but you do have to accept that there is more than you out there.  You have to accept the you that you’re in tune with.  Isn’t that love?

let’s melt away our fears and start loving

So I’m on a mission to bring Radical Self Love to the Black Girl in my country because I’m starting to see ain’t enough of that stuff floating around.  If I offended you I’m sorry but I live in a place where I witnessed grown as hell 30, 40 and 50-year-old women pay $100 to have some stupid broad answer questions like “How to win my man back from a prostitute?” and “Is it okay to date a white man?” (I’m not joking).  I have to do my part to nip it in the bud.  I can’t wait till I’m 50 and then try to go out and help a sister.  NO!

Radical Self Love means a lot of things to a lot of people but if you can’t even start with the simplest thing…what’s the point?