Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Kendrick Lamar's 'Humble' and the Erasure of Black Women's Bodies and Voices

I wasn't initially planning to write anything about this as the video i'm going to comment on was released 5 whole days ago (which is almost a year in internet time), but as someone who likes to stay up on these blogs, after all the drivel i've read over the last few days, I feel like I need to stick my twopence in, so ludicrously one sided has the debate become. Warning- I don't have anything particularly deep or insightful to say, i'm tryna take it back to basics here as that is something that seems to have been lost, so you can slide on by to the next if you're looking for a juicy think piece lol.


I was made aware of the video for Kendrick Lamar's latest release 'Humble' through a Facebook post I saw that caught my interest, it sparked a lot of interesting conversations in the comments, the kind you could sit and read with a box of popcorn. Watching the video you can't help but get caught up in the simple catchy beat and the super sleek visuals, but the hoo-ha has been caused by one of the very questionable choices made in the visual translation of these lyrics.


The offending line is 'I'm so fucking sick and tired of the photoshop / Show me something natural like afro on Richard Pryor / Show me something natural like ass with some stretch marks'.To accompany the first lyrics we see a model on a split screen. She transforms from filtered and fully made up with slick hair in a bun, wearing a glamorous top and jewellery to >> make-up free with minor blemishes, her lovely long, natural hair out and wearing men's enduring favourite- a plain white tank top. As you can see, she looks beautiful in both.








In the next scene the visual is of the 'ass with some stretch marks' in black underwear. The praise for the latter came in thick and fast, with many celebrating both the lyrics and rare media representation of a woman's stretch marks.




But it's mainly the Richard Pryor line that has divided opinion.
For those of you unfamiliar with him, here is a photo of Richard Pryor with his trademark afro (pretty much the exact same length that my hair is right now weirdly).




It didn't take long for observers to point out that the model was not representative of the lyrics and for some reason Kendrick's cohort, media outlets included, felt the need to go really hard in response to this basic truth in defence of the bizarre choice, deriding those who found it problematic as angry black feminist detractors... Like forreal, we're really doing this again?! It seems like this label gets thrown at Black women any time we disagree with anything, tis getting reallllll old!


On the one hand the word 'feminism' is being banded about in this context as a smear to try and delegitimise a very plain observation that actually has little to do with feminism, simply having eyes is enough to see why the model is the wrong choice for this scene, no feminist lens necessary. On the other hand, feminist praise is being thrown by the sackful by Vogue and other other outlets hailing the embracement of natural beauty and stretch marks as some massive feminist triumph. Woah there, y'all need to calm down, you're doing too much! 


One of the main arguments i've read in the shabby defence of the model's casting is that the lyrics are being taken 'too literally', as if we angry black feminists were all expecting Richard Pryor's lookalike to appear. Bloop. The other angle has been the predictable cries of 'she's just not Black enough for you', a narrative that even the model herself has unfortunately engaged in. 





While I disagree with the original tweeters incorrect assumption about the models hair (that it's a wig, a rather anti-black assumption in itself), her summary of the Richard Pryor lyrics as 'show me that kinky TWA girl' are pretty spot on...


To imply that Black women are being bigoted and bitter because the model 'isn't Black enough' is just another poor attempt to shut down reasonable debate and frame rightly disgruntled people as divisive 'haters' (Bossip has been especially awful for this), which also serves to shift this back to the old faithful light skin vs. Dark skin debate. After a quick look through the model's Instagram I found out that the beauty is Black and Korean. Cool, whatever. But the problem remains- SHE DOESN'T HAVE AN AFRO FOR GOODNESS SAKE... For a line that directly references short afro hair, why on earth would you use a biracial, light skinned model with long loose curls? And why are people being insulted and branded 'mad' for pointing out this glaringly obvious discrepancy? Nah, i'm not mad, i'm just bored to tears of this kind of fuckery. This scene would still have been a mess if they had used a dark skinned woman with long curly hair because the woman featured should have had an afro. That is the crux of the argument. Were there no afro sporting women available to shoot that day? Were they all on vacation? Do we need to put missing signs up yet?- 'Black women with afros, last seen on 29/03/17, the day before Humble was released, please urgently contact Kendrick Lamar if you have any information'... Like am I living in the twilight zone? Unfortunately not, this is just business as usual.


