Serena Williams’ natural hair
7 July 2012
I’m having my own breakfast at Wimbledon and finally putting to webpage something I’ve marveled at for the whole tournament: Serena Williams’ beautiful natural hair.
You’ll excuse me if I see this as a statement. A growing number of Black women have chosen to reject the plethora of hair straightening products and treatments in favor of natural hair lately — a choice that isn’t necessarily easy. The artist Zina Saro-Wiwa recently talked about her own transition to natural hair and the strange emotional ambivalence that accompanied giving up on forms of Black hair that you’ve been told are more beautiful. It’s hard to give up the sense that one’s own hair is somehow … in need of alteration.
If white women have their own madness around hair, Black women experience those crazy emotions about their hair as all the more aggravating. Despite the ascendance of the Afro in the 70s, many Black women can’t escape the feeling that their natural hair is ugly, frizzy, and unmanageable — and they’re willing to undergo all manner of chemical treatments to straighten it or achieve soft waves.
Given that many have had lifetimes of hair-straightening treatments, what would it take to chop it all off and start over with natural hair? What would that hair look like if you just let it go?
So after years of great and distinctive ‘dos each year from the Williams sisters (this year Venus sports very long braids, which she often ties into an elegant bun), I have to gush about Serena’s natural hair. Is it a political statement about Black women’s beauty? I’m not sure it matters whether Serena intended it that way — in our era with the ever-proliferating chemical industrial complex that profits from women’s insecurity about their appearance, Serena sporting long, beautiful natural hair can’t help but say something important to fans.
I say yes.