This isn't about holding Kendrick to some higher standard than other rappers, as has been suggested in many of the articles and tweets I've read, (if we did that then, as pointed out by people on social media, the conversation goes much deeper, centring on the use of women's bodies as props and the unnecessary commentary on them by men, as demonstrated in the lyrics of this song). As an artist who uses black women of different shades in his videos, he doesn't just get some woke pass that entitles him to release anything he likes, free from critical engagement. Showcasing some stretch marks is a nice little gesture I suppose, but it's not revolutionary feminism. He shouldn't have praise heaped on him simply for not being as bad as others in his genre.  He wrote lyrics challenging the prevailing beauty standards and then used a moment where he could and should have visually represented that in a powerful way, using a Black model with thick, kinky afro hair like the person he described and instead hypocritically chose to uphold the existing light skin, long looser hair, ambiguous features image that has been championed in hip hop for years and become synonymous with what it means to be a natural hair beauty as a Black woman. 


Put simply, if you're gonna speak about it, be about it! Black people are incredibly diverse, with a huge pool of features, textures and tones and all of these deserve to be spotlighted and celebrated, but it's insincere to act like the erasure of Black women with afro hair and/or dark skin isn't a huge recurring issue that damages our community just because we don't want to criticise our favourite artists. Representation matters. This has been proven time and time again. The playing field isn't equal. Black women shouldn't be shouted down for expressing this or expected to be grateful for the crumbs occasionally thrown at us. For once it would be nice if instead of chucking us under the bus and dismissing our critiques as petty and bitter, people actually really listened and engaged. Perhaps then a mainstream challenge to the anti-Black status quo that set these beauty standards might finally arise! xx

You can watch the video for Humble here


(P.S. Lyrics of the day = 'I get way too petty once you let me do the extras, pull up on your block then break it down- we playing Tetris' Humble, Kendrick Lamar)


Saturday, 4 March 2017

Black Marley Braids On Short Afro Hair

A day or two after I tried the protein method (see last post) I set to work installing my Marley Braids....
It's taken me a minute to get used to the extra volume that comes with this hair but these are definitely my favourite type of braids! Light as a feather and they blend well with my natural texture so the style looks neater for longer.
I used about 5 1/2 packs of Noir kanekalon hair from the Janet Collection, in colour 1B. 
Marley braiding hair from the Janet Collection always kinda bums me out because there is so little of it in each pack, but I really like the quality of it so it's worth the extra few quid...







I would love some nice gold braid cuffs as I think they would compliment this style perfectly but I can't seem to find any that are both nice and affordable... Any suggestions would be very welcome! 

You can reblog this photoset on Tumblr here xx

(Lyrics of the day = 'Let me cover your shit in glitter I can make it gold', Consideration, Rihanna)

Saturday, 25 February 2017

How To Grow Your Hair Overnight!!! (Protein, oil and Scalp Massage Method)

I'm absolutely kicking myself for not taking proper photographs and documenting this process as well as I could have- might have to write a do over post some time, i'll see how I feel.

Anyway, the title isn't clickbait, I really did see significant hair growth overnight using a protein, oil and scalp massage method i'd seen on Youtube!

Naturalista Youtubers have been boasting of overnight hair growth of up to an inch for the last few years now using the method i'm going to lay out for you step by step. I'm veeeeeery sceptical about the claim that any method could grow an inch of hair overnight and a lot of the videos use very iffy methods of checking the growth (which i'm not here to bitch about so I won't go into all that- if you're interested just search 'grow your hair overnight' videos on Youtube). But still, with such positive reviews i've definitely been curious to try it for a while now- even 1mm in one night would be good after all and even with no noticeble new growth this is still a good treatment for your hair.

If you only watch one video watch this one. This girl has the most relaxing voice you will ever hear in your life and the video is good too!

What's really great about this method is that you'll probably have most, if not all, the things you need to try it in your home already. Unfortunately this version isn't suitable for vegans but I bet there is a protein substitute you could use instead!


Right let's get to it...

For stage one you will need:

  • 1 x bowl
  • 2 x eggs
  • 4 x tablespoons of oil of your choice, I used extra virgin olive oil, a lot of the Youtbers used grapeseed oil
  • A whisk or fork
  • A roll of cellophane (saran wrap)
  • A towel



1.) Whisk the eggs and oil together in a bowl. If your hair is very long you might wanna think about adding more oil. 




2.) Apply this nasty ass mixture to your hair, trying to achieve as much coverage as you can. If you can use something to apply it with, do! Plunging my hands into this phlegmy mess was the low point of my day.



3.) Wrap your hair with cellophane (seran wrap) and leave it to do it's thing for an hour. This ish drip, drip, drips- so annoying! So wrap a towel around your neck and try to busy yourself with something that will take your mind off all the oozing.




4.) Unwrap your hair and thoroughly wash out the mixture. Use cool- lukewarm water so it doesn't start to cook, making it harder to rinse out.



For stage 2 you will need 

  • Coconut oil
  • A dish or pan to heat it up with
  • Sellophane
  • hair wrap- satin scarf, do-rag etc
  • A scalp massaging brush (not essential)


5.) Heat 4 tablespoons of coconut oil just enough so that it turns to liquid. You may need to adjust this amount depending on the length and density of your hair. I used 4 tablespoons but I definitely could've just used 3.




6.) Apply the liquid oil to your damp hair. Make sure you apply it evenly, getting as much coverage as possible from root to tip. When all of the oil is on your head start massaging your scalp all over with deep circular motions. If you have a massaging brush, use this. Keep this massage up for 6 minutes. This is a very important step as encouraging blood circulation stimulates hair growth. This all gets very messy so you might want to position your head over a bucket or outside.





7.) Wrap your hair in cellophane and then wrap your head for the night, I opted for a do-rag as I thought it would keep things the most secure! Sleeping with a load of oil and cellophane on your head is surprisingly comfortable.




8.) Try to keep your head incubated for at least 8 hours. I left the oil wrap on for nearly 12 hours.
Remove the wrap and cellophane and thoroughly wash your hair. That's it... Method done!





My Results

Many Youtubers reported that their hair felt silky soft after washing out the coconut oil... That wasn't the case for me at all, my hair felt a bit crispy and when it had sufficiently dried out I applied a healthy dose of shea butter to get it feeling closer to its usual softness. 
That last photo is after I had towel pat dried my hair after washing it. As you can see the shrinkage was realllllllll!!

Because it was late when I started and I really didn't think there would be noticeable growth, I hurried through the photograph taking process and didn't do length check before and after photos. I did however take very careful before and after measurements from the middle of my forehead, crown, my sideburn area and the back of my neck. I didn't measure any noticeable growth around the sideburns or crown but to my absolute shock I measured 4-5mm growth in the middle of my forehead and at the neck. HALF A CENTIMETRE IN ONE NIGHT!! Amazing. I also noticed a fair few new hairs have sprung up around my crown, really thickening out the appearance of my hairline, lovely!


Notes 

  • If you decide to try this method try not to go into it with an expectation that your hair will grow as there's no guarantee this will work for you. Remember, patience is the key ingredient to growing hair!
  • If you find the method helpful and decide to incorporate it into your hair routine, make sure not to do it more than once a month. This is a protein treatment and overloading your hair with protein could have detrimental effects.
  • After trying this method I noticed that my head was quite tender for about a day so be cautious when massaging your scalp and check for signs of protein allergy
Definitely gonna give the inversion method a go next time I take my braids out! xx




Lyrics of the day = 'If the lighting's good you have to get your phone out, bare skin, teeth when we pose for the photos, some girl are braided some girl are in cornrows but still gwan dread if we have to' taken from my current jam 'Skwod' by Nadia Rose... And yes I know i'm late... But i'm always late!

Thursday, 26 January 2017

9 Lazy Girl Tips To Growing Natural Hair Faster And My 4 Month Length Check...

**For the purpose of showing hair growth and styles this post contains a few fugly unflattering photos of me... You have been warned**

If by any chance you've been reading this blog for a few years you might be wondering if you've got deja vu.... Nope, i'm really growing my hair out... Again! I've realised that when it comes to hair growth, i've got no patience whatsoever and after two years the disappointment and frustration of impulsive hands takes over... Before I know it my two years worth of hair growth is sat in a fluffy, dejected pile on the floor while I frantically jab away at my head with my clippers, going over and over the patchy job i've done of shaving all my hair off... *Deep sigh*

But not this time, this time i'm going to commit... This time i'm going to finally find out what my hair looks like after 3 years of growth... And as this is the third time i've grown my hair back from BC-ing it, i'm really hoping that the third time's the charm.

So far i've been growing my hair since October 2016.

After the initial hair growth spurt of October/November I started to feel like my hair grew faster the last time I grew it out, which is quite frustrating. Probably not even true but a frustrating feeling to have nonetheless. Plus there are few things I hate more than the sight of myself with a TWA (Teeny Weenie Afro)... It just doesn't suit me. (If you're not interested in seeing my hair growth over the last few months, scroll down to the bullet points to check out my new hair regime)

My hair story from October 2016-January 2017...

4th Oct '16- 1st wig I have ever bought! Channeling Bettie Page


11th Oct '16- that proud 1st curl

11th Oct '16

6th Nov '16 (hair had been wrapped for flatness)
8th Nov '16 Curly Sue


12th Nov '16 (hair had been combed)
12th Nov '16


I reallyyyy hate these next photos but I don't seem to have any others that show how I've been wearing my hair during December '16 and a lot of January '17 so i'm going to put my vanity aside. This was probably the longest i've ever had to spend installing a hairstyle... There were quite a few points I genuinely considered giving up... My fingers and my soul were numb. In the end I had about 150-160 skinny yarn braids. It was the first time i'd ever tried yarn braids and it was especially challenging to braid the back as I don't reckon I could've had more than about 1/2 an inch of hair the first time...


Dec 2016

Dec 2016


Which brings me to my hair now... Benn has been singing into it as apparently my head now resembles a microphone! Hahaha


23/01/17

23/01/17

23/01/17

So that's what i'm working with right now. Definite progress but I can do better! I'm going to switch things up and try to get into a good hair routine. I've finally come to terms withe the fact that i'm quite lazy and low maintenance with my hair so I've chosen things that don't carry a big investment on my time. This is a mixture of tried and tested methods and things i've heard or read about and would like to try.

To begin with my regime will primarily consist of-

  • Jamaican black castor oil- This has been recommended to me on numerous occasions and loads of people vouch for it's hair growing and thickening qualities. I've been meaning to buy some for months but keep forgetting. Looking forward to seeing what it's like, would love to thicken my hair up a bit!
  • Water- I think that people often forget to look at internal things that can affect hair growth. I used to drink loads of water everyday, now i'm out of the habit of really drinking anything. Sometimes it gets to 9pm and i'll realise i've only had 2 cups of a drink (including my morning coffee, eek). Well no more of this. I don't want to be unrealistic as I need to ease back into drinking lots of water but i'm going to start making sure I drink at least 3 large glasses of water, hopefully working up to 2 litres a day. I will also be trying to make generally healthier food choices too, but we'll see how that goes.
  • Biotin- I've used biotin tablets as part of my routine quite a lot, but i've never really been sure how it was impacting the rate of my hair growth. For all I know it might be doing nothing for me at all but I think after this slow few months, reintroducing it now should give me a better idea of whether it actually helps me or not.
  • Hair wrap- Some of you might be reading this one in shock... Who seriously tries to grow out their natural hair without sleeping with a silk scarf or bonnet on??!... Well... Me! This time round I haven't really bothered wrapping my hair at night. While it's so short it just doesn't feel like a priority and having my hair wrapped kinda gets on my nerves. But i'm going to buy a nice new head wrap and get wrapping. I might also invest in some new satin pillowcases so that I can at least minimise friction on my hair on the nights I really can't be bothered to wrap my hair.
  • Coconut Oil- I already use coconut oil on my hair and body and the last time my mum came to visit she left me her nice new tub to use to my heart's content. I'm going to look into all the benefits of coconut oil so I can maximise what I get out of it... Thanks to a suggestion from my friend, i've already started using it orally for oil pushing (I might write a separate post about that at a later date)
  • Ditching the junk- Whilst i've never been a product junkie, I think that every Black girl is guilty of picking up products they don't really need when they visit the hair shop. I'm especially bad at doing this with styling products. Every so often I find myself walloping a load of 'curling creme' or other nonsense onto my hair , just because it's there! Well i'm getting rid of all that crap. All i'm going to keep are my coconut oil, shea butter, apple cider vinegar, spray bottle and combs. 
  • Low manipulation- When I have my hair out I find it practically impossible not to sit twisting and pulling locks of hair pretty constantly throughout the day. I'm actually doing it as I write this post! Doesn't take a hair expert to realise that this definitely isn't the best thing for growing coily hair out. So i'm going to be leaving it alone as much as possible, mainly through my next point...
  • Protective styling- The best friend of growing out Black hair... When done properly! Meaning; no tight braids pulling out your hairline, no leaving the style in for X million months, no back to back protective styling without giving your natural hair a breather for at least 5 days, no hurried removal job when it's time to take it out- take time and be gentle and kind to your hair, especially in this vulnerable state!
  • Managing expectations- While this one might seem like a bit of a cop out, it's probably the most important and most difficult thing to incorporate into a regime and something I can't stress enough to everyone who's currently growing their hair. It's obviously a lot easier to preach the virtue of patience and not comparing yourself to other's than it is to do it, but it's important to try and the whole thing becomes much more rewarding if you can. I've found it's helpful to completely cut off anything that negatively impacts the way you feel about your own hair. For me this meant turning Youtube off, scrolling past certain Instagram posts and keeping it moving. At some point I got the crazy idea that it would be good hair growth motivation to watch the tutorials of Black hair gurus with suuuuuuuuper long afro hair. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. I know a lot of people take this approach but I think it's counterproductive. If you do this, especially in the TWA phase, you will inevitably become frustrated with the length and growth rate of your own hair (which at the low end of the Black hair scale could be growing at a rate of 3-3.5 inches per year and at the higher end be growing at a rate of 5+ inches per year) and this can really start to get you down. If you need visual motivation I think it's a really good idea to collect some of your favourite photos together of your own hair at time's it's looked particularly luscious to you... If you're going to get hair envy you may as well get it for your own hair :) Also remember not to think too deeply about the comments of your friends and family; Some of these will be well meaning and meant to encourage and some might be sly jabs, but focussing too much on this feedback can leave you feeling confused, inadequate, frustrated and a whole host of other things you wouldn't have otherwise felt. 
Over the next few months i'm sure I will adapt this plan (which admittedly isn't really much of a plan at all lol) depending on what I feel my hair needs. I'm also likely to slip up sometimes but i'll report my findings and hopefully start seeing some results. xx

Lyrics of the day- could only be 'Don't touch my hair, when it's the feelings I wear' taken from Solange's instant classic, beautiful, magnificent album A Seat At The Table <3 <3 <3

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Be Leery 'Bout Your Place In The World, You're Feeling' Like You're Chasing The World, You're Leaving Not a Trace in The World, But You're Facing The World...

For once my most recent blogging hiatus wasn't due to disorganisation or lack of time- for the last however many months i've been without a laptop and there was no way I was about to to try writing blogs on my iPad... Aint nobody got time for that! So here (slightly later than planned) are some of my reflections on the past year and my plans for the coming one.

Most of us are in agreement that 2016 was a pretty bad year to say the least. It was so bad that even Charlie Brooker's 2016 Newswipe fell pretty flat. As I sit writing this post the inauguration of racist Cheeto Donald Trump looms ever closer and it still feels like a bad dream (that I wish i'd placed a bet on at the beginning of 2016 and won my fortune). Listening to the soothing beats of A Seat At The Table it  feels like Solange's stunning album was the only good thing to come out of the cursed year. Losing music icons: David Bowie, Prince, George Michael and Sharon jones in a year that seemed to offer up so few creative offerings made everything sting that little bit more. Buuuuuut i'm going to resist the urge to write a full round up of all that mess, i'm sure it's all still fresh in everyone's memories.

On a personal level 2016 was an odd year for me and it really did fly by. On the one hand Arthur is now a thriving 15 month old; independent, determined and energetic. Watching the rapid development of a lil baba over a one year period is genuinely fascinating and from a parental viewpoint I found it extremely fulfilling. I got to observe Arth grow from some lil, curly haired alien egg that couldn't lift his own head up to a toddling menace with his own likes and dislikes, constantly absorbing the world and pushing new bounderies and that was all fantastic.... But on the other hand i've fallen very short of my own personal ambitions this year. Last night I was absolutely knackered but lay in bed for hours plagued by my frustration with myself and endlessly recapping all the things I haven't done that I could have during the last few months. I tried to implement my New Years Resolution at the beginning of December in a bid to gain a bit of momentum in the hope that it might actually make it stick if I was already one month in when 2017 actually came around. I wanted to choose something achievable so I chose getting fitter and having a healthier diet. The healthier eating part has been going ok but the exercise part, my goodness I CAN'T STAND EXERCISING any more... Like I can't believe people actually enjoy all that!... I can't believe that I used to?!?!... Was I living in an alternate universe?!?! I don't yet know how i'm going to address my fitness regime but please pray for me if that's something you do cos a few home sessions have had me feeling like i'm dying forreal! Hahaha

So my new New Years Resolutions are- 
  • Maintain a healthier lifestyle (fitness included) 
  • Complete tasks at the earliest chance... It's a bit of a purposely vague one but those who know me will know that i'm really bad when it comes to completing anything in a timely manner. I put almost everything off right up to the last minute and this not only makes even the most basic tasks anxiety ridden but also means I generally get a lot less done than I could do. If I can start to adopt the 'no more last minute' mentality and just do things as soon as they come up, my life will completely change gear for the better. So this organisation and motivation based resolution is for my financial well being as well as my mental health.
Basically i'm going to be tightening up my life this year and hopefully that will mean fewer regrets next year.

To stop this post being entirely text here's a pic I took of me and Arth a few weeks ago.


As you can see i'm back on the hair wave, hopefully i'll resist cutting it this time!

HAPPY (BELATED) NEW YEAR EVERYONE! xx

(P.S. Title = Lyrics to 'Weary' by Solange, my favourite song of 2016, taken from 'A Seat At The Table', my favourite album from- the last x number of years lol